[iDC] Re: iDC Digest, Vol 33, Issue 4

Eugenio Tisselli cubo23 at motorhueso.net
Fri Jul 6 12:49:53 EDT 2007

Hi Eric, hi all,

I am also a subscriber to this list, and this is my first  
intervention. My name is Eugenio Tisselli, and I am the developer  
behind zexe.net (http://www.zexe.net), a project in which specific  
urban collectives broadcast their daily experiences from mobile phones  
directly to the web. These collectives have included so far people on  
wheelchairs in Barcelona mapping the architecural barriers in the  
city, and motorcycle messengers (motoboys) in Sao Paulo, Brazil, among  

 From my point of view, small collectives engaged in communicative  
processes which are mediated by digital technology seek not only to  
represent themselves as a social entity, but also to make visible the  
invisible: the day to day issues that they encounter in their cities,  
which are particlar to them and many times constitute problems or  
specific issues that affect their urban life. This process of  
visibilization is intended to have an effect not only on the general  
public, but also on the local government. It is a dialog initiated by  
a concerned party; a dialog in which the ones that are directly  
affected by a problem present their points of view by telling exactly  
where the problem is and how it could be solved. Then, as in every  
dialog, they expect an answer from their fellow citizens (people on  
wheelchairs, for example, took pictures of cars parked on the  
sidewalks that blocked their way... they hoped that their fellow  
citizens would stop doing that after seeing the pictures) and the  
government (again, in the case of the disabled people, a map with all  
the obstacles was printed out and handed to local authorities, hoping  
that they would act and adapt the public infrastructures)

The key here is dialog. Each part has to hold its ground. The dialog  
should develop on a ground that is as neutral as possible. Of course,  
total neutrality is an abstract and nonexistent concept, but at least  
we can think of a place that is not directly owned by any of the parts  
engaged in conversation. I believe it is wrong (a populist measure, as  
you put it) for governments to try to appropriate these modes of  
dialog by putting forward "web 2.0-like" tools to communicate with the  
citizens. By this, they would bring the conversation to their own  
headquarters, restricting the relative liberty that citizens may feel  
when speaking on a more neutral ground, and rendering dialog  
ineffective. In order to bring forward social change, a certain degree  
of antagonism (and hence, independence) is needed.

So, for me, the central question is not necessary surveillance  
(although it is also important) but independence. I think that  
communities engaged in digital communicative practices should reclaim  
and protect their independence from local governments. Keeping the  
discussion out of "The House" is the only way that demands and  
compromises can hold some credibility.


> Date: Thu, 5 Jul 2007 15:29:26 -0400
> From: Eric Gordon <eric_gordon at emerson.edu>
> Subject: [iDC] city as social network
> To: iDC at mailman.thing.net
> Message-ID: <EA7AA5D6-B460-4F97-8BBB-11A88DE3BA9A at emerson.edu>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="windows-1252"
> Hi everyone.  My name is Eric Gordon – I’ve been watching this list
> for some time but I’ve made only a few contributions.  Perhaps as a
> means of forcing my involvement, Trebor has asked me to moderate a
> discussion on the topic that has lately occupied most of my time –
> place-based social media and its implications for privacy, public
> space, and democratic engagement.  Following the recent conversation
> about Feedburner, I want to consider how that discussion might extend
> to physical communities (neighborhood, organization, city) that are
> enabled/bolstered/fortified by social web media.  Many community
> groups and neighborhood organizations are using digital networking
> technologies to foster community interaction (http://
> www.ibrattleboro.com/).  And of course, what is widely known as
> citizen journalism plays into this as well – placebloggers (http://
> placebloggers.com) and Community Media organizations tend towards
> hyperlocal networked content (http://www.cctvcambridge.org/) with an
> aim towards reinforcing existing geographical connections.  The
> processes that bind non-geographical communities in networks are
> similar to those that are binding geographical communities – shared
> interests, practices, goals, etc.    However, unlike traditional
> online communities that have a basis in anonymity, digitally
> annotated physical communities often rely on the full disclosure of
> identity for their functionality.  For instance, when it comes to
> neighborhood issues – it is important to know one’s real name and
> location.
> And as city governments are seeking ways to adopt “web 2.0”
> technologies into their existing “citizen management” projects, the
> lack of anonymity and the simple traceability of social actions open
> up new concerns.  Social media tools have the capacity to
> significantly expand participation in local governance, but they also
> have the capacity to trace citizen behavior and map social trends.
> Cities are interested in this technology for the same reason that
> corporations are – it offers valuable user data.   Politicians can
> survey the concerns of their constituency; agencies can identify
> problems in neighborhoods; and law enforcement
well, there are many
> scenarios possible.  It can also be turned around: citizens can have
> greater access to their politicians, and government proceedings can
> at least have the impression of transparency.
> While the conversations on this list have devoted considerable time
> to corporate surveillance, the question not often asked in this
> context is what should be made of local surveillance – from the
> people in one’s neighborhood to city governments?  In the wake of
> connectivity, discourse and collaboration, there is always
> documentation, processing and interpretation. From neighborhood
> chatrooms to local annotated mapping projects to virtual town hall
> meetings, participation equals surveillance – for better or for worse.
> When I consider a digital future in which I want to live – it
> includes networked access to my neighborhood services, communities,
> city government and public spaces. However, there is little
> possibility for that to take place outside of the proliferation of
> data that would make communities vulnerable to excessive internal and
> external management. And as citywide wifi and mobile web devices
> proliferate, the outlets for that recycled data expand.  At the same
> time, American cities, like corporations, are glomming onto digital
> media because of its populist resonances.  They are paying attention
> to online neighborhoods and seeking to aggregate that data into
> meaningful information.  The ideology of digital media – as evidenced
> in the phrases “participatory media” and “user-generated content” –
> is accessibility.  Digital media directly aligns the rhetoric of
> progress with the rhetoric of populism.  Social web media makes
> explicit what has only been implied in the recent rhetoric of city
> governments – that anyone, regardless of social position, can
> participate in the ordering of city experience and politics.
>  From cities to towns to neighborhoods, the populist promise of
> social web media is transforming the nature of public space and civic
> participation.  I am referring only to the American context, because
> that’s what I know, but it would be great to engage in comparative
> dialogue in order to better understand the scope of how these
> technologies are being implemented in official or unofficial
> capacities to change perceptions of cities and city life, not to
> mention public space and community engagement.
> I suppose I’ll leave it at that for now.  I look forward to the
> conversation.
> Eric
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