Open Your City – Share Festival 2012 Report

Open Your City

Check the Open Your City – Share Festival 2012 Report photo set here.

Reappropriation of urban space, visions about the city of the future and grassroots participation. These main themes of Share Festival 2012 were given expression in the edition’s title – Open Your City – an imperative formula suggestive of sharing spaces and services and stressing the need for active involvement in the process of technological and social transition. This year’s Share prize included six finalists connectedby an interest in exploring representations of cities in which bricks are replaced by information. The award was eventually given to Capacities: Real Time Complex – Connected Cities. In this work English artist Stanza has given life to an emerging city, built on environmental data captured in real time through a network of sensors scattered across London. The feedback from the sensors is reflected in a city materially reproduced with cables, lights and computer parts, giving rise to a third city with a Gestalt footprint, in which the whole exceeds the sum of the parts. The union of solid elements and intangible data generates a new organism, with changes in the environment dependent on interaction with citizens. Honorable Mention went to The Sentient City Survival Kit by Mark Shepard: a survival kit to counter the continuing supervision of a dystopian and sentient city of the future, able to continuously monitor our lives. This award of honorable mention reinforces the idea that the smart city debate is not based on blind optimism in technology, but critically investigates the risks of privacy intrusion, the hyper-organization of our lives and the fear that our choices may set us on paths from which we cannot stray. Jonathon Baldwin offered a contrasting positive image of smart community in his Tidepools project, in which a platform was created with public wi-fi, allowing citizens of a small area of ​​Brooklyn to collate and implement data about urban spaces and services, organizing them into an informative and useful public map. Citizenship became militant in SMSlingshot by Berlin collective VR / Urban. This urban performance materializes the right of agents to intervene in the res publica, turning the city into a shared screen upon which all citizens may project their messages. Using a wooden slingshot built around a handheld device visitors were encouraged to type a message and slingshot it at the screen, where the message would appear, enhanced by a splash of color. Here the physical act of slinging gave concrete form to the desire to be active. SYN by Mariano Leotta represents the relationship between the real and the digital giving physicality to the connections established through virtual social networks. The work reproduces the connections between users who use a particular hashtag on Twitter in real-time, sending electrical stimuli through a structure and representing synaptic processes. The combination of individual contributions gives rise to an emergent property defined as a “social brain”. The final nominated work was On Journalism # 2 Typewriter by Julian Koschwitz. This installation operates as a demiurge, remodeling existing data into new autogenerative contents. It’s an anagogic typewriter that combines different sources of information about journalists killed worldwide from 1992, creating a new newspaper printed on a roll of endless paper. To close the festival, a number of talks raised questions about the process of transitioning to the city of the future. In regard to art and technology, there was discussion of the term “open”, considered as an opening that overturns the traditional logic of production, distribution and use, giving rise to new paradigms such as open source, copyleft, peer to peer, user generated content and DIY. According to the Smart City Manifesto, introduced by Simona Lodi, Lorenzo Benussi, Simone Arcagni and Bruce Sterling, a smart city is a clever community with technology at the service of those who live in the city – a place where open knowledge and open data are considered part of what it really means to be free. But besides being smart, a city must be a community. As stressed by Martijn de Waal, if we search for “smart city” on Google Images, we find pictures of perfect but empty cities. Where are the people? And how can grassroots participation make concrete gains? The dangers of technological oligarchy and the risk of retreating into a spiral of egoity are present and must be faced. The Smart City Manifesto wants to satisfy the dual requirement of participation and amplification of all voices, and wants to do it now. To draw a utopian city, but not one that is unattainable.

Ylenia Cafaro