RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2017

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26 Communities of Place versus Communities of Interest? exploring implications of digital media for civic and place-based actions (1)
Affiliation Digital Geographies Working Group
Convenor(s) Sebastian Weise (Newcastle University, UK)
Geoff Vigar (Newcastle University, UK)
Moozhan Shakeri (Newcastle University, UK)
Chair(s) Geoff Vigar (Newcastle University, UK)
Timetable Wednesday 30 August 2017, Session 1 (09:00 - 10:40)
Room Sherfield/SALC Building, Room 2
Session abstract In the context of new media platforms deployed and used to augment civic participation, this session brings together anybody with an interest in understanding the participation dynamics enabled and sustained through mediating technologies. Submissions may considerer how the digital is significant in, for example, the social- geographies of crowdsourcing for civic participation on local matters, new approaches for revisiting, representing, and enlightening the spatial dynamics of government online consultations, or the campaigning of civic groups on a shared matter of concern. This is pertinent in the growing body of work on ‘civic technologies’, online- based applications that seek to enable formation of interest-based
publics around common causes. In local matters, materialities of place often formulate the foundation for shared interest, the session considers how communities of place form and are sustained, especially in relation to urban/rural contexts and smaller geographic scales, and how information gained from processes is ignored or turned into knowledge for action by, e.g., planners, politicians to justify civic action. We encourage contributions based on different methodological approaches that may include data from live systems or techniques for study of participation dynamics from archival data (such as governmental publications and open data).
Linked Sessions Communities of Place versus Communities of Interest? exploring implications of digital media for civic and place-based actions (2)
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2017@rgs.org
Belgrade blog — digital story telling as a counter-history
Nela Milic (University of Arts London, UK)
BG:LOG is an alternative map and the archive of Belgrade. It is reviving the forgotten spirit of the city through a depiction of memory about the fellowship between people, little known important events, everyday and work practices, famous and anonymous neighbours; all that significantly changed in the last five decades.Belgrade’s map is the digital repository of records obtained at workshops with its citizens as part of mixed methods research. The aim of it is to raise the visibility of public reminiscence and collective memory and ultimately disrupt the official history of the local place. Our enquiry is born out of observations of the regeneration/gentrification, which clashes with previous political and social system existed in this urban environment. This condition provoked the question - does end
of socialism mean the end of the community and for the answer we searched across four representative Belgrade boroughs. The narrative (oral histories) and the visual content (photos, videos) of research appeared discursive and the adequate
methods to depict them as well as the process of research both demanded qualitative analysis and a digital outcome. Stemming out of memory studies that transcends national and disciplinary borders, BG:LOG is an example of storytelling that exposes the importance of vernacular knowledge for the understanding of localities. It questions the existent representations of the city, mostly in the Western media and academia and tries to escape that fixity by managing it itself. That fixity has been achieved ironically through literature, art works, music and films – the artifacts that had a potential to liberate it from the associations with violence.
Virtual communitas 2.0, digital ‘place-making’ and the techne of ‘‘becoming’
Anita McKeown (Independent Researcher)
In Aristotelian philosophy, the process of change from a lower level of ‘potentiality’ to the higher level of ‘actuality’ is known as ‘becoming’, or to become more and more of what one is, or capable of ‘becoming’. For this process to take place the dissolution of the normative values or understanding of one’s self and context is necessary (Turner 1969). Such dissolution, although initially de-stabilising, can create an environment conducive to the values and normal modes of behaviour being reflected upon and transformed. This paper considers selected context- responsive projects that exist in both physical and virtual space for their impact to transform understandings of their context and specific location. As an opportunity to reflect and consider oneself and context with others within ‘liminoid’ (Turner 1974) spaces - secular threshold space, opportunities to develop and harness ‘communitas’ (Turner 1967) emerge. Within their ‘virtual communitas’ a multiphrenic (Gergen, 1991) understanding of context can be utilised to re-imagine and re- configure specific physical locations. As such, the projects’ processes of digital placemaking are considered as a techne of becoming manifesting tangible examples of the human ability to craft or make and perform place. Common practices are highlighted, to illustrate key aspects that facilitate their ability to impact on the physical location’s potential to become more of what they are capable of ‘becoming’. The movement from one form to another: from potentiality to actuality displayed through the context-dependent relationship between the physical and virtual aspects of the projects are discussed for their potential and limitations to create conditions that facilitate becoming. In conclusion, this paper re-visits and updates prior research that considered digital placemaking as a process of becoming to present three key elements considered necessary to encourage the process of change deemed necessary for a techne of becoming, which can manifest both negatively and positively.
Civic technologies for a local food web
Sebastian Prost (Newcastle University, UK)
My work explores the role of digital technology in supporting the formation of a civic food network (Renting et al. 2012), or a local food web, based on shared values and co-location. The central idea of the local food web is to enable an exchange of values, knowledge, and goods around environmentally and socially sustainable food. It aims at connecting citizens, dissolving traditional silos of producers or consumers. A platform approach combines both communities-of-place (i.e. co- located producers and consumers) and communities-of- interest (likeminded people around sustainable food). It will focus on developing local food projects, delivering social impact, transferring skills and knowledge, and enabling physical movement of products to meet demand and supply. The local food web aims also at implementing a circular economy as an alternative to the global agricultural production chain.

The study will cover the design, deployment and evaluation of civic technology and its role in enabling the local food web. In particular, I want to explore how technology can highlight local and contextual knowledge on food production, distribution, and disposal in an area or community. It has also the potential to help to understand the geographical and historical conditions of food systems. It can be a medium or a provocation for an exchange of diverging opinions among citizens, governments, the industry, and non-profit organisations. Such a rubbing of shoulders can enable the formation of collectives with their own ‘food consciousness’. ‘Food publics’ can use technology to organise communication and actions (Crivellaro 2016). Finally, participating in the local food web can be a learning experience that builds up knowledge around food and develop a practice and consciousness for food sovereignty (Goodman et al. 2014). A new self-image can shift emphasis from being a food consumer or producer to being a ‘food citizen’.
The geographies of online consultations: The example from a local plan
Sebastian Weise (Newcastle University, UK)
Using data from public participation in a case of municipal planning in the UK, this contribution has two goals. Firstly, the contribution reflects on the opportunities and challenges working with public data and archives to understand the formation of publics around local matters. The methodology applied to analyse and parse public archives is a useful bridge to the application of new media technologies within the context of civic participation in planning. To analyse contributions geospatial, statements were geo- parsed and locations of participants were geo-coded using post code data. The resulting locative network describes the spatial dynamics to political engagement about land and buildings in the case area. Secondly, it discusses the geographies of online consultations. The dataset consisted of 1160 written statements by 465 citizens from various walks of life made on drafts of a spatial plan. Using planners’ response and interviews, given indication of the role of proximities and places of interest in their influence in online consultations. The paper sits within the wider influence of new media on local government and planning in particular in analytics but also the attempt for greater means for civic participation on local matters issues of concerns.