General Information

Becoming Smart Citizens?

The workshop will gather practitioners, activists and researchers to explore the conditions by which citizens take an active role in shaping their local environment and in creating replicable initiatives, formats, franchises and new genres to “make the city” locally and elsewhere.

Alongside interest in designers as agents of change in the city, there is an urgent need to understand and elaborate on the conditions by which citizens engage in local city-making activities and to conceptualize what type of “designs” they mobilize or are mobilized by.  In this workshop, we intend to investigate bottom-up and decentralised urban ‘smartness’ and how ideas and practices travel. Join us on the 22th of April at the Design & The City Conference in Amsterdam to explore this issues together.

As smart city initiatives spread, with potential for top-down and technological solutions, we focus on the need and opportunity for ideas, processes and tools to travel or ‘jump’ between contexts, thereby bringing insight into:

  1. The cultures and geographies of citizen innovation,
  2. Travelling/‘jumping’ mechanisms, such as the publishing and sharing of initiatives, guidelines, How To’s and other methods of adaptation and adoption.

We invite people to think together about how local initiatives (e.g parking days, transition towns, maker fairs, empty spaces projects, sharing, urban agriculture/farming and smart transportation/biking) are modified and appropriated, or not, in other locations.

Related questions include:

– How do people come together to develop collaborative resources for learning, sharing, growing, making and enterprise?

– How might we share and learn locally, despite increasingly centralized “smart” systems?

– Why do some bottom-up innovations spread and others appear uniquely in one place? What are the elements that make these innovations replicable? When are solutions replicable, rather than scalable?

– How is social creativity mobilized through practical and material engagements? What is the role of digital media, local governance, political systems, etc?

– If we characterize movements, initiatives or actions as global or local (as in Forno &Graziano 2014), what does this mean for designers’ and citizens’ roles?

How to participate:

Interested participants should send an email to becomingsmartcitizens[@] before the 29th of March (NOTE deadline extended at requet from the main organizers of the conference) with an expression of interest in the workshop. The text should state your interest and briefly describe one citizen initiative your are familiar with (by direct involvement, own research, etc) and that you want to share and discuss with others during the workshop.We will notify participants shortly after they submit their own cases.

For the actual workshop we will ask participants to bring along one image or artifact related to it and formulate a short statement as a ‘signifier’ of the initiative (of the initiative and of the city where it started). We will use those as basis for the work, so we will update participants on the format and details soon after registration.

Workshop fee is 25 euro, which will go towards coffee, lunch and other organizational costs. Note that workshop registration is independent from attendance to the conference. More information regarding the whole conference here

Methodology for the Workshop

Kaugummiautomat by S Kohlmann (CC)We will share, analyse and dissect examples and cases – brought by the workshop organisers and participants – in which smart citizen initiatives jumped to another context, country or city. During the workshop we will collectively question, map and work to understand this ‘jump’ process. Our approaches will be storytelling, making and exploring intersections through codesigning a ‘jumping tool’ or a ‘travelling machine’ (the exact nature of this tool will be determined by responses in the workshop).

The co-created  ’jumping’ tool or ‘traveling machine’  explores the relationship between culture, geography and bottom-up innovation. We will use the device of making the tool as a means of exploring the characteristics of ideas as they move and the nature of decentralised growth in ‘smartness’.


Andrea Botero, Aalto University

Ann Light, University of Sussex

Lonne Malmborg, IT University of Copenhagen

Sanna Marttila, Aalto University

Joanna Saad-Sulonen, Aarhus University

Mariana Salgado, Aalto University

References and Further reading:

Botero, A., Paterson, A. G. and Saad-Sulonen, J. (2012). Towards Peer-production in Public Services: Cases from Finland. Helsinki, Finland: Aalto University, School of Art, Design and Architecture.

Forno, F. and Graziano, P. R. (2014). Sustainable community movement organisations. Journal of Consumer Culture, 1469540514526225

Horelli, L. and Schuler, D. (2012). Linking the local with the global within community informatics. Journal of Community Informatics, 8(3).

Light, A. and Miskelly, C. (2015) Sharing Economy vs Sharing Cultures? Designing for social, economic and environmental good, IxD&A

Malmborg, L., Light, A., Fitzpatrick, G., Bellotti, V. and Brereton, M. (2015) Designing forSharing in Local Communities. In Proc. 33rd Annual ACM Conference Extended Abstractson Human Factors in Computing Systems.

Sassen, S. (2004). Local Actors in Global Politics. Current Sociology, 52(4), 649–670.