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P2P urbanism project: Revitalizing urban public space using open source technologies

photo of Vasilis Kostakis

Vasilis Kostakis
8th July 2013


A future research project of P2P Lab with a focus on P2P urbanism. If anyone would like to participate or co-operate, he/she may contact project’s co-ordinator Vasilis Niaros. In a nutshell, the *tentative* research framewok:

Introduction

An essential component of the sustainability of cities is “public space” for numerous political, social and economic reasons (see only Thompson, 2002; Tonnelat, 2010). However, the main trend for at least the last half century was to shrink rather than to expand public spaces (Kohn, 2004; Castells, 2008; Low and Smith, 2006). This enclosure of the urban sphere took place for several reasons. Indicative are the suburbanization; the technologies of surveillance, like cameras, which arise ethical issues for citizens’ privacy; the gated communities containing strictly-controlled entrances for pedestrians, bicycles, and automobiles; and condominiums (see only Tonnelant, 2010; Low and Smith, 2006). More importantly, the diverse processes of public space privatization, which took place in many cities worldwide through the wave of emergent local and national politics, have led to this phenomenon (Harvey, 2006; Gehl, 2003; Castells, 2008). In addition, this privatization could be seen as a manifestation of New Public Management practices (see only Drechsler, 2005) which arguably has an impact even on urbanism.

Meanwhile, plenty of attention has been gathering around the production models enabled by the modern information and communication technologies (ICT) and brought to the forefront by projects such as the free/open source software (FOSS) movement or the free encyclopedia Wikipedia. These collaborative productive efforts seem to share certain characteristics inaugurating a new mode of production, named Commons-based peer production (CBPP) (Benkler, 2006). So far CBPP practices have been a subject to systematic research for productive fields of information such as software, news, knowledge and literature (Benkler, 2006, 2011; Bauwens, 2005, 2009; Bruns, 2008; Weber, 2004; Kostakis and Drechsler, in review). However, only a few research projects and essays (Salingaros, 2010a; Salingaros and Mena-Quintero, 2012; Vardouli and Buechley, 2012) have dealt with the impact of CBPP practices on urbanism.

In this framework, this research project addresses the aforementioned issues with the purpose to design and implement certain solutions, towards the revitalization of urban public spaces. In other words, can CBPP tools and practices (i.e. open source hardware and software) help, support and catalyze the realization of such a goal? Through various case studies of projects that will take place in Greece – a state in recession with reduced public expenditure – we will attempt to identify possible outcomes of CBPP technologies’ and practices’ application in the rejuvenation of public spaces.

Tentative Topics

As mentioned above, this research project will be based upon case studies, which will have different points of departure but will be attempting to address the same issue.

The first case study will take place in a neglected playground in the centre of Ioannina city. Our aim here will be to revive this urban public space and reconnect it with the rest of the city, by attracting the attention mainly of children. To accomplish this we will try to transform the playground into an interactive place/platform, experienced with all senses, sensitive to the environment and full of emotionally-based experiences (Salingaros, 2010b). The means we intent to use for the implementation of this project are CBPP tools and practices.

The second case study deals with the development of citizens’ awareness concerning their behavior to pedestrians. In Ioannina, it has been observed that there is a lack of respect from many drivers to pedestrians while they attempt to cross roads through zebra lines. Therefore, we suggest, design and implement an interactive low-cost tool, based on CBPP technologies, which will try to tackle this problem in a funny and amusing way.

The notion behind these forthcoming creations is their social reproduction as part of the Commons sphere. The aforementioned projects will be designed and implemented in such a way to be conveniently modified, customized and applied in other public spaces, cities and countries. To make this possible, we will built an online platform, where anyone can view applications in public spaces around the world or share their own creations, in such detail so that they can be freely acquired and applied by those interested.

Full post here.

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