In Moscow I have investigated how forms of tactical citizen activism addressing urban issues had begun to emerge. In summer 2012 and 2013, I conducted workshops with urban designers, artists and activists at the Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design. As part of my workshop on Urban Tactics and Media Ecologies in Moscow, I began working with Partizaning, an urban activist collective to explore forms of DIY (or do it yourself) urbanism in the city. The goal was to engage informal and ad-hoc networks of individual and collective actors in productively addressing critical conditions within their urban localities.
Citizen Digital and Urban Activism in Russia
July 20, 2012
Based on participatory research and co-design with local residents we devised a series of interventions using a network of mailboxes, online/mobile collaboration tools, and community-based workshops to engage participants in revealing issues, co-designing solutions and coordinating urban actions. I led the design of a new digital collaboration platform, centered around the concept of MicroActs (everyday actions embodying forms of creative intervention) which could be aggregated into localized tools for collective action and civic engagement. The challenge was not only facilitate grassroots action, but also to create a productive dialogue between residents and municipal actors, while fostering more inclusive and sustained modes of civic engagement.
The MicroAct platform and emerging design interventions explored a form of cooperative DIY Urbanism through networked and place-based self-organization, co-design and sharing. This research was published in 2015 as a paper, “Civic Engagement through DIY Urbanism and Collective Networked Action”, in the Journal of Planning Practice & Research and showcased as a peer-reviewed essay in the Civic Media Project, an online publication byMIT Press. In 2013-2015 I expanded on this work in neighborhoods of the Lower East Side and Harlem in New York City, as part of a studio course on Urban Tactