Digital innovation or Biourbanism? Both, of course!

(this is the translation, first published on my own blog, of the final part of an article I published on the italian Pionero Web magazine in April 2014. The translation of the first part is available here)

The official definition of Biourbanism starts with the focus on “the urban organism, considering it as a hypercomplex system, according to its internal and external dynamics and their mutual interactions.”

In practice, as an almost total ignorant when it comes to architecture, urbanism, psychology and the like, I understand this to mean that Biourbanism proposes to make the places we inhabit decent places, that is places worth living in because they are:

  • (self) organized, bottom-up
  • taking their history and unique characteristics into account
  • designed with a process which is biophilic, that is friendly to all the levels and sides of human life (family, personal relationship, emotion, work…)
  • managed with little interventions, cheap and not invasive (biourban acupunture), that match the real needs and features of each place

The International Society of Biourbanism (ISB) has led, and continues to organize and propose with this spirit, several initiatives for the renaissance of italian villages and small towns, in the mountains and elsewhere, starting with Progetto Artena.

I discovered ISB by chance in the summer of 2013. Since then, we have done several things together, including the parts on education on digital matters and open technology of Progetto Leo. This cooperation has also led, among other things, to the reorganization of several courses, which I and others were already proposing, in a new package called Minimi Comuni Digitali, which is both autonomous but perfectly compatible with Biourbanism activities and educational programs. The package name, roughly translatable with “Minimal Digital Commons/Cities” hints to the possibilities, also for small towns, to benefit from knowledge and usage of appropriate, open digital technologies and communities.

Why talk of architecture, psychology and so on, on a website like Pionero (where the original article appeared), whose slogan is “Digital Innovation”? Easy: to suggesto a generic model just for digital innovation.

Italy (and many other countries, if you ask me) needs to be rebuilt from the foundations. ISB, if I got it right, proposes and practice a way to rebuild it based on the principle that, if you want a decent life, you should rebuild common spaces and services from the bottom, putting people in the first place, in the most efficient and sustainable way. They aren’t the only ones to say this, of course, but I like their approach and general vision.

Above all, since we should be talking about Digital Innovation, I like Biourbanism for a very specific reason I believe that, if you start to reboot a city the way Biourbanism does, things like Free Software, Open Data, Open Government, Fablabs, Maker Faires and so on surely enter the picture, eventually. You couldn’t avoid them even if you wanted. BUT, the point is, starting from Biourbanism those things would enter the picture in a way that is much more productive, sustainable and long lasting than all the other ways tried so far by us “digital maniacs”: only, that is, as the last thing, stealthily, in the smallest possible amounts, as an unavoidable consequences of the starting ideas, and actual needs, of local non-geeks. Stay tuned for more, but in the meantime do let me know your thoughts!

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