Work package 3: Citizen Participation and Territorial Experimentation


  • To create an international forum for critical reflection on the launch and operation of Plaine Commune (Seine-Saint-Denis), where seconded ERs and ESRs can feed observations on the development of a pioneering ‘real smart city’ back into similar projects in Dublin (DCC), Durham (Virtual Open World) and Guayaquil (the new experimental Universidad de las Artes).
  • Through ongoing dialogue with the theoretical framework developed in WP1, to conceptualise ‘digital learning territories’ as amateur universities for contributive research, creating institutional mechanisms for the organisation, accreditation and credentialisation of citizen-led contributive research projects.
  • To consider how academics can help to foster and incentivise the development of citizen-led projects that use digital technologies for territorial experimentation and community-building.
  • To draw on the expertise of seconded researchers further to develop experimental digital platforms for artistic contributory research, informed by the principles of the economics of contribution and sensitive to the distinctive cultural environments specific to each ‘real smart city’.
  • To design and implement smart ‘sensitive spaces’ for contributive artistic experimentation, so as to channel attention towards the effect of digital technologies on our environments, and create a heightened capacity for critical aesthetic engagement with urban technospheres.
  • Building on WP1 and WP2, to implement the activities of the National Library of the Arts (Guayaquil) and Cultural Innovation Centre of UA, through experimentation with new forms of citizen participation.
  • To explore ways in which Durham’s Virtual Open World project might coevolve through dialogue with and possible adoption by Plaine Commune.
  • To model alternative contributive economy models and alternative ways to recognize and remunerate contributive work in Real Smart Cities (ie. Contributive Income based on the model of French Intermittent workers in performing arts).

Description of work and role of Specific Beneficiaries / Partner Organisations:

T.3.1: Contributive Research: Research-led training at host institution IRI, in conjunction with Plaine Commune (M1-M24). As the world’s leading centre for digital studies research and a principal engineer of the Plaine Commune experimental learning territory, Bernard Stiegler’s Institut de Recherche et d’Innovation will serve as the principal hub for both sending and receiving ESR secondments. IRI will host four ESRs for training in aspects of Data City expertise, as well as ERs and non-academic partners for Workshops and Research Innovation and Exchanges events. Together with the five IRI ESRs already resident at Plaine Commune, two ESRs from each of Durham and DIT will spend time in Paris and Seine-Saint-Denis working on the implementation of contributory digital research activities in Plaine Commune. They will also engage with creating mechanisms of evaluation and accreditation to encourage local participation in real smart city projects, exploring such research questions as: What existing digital platforms are there for the annotation, categorisation and interpretation of big data, what forms of territorial experimentation do they permit and do they go far enough in affording possibilities for the creation of collective social intelligence? To what extent can we design for open digital platforms that give citizens free rein over the kinds of contributive projects they are able to develop? Paying specific attention to the educational value of digital annotation tools, Durham ESR Benjamin Herm-Morris will spend six months following the activities of Plaine Commune to evaluate: 1) whether the initiative succeeds in creating persuasively substantial opportunities for decision-making; and 2) whether the annotational tools adopted by Plaine Commune might be ported directly into Durham’s Vitual Open World digital mapping project.

T.3.2: International Exchange ‘Living Well in Real Smart Cities’. IRI-led training in collaboration with UA and DU. While T.3.1 contributes to enhancing the practice of contributive research, this complementary exchange will provide ESRs and ERs with an immersive, on-the-job experience of partners’ territorial experimentations. In Guayaquil, ERS Olga López, Baranzoni and Vignola will develop an earlier project on ‘Urban Grammatologies’ into one on ‘Nature, Public Space and Languages’, exploring the idea of ‘Buen Vivir’ (reworked between local cosmologies and A. N. Whitehead’s ‘Living Well, Living Better’) as political project and practice of citizenship that revolves around the social, cultural and ecological sustainability of local environments. They will then use secondments to Plaine Commune to formalise the exchange. In parallel, Durham ER Moore will use a secondment in Plaine Commune to engage with participants involved in digital contributive research, assessing the difference they make to the lives of those trapped in what Graeber (2013) terms ‘bullshit jobs’.  IRI will host UA and DU researcher in order to work on an international comparative survey on how value is produced beyond traditional economical circuits in the so-called “informal economy” or “economy of exchange” especially in South-America, Africa, Eastern Europe and in European countries welcoming these populations.

