Communications by Design? Community Spaces, Neighbourhood Media & Creative citizens

TitleCommunications by Design? Community Spaces, Neighbourhood Media & Creative citizens
Publication TypeConference Paper
Author(s)Alevizou, P., K. Alexiou, and G. Ramster
Affiliation (1st Author)The Open University
Section or WGCommunity Communication Section
DateThurs 27 June
Slot CodeCoCT4b
Slot Code (Keyword)CoCT4b
Time of Session16:00-17:30
RoomQ219
Session TitleTactical Media, Art, and Creative Protest
Submission ID7120
Abstract

Urban theory has undergone a veritable normative turn, registered in debates - and in prescriptive practices in architectural planning, collectively known as community-led, co- or participatory design. Such debates, and practices, are centred on issues around democratisation and the right of citizens to participate in, and collaborate over, the design of their built or physical environment and public services and to creatively contribute to social capital, economic sustainability and cultural well-being of neighbourhoods and local businesses. Such debates are also recently enriched by the ‘architecture of participation’ (Harrison and Barthel, 2009,, 155) enabled by novel web tools and social media which, it has been argued, may have significant implications for citizens’ opportunities to involve themselves in media, and through media, and to shape new connections with communities and their environment. Responding to such turns, the centrality of media, and social media tools, is evident in localism policies across Europe, with the case of New Localism Bill in the UK proposing a new planning policy framework, promising to bring about reforms that will decentralise local governance, put forward grass-roots participation. The question then is, what is the definition and value of participatory design (in public, local services, and in place-making) as this is understood and represented by different communities through the use of media and via mediated creativity and civic engagement. A new category of ‘neighbourhood media’, using a variety of platforms within what is broadly defined as hyperlocal media (Ofcom, 2010; Radcliffle, 2012) to describe online news and content services, pertaining to small and mostly geographically defined communities. Drawing on focus groups with a variety of participants from London-based community projects, interviews with architecture and local government professionals,and community leaders as well as genre analysis of selected public media outputs, this paper firstly offers empirical insights that broaden the definition of neighbourhood media, with a particular focus on placemaking, that support and extend Dahlgren’s (2005) notion of ‘net of public spheres’. In addition,, a) Social media and the internet present new tendencies towards way-finding, information sharing, as well as communication, visibility and communal story-telling and self-representation. Likewise, face-to-face interaction, private communication and 'small- media' (see Sreberny and Mohammadi, 1994; e.g. posters, leaflets, pamphlets, etc) are vital for raising awareness or advocacy, and, for mobilising volunteer support and further engagement, promoting thus the need for an analogue and digital mix in community media; b) Participatory or community-led design projects surface a renewed impulse for the ‘articulation’ and mediation of issues, values and tensions that may represent the make-up of local communities in cities. Participatory design may indeed present some coherent narrative to fuel activism, to facilitate creativity and peer support among locally based communities of interest, to enhance cultural value and shared memory, but also to bring people together with a shared sense of purpose and mutual benefit surrounding public spaces and services. Nonetheless, numerous tensions prevail, pertaining the development, governance and sustainability of communities and projects, civic engagement and effective social action, as well as media and participatory literacies.

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