New open access paper! Decentralising geographies of political action: civic tech and place-based municipalism by Omer Husain

Image of a ‘web or reflection’ on the final day of the international workshop Collective Intelligence for Democracy 2018 at Medialab Prado, Madrid. Teams from around the world say some words of gratitude for everyone’s collaborative efforts. Photo credit: César Lucas Abreu

Omer Husain is a research fellow at the Rural Sociology Group of Wageningen University. He was appointed at the MSCAction INT SUSPLACE research project Place-based policies and pathways from April 1, 2016, till March 31, 2019.

Abstract This article introduces the concept of ‘place-based civic tech’ — citizen engagement technology codesigned by local government, civil society and global volunteers. It investigates to what extent creating such a digital space for autonomous self-organization allows for the emergence of a parallel, self-determining and more place-based geography of politics and political action. It finds that combining online tools with offline collaborative practices presents a unique opportunity for decentralization of power and decision-making in a manner which both politically motivates civil society and begins to update the infrastructure of democracy. The discussion is supported by a combination of primary and secondary data, with research methods including ethnographic and participatory observation techniques. Research data is drawn from a range of empirical sources, including an in-depth case study of the radical municipalist movement in Spain. The article concludes that there is a clear and compelling narrative of cities taking power back, in the form of a plural and globally networked movement. As such, this study contributes to both the theory and practice of civic tech, collective impact, municipalism and place-based urban politics while emphasizing the need for further research on experiments and movements currently existing below the academic radar.

Keywords: civic tech; decentralization; open source; place-based; democracy; political action; municipalism;
radical; collaborative; participatory; Madrid.

Reference: Syed Omer Husain, Alex Franklin and Dirk Roep (2019), Decentralising geographies of political action: civic tech and place-based municipalism, Journal of Peer Production, Issue 13, 1-22.