There is a huge disconnect between citizens and municipalities. While it would seem that they are living in the same city, it’s often the case that they are using it differently and that they can’t find the common ground for the discussion about the progress of the city.
That is why I was happy to attend the session DIY Urbanism, led by Andi Argast and Michelle Gay where they presented their Learning Kit – Your Story Goes Here .
The basic premise is very simple: change the way we discuss and view public spaces. One thing that I feel often happens is that we would discuss it from the offices and meeting halls and we would try to gather usage patterns from random anecdotes. (I have no idea how real urbanists do this, but from a citizen point of view, I wouldn’t often have a better approach).
What their kit does it breaks the process into 5 steps:
- Placestorming (brainstorming about the place)
- Location Audit + Keywords
- Creating the story
- Sharing it
- and finally another Reflection on the whole process and outcomes.
At this point, it’s important to think about another buzzword that’s gaining ground – Storytelling. We can use very simple things like Instagram and Cowbird or more complete ones like Edgar’s StoryCrafter.
The idea is to take your activist/interested citizen group to the space you’re trying to understand and then observe and document how people use, whether it support good affordances for walking or riding a bike or whatever your goal is.
This allows you to have a better understanding of what’s going in the space and to also gather much better information and usage patterns. Collecting and assembling this material in short, understandable clips/presentations, also allows you to have a more focused conversation when presenting your alternative proposal at community council meeting.
Idea, that needs good execution
Jan started a project, The bicycle heroes of Ljubljana, where he is documenting bad practices of Ljubljana Cyclists. In this context, this is an excellent idea!
What we need now is to start taking his photos and also document pot holes, weird bike crossing and strange ideas of how city thinks that we should navigate it. Create a site or a series of Tumblers where you teach people to record failure of city planners to help people have safer experience. Then map it and also elaborate it on a list as well as make it easier for journalists to use it to ask good questions to the city planners.
But it can be much more than just a collection of photos on a map. I’m sure there are a number of both experts and students and enthusiast that would be happy to contribute their proposals on how to fix the specific case as well as dig official plans from the municipality and call them on it.