Media and Tactics for Citizen Engagement

Our second Cooperative Urbanism workshop tried to connect online and offline communities and support different forms of citizen activities in Moscow. The question we began with was: how can media and technology help communities take direct action to improve their urban environments?

With limited time for scientifically-valid data gathering, we focused on working with active citizens to understand how and why people addressed urban issues in their districts, or thematically across the city.

 


Participants conducted site visits, surveying locals in Koptevo and Shukino.

Professor Nitin Sawhney and Christo de Klerk of the New School for Public Engagement brought excellent research, DIY and urban tactics experience, combined with a deep knowledge of new media tools. Having co-organized a series of 'hackathons' using 'Occupy' data in New York, we felt there was a lot of scope in this workshop to connect real world and online, digital tactics.

We decided to give participants a choice of cases and the opportunity to work on three different levels, separately but simultaneously—citywide, district and individual. (For a day by day breakdown of the workshop see the internal blog.)

Research

 


Brain-synapsizing or a synthesis of issues, challenges, methods and stakeholders.
 

We conducted preliminary research in two districts and gave participants several options of things to do: working with anti-highway activists in Shukino and Koptevo; supporting actively engaged communities in Troparev-Nikulino, where residents had been meeting about the destruction of the ecosystem in the Troparev Forest Park; examining Occupy Abai as a social movement that connects online and offline public spaces, analyzing their social media data to understand how they organized and expressed their right to the city.

Our workshop began with a discussion of the 'new collectivism' — how citizen collaboration and engagement could build on Russia's socialist history without compromising public life. Participants began with a food mapping exercise around Strelka, exploring the island and learning to use ethnographic methods like interviewing, photo documentation and mapping to document and represent their findings.  They found a lot of invisible and visible barriers on the island, and some became more interested in looking at this site rather than going to work in other districts. So, another option for our research was to analyze the privatization creep and gentrification of the Red October Chocolate Factory island.

 


Low-tech summary and visual analysis of community findings from Troparevo Nikulino.

After several days of site-visits, analysis and speaking with experts who worked on different open source city data and improvement projects, the group zeroed in on three projects. An important guiding consideration was that the results and findings become available and relevant to the people that they were trying to help, and that rapid prototypes and findings be presented during a public lecture at Strelka.

Projects

The Occupy Abai team has stayed in close contact with the social activists to support their journalism and educational goals.

 

Interface and app for the Free Red October team.

The Red October team has shared their work with Strelka with the hopes that it can be considered in the future developments of the site. (You can join the tour and share your perceptions by using the mapping app online.)

And finally, a prototype web platform, SynchroniCITY was introduced during the weekly community discussions in Troparev-Nikulino. Connecting offline mailboxes with an online site for barter was intriguing to residents, particularly to the elderly who happened to be walking by during our community presentation.

The site will be upgraded with the continued support and inputs of Alexey Sidorenko from Teplitsa Social Technologies. One of the more exciting aspects, apart from being open source, is that it will provide an excellent archive and database of issues and how they are solved in Moscow communities.

 

Initial mockups for the SynchroniCITY site, visually designed by Camilla Burke. 

Ultimately, each of the teams working on their selected cases managed to effectively use new media tools and urban tactics to support active citizen engagement and collaboration. Our goal here on will be to develop these projects further and sustain the interest of the participants, activists and residents involved.

 
Read more on:
urbantacticsmoscow.wordpress.com
Photos by Christo de Klerk, Katerina Goncharev and Shriya Malhotra.