Open Source Urbanism

Much discussion has gone into rethinking urban spaces. The present crisis of climate change, increased migration to cities and increased likelihood of outbreaks akin to Covid 19 have created an appetite for rethinking of territorial uses and considering urban and peri urban transformation. Biodiversity protection, effects of land use change and embracing the potential of circular thinking are areas worthy of serious consideration now with urban planners and public urban dwellers alongside issues of proximity, access and social and economic equity.

Open source urbanism proposes a loose framework for urban transformation based on social and technological networks. This can allow citizens the opportunity to talk back to the city, create interaction between different actors in planning and urban development. Information based on lived experience can be shared between groups without shared interests which can help create a hybrid community acting virtually on a social network towards the production of a shared identity through creating livable spaces. The challenge is translating the virtual placemaking exercise into a physical place. 

Open source urbanism provides the opportunity to reexamine the logic of traditional city planning and how it defines proximity, mobility, interaction and accessibility. Public responses to regulations can be reassessed in a more dynamic way in line with the needs of the population and this is where open source urbanism diverges from smart city, it is not centered on a specific group or company but instead in collective learning and knowledge, transparency and alternative modes of urban governance. 

There currently seems to be a narrow sense of who the stakeholders are in the smart city agenda, government bodies, tech companies, urban planners and decreasingly the public citizens. Open-Source Urbanism, as advocated by Sassen (“(19) (PDF) Open Source Urbanism: Beyond Smart Cities,” n.d., “Open Source Urbanism – Domus,” n.d.), sees cities deploying open-source thinking at a cultural and technological level. The design of systems based around communities and dialogue rather than top-down communication. Open-source urbanism is essentially the co-production of open-source common urban assets. It involves an equitable and multidisciplinary approach to design of urban areas which actively involves citizens through transparent IT platforms. Through concepts such as this, social cooperation can be developed between groups or individuals who may have separate or conflicting interests but are living within the same neighborhood, Burrough or city region food shed. Social cooperation is a skill which must be practiced and given a place to be practiced. Jane Jacobs understood the importance of shared public spaces to provide a stage for civic cooperation but in the digital age this public space is increasingly through online networks. The challenge now may be how to join traditional public spaces with new smart digital innovation. 


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