T.3.3: Plaine Commune Experimentations:  IRI in collaboration with Plaine Commune and Durham sets up Experimental Practices in Public Space (EPPS) to test prototypes of the digital platforms and apply the practical research insights developed across WP1, WP2 and T.3.1. One of these prototypes will be Durham’s Virtual Open World (VOW’s) platform, designed, in collaboration with the UK’s Creative Fuse North East, to involve citizens in producing a four-dimensional historical reconstruction of their local areas. Durham’s second ER will be a postdoctoral research assistant on the VOW project, responsible for setting up trials of the platform with local school and community groups in Seine-Saint-Denis, modelled on those set to take place in County Durham. IRI-Plaine Commune’s five ESRs are working on similar platforms for contributive digital research and experimentation and will be similarly tasked with using EPPS to engage the citizenship in participatory trials, while also accessibly communicating the underlying academic logic of the research being translated into practice. IRI will propose to the ESR to work on 5 main experimentations related to the Real Smart City: 1) Capacitation at School, 2) Young mother digital detoxification, 3) Informal economy (Street cooking, street mechanic, …), 4) New articulations with automatisation and cobotisation (decentralized fabrication and 3D printing), 5) Contributive building, rehabilitation and urban installations.

T.3.4: Research and Innovation Focus (RIF) week SMART City, part of network-wide training (M3, M15). IRI in collaboration with their partners (Plaine Commune, DIT, DU, UA) will organize a series of five-day knowledge-exchange events incorporating the annual Entretiens du Nouveau Monde Industriel, plus two days of network follow-up sessions for knowledge-exchange and the transfer of skills. The topics of these events will be Artificial intelligence (M3, December 2017); the (Real) Smart City (M15, December 2018); and Capacitation (M24+3, December 2019). Two hosted ESRs and local ERs will be responsible for the practical organisation of the ENMI events and all ESRs and ERs will collaborate intensively on interweaving research from each WP on the transdisciplinary study of and experimentation with digital technologies.

T.3.5: Towards a ‘Real sm-ART city’. In collaboration with IRI, DIT and DU (and in parallel with T.3.3),  as well as Ecuador’s National Library of the Arts (Guayaquil) and the Cultural Innovation Centre of UA, UA ERs López, Baranzoni, Vallejos  and Vignola (UA) will coordinate the development of an experimental platform for artistic contributory research, designed to integrate public creative practices with the pedagogical and aesthetic opportunities opened up by new participatory digital technologies. The Ecuadorian experience of constant technological and socio-political change will serve as a case study for rethinking the conditions and processes of artistic cultural production.

T.3.6: Epistemic practices for training in contributive amateur research. In addition to ensuring effective collaboration between WPs (as explained under chapter 1.2), IRI and DIT will oversee the collation of practical methodologies for the establishment of mechanisms for the credentialisation of citizens’ contribution to and participation in territorial experimentations. Work in this section will build on research by Moore (DU) and Stiegler (IRI) redesigning the university around massively participatory digital research projects. With the modern ‘professional’ university supposedly under threat from economic automation, which risks substantially undermining the link between university study and the attainment of employment, might we reinvent the university as a hub for amateur research? How would insights into this question lend themselves to the establishment of new kinds of doctoral school, including in Ecuadorian partner, UA?

Description of Deliverables

D.3.1 and D.3.4: As per WPs 1 and 2, a selection of articles on contributive research and the real smart city will be included in a special edition of a peer-reviewed journal, having been worked up from the presentations given in RIF weeks across the network. A companion volume on contributive research and real smart cities is also envisaged, to be published in IRI’s Digital Studies series with FYP (M15).

D.3.2: The international exchange with Ecuador on ‘Buen Vivir in Real Smart Cities’ will culminate in a one-day symposium forming part of the annual conference of the Instituto Latinoamericano de Investigacion en Artes (ILIA), to be chaired by López, Vignola and Baranzoni (M9/M20). Topics will reflect the local diversity of South American city spaces and the ensuing need for cultural specificity in the use and implementation of digital technologies within and beyond the smart city.

D.3.3: Working prototypes of platforms for contributive digital research, including Durham’s Virtual Open World, Lignes de temps, W3C Web annotation, Mind-mapping, Contributive categorization will be ready for participatory demonstration sessions at ENMI18 (on ‘Real Smart Cities’, M15) and ENMI19 (on ‘Capacitation’, M24+3).

D.3.4: The RIF ENMI Annual Research and Innovation Week (T.3.4) will be filmed and stored in IRI’s online archive of digital studies research, where it will also be made available to ERs, ERSs ad the broader public for contributive research annotation, in line with IRI’s commitment to developing prototypical innovations in web publishing tools (M1-24). For the last several years, a selection of articles from the annual Entretiens du Nouveau Monde Industriel have been published in IRI’s series with FYP with roughly an 18 month delay (M21, M24+14, M24+21).

D.3.5: Vallejos, López and Baranzoni will coordinate the creation of three independent artistic interventions in the city of Guayaquil, in collaboration with UA artists and students (M17).

D.3.6: Toolkit of Epistemic Practices for Contributive Amateur Research, containing practical proposals and policy initiatives for the creation for the experimental learning territories and amateur research collaborations that could give rise to ‘real smart cities’. (M24)