CT_Commons (2014)

A Citizen Toolkit as Urban Commons: towards a sustainable service for and by self-organized communities (Aalto Service Factory-funded project)

The thematic group built around this project focuses on the following emerging phenomenon: citizens have increasing access to mundane digital tools, which enable them, on the one hand, to document and study their urban environments in ways previously undertaken only by professionals, and on the other hand, to organize themselves more easily and efficiently around issues of interest to them that have not necessarily been identified or recognized by officials. However, there is still a gap between the way city officials and planners work and the way digitally supported citizen self-organization is taking place, thus resulting in often missed opportunities for collaborative work. Our aim is to explore ways of narrowing this gap. The activities supported by the Aalto Service Factory funding for 2014 will seek to answer the following questions: What kind of services support the needs of self-organized groups? How can such services be sustainable? We will take the citizen toolkit as one example of such service and will conduct a series of interviews with identified stakeholders such as, citizen activists, as well as employees of the City of Helsinki, Helka ry, and Forum Virium.

The group of researchers involved in this project includes participants from the Department of Media at Aalto ARTS, the Land Use Planning and Urban Studies Group at Aalto ENG, and the Department of Management at Aalto BIZ. The network of outside collaborators include Helka ry, citizen and civic associations in Helsinki, online groups and communities active in Helsinki, the City of Helsinki, kirjastot.fi, Forum Virium and Hub Helsinki.

The project is based on and extends previous research undertaken at Aalto. We have been involved in organizing two seminars, thanks to previous ASF funding, on the theme of peer-to-peer production (in 2010) and the commons (in 2013). Moreover, we have also been involved, together and individually, in several research initiatives, where the need for a citizen toolkit for self-organized urban communities has emerged. These latter initiatives have been short, with a strong emphasis on practical cases and technological solutions.

The main activities for Spring 2014 include the review of empirical material gathered through previous small projects funded by the Aalto Media Factory (CoMeUp and UMPro) and the Innovative City programme (Kansalaisen työkalupakki), and complementing them with additional interviews of key actors identified through these projects. We will further develop a trans-disciplinary theoretical framework that combines elements from e-planning, participatory planning, the commons, participatory media and technology design, as well as the methodology for studying work practices.

In Autumn 2014 we will organize a one week workshop targeted at Aalto masters level students. The workshop will be integrated in the workshop week of the Media department students and will be open to all Aalto students (via JOO agreement for those not from Aalto ARTS).