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Saturday, June 10 • 10:30am - 10:50am
Digital Rights to the City: Local Practices and Negotiations of Contested Urban Space on Decidim

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Demands for social justice are becoming increasingly relevant in debates around digitalization. This can be observed in the founding of networks such as the «Cities Coalition for Digital Rights», which have published a declaration focusing on five key points to enable «digital rights based policy-making» (Cities Coalition for Digital Rights 2018). Also in academia, critical urban studies urge for an analysis of the urban fabric and the right to the city through and with the digital sphere (Geuder & Alcântara 2019: 118/Foth et al. 2015). The shift to digital practices in knowledge production and negotiation processes on contested urban space can be observed in the extensive use of software such as the open-source platform Decidim for citizen participation. Initiated and designed by the 15M’ citizen activists in Spain, the open-source software is currently used in 30 countries (Decidim 2021). Decidim is a public-common’s, free and open, digital infrastructure for participatory democracy. Programmed as a modular digital platform with functions for e.g. participatory budgeting, collaborative writing, voting procedures, collective self-organization, it aims to empower and coordinate social processes for collective action (Barandian et al. 2018). Originally prompted by civil society through a bottom-up process, present use cases of the platform reveal processes of formalization and institutionalization by state authorities (Borge et al. 2022). Based on an ongoing research project combining qualitative interviews, participatory observation, document analysis, and Netnography (Kozinets 2015), this paper analyzes hybrid practices to negotiate contested urban space in Zurich and Lucerne, Switzerland. In both cities, local authorities, together with civil associations and organizations, have experimented with the Decidim platform in city-making processes and participatory budgeting. We discuss how the implementation of the Decidim software in Switzerland may reproduce micro realities of neoliberal planning at the neighbourhood scale (Allmendinger 2017) through formalizing informal or even insurgent practices (Miraftab 2009). At the same time, the findings indicate new forms of participation from below potentially reconfiguring mechanisms of governing at the local scale and reshaping hegemonic power relations. Finally, this paper presentation examines what critical making (Hertz 2015) and social justice (Currie, Knox & McGregor 2022) means within the context of digital citizen participation in the urban sphere. Based on the presented theoretical angle and case studies, we aim to critically examine how digital tools are used in city-making processes, situated in a complex interplay of local authorities, organized civil associations, social movements, and citizens.

avatar for Aline Suter

Aline Suter

University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland

Simone Tappert

Senior Researcher, University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland

Saturday June 10, 2023 10:30am - 10:50am EDT
ARC E-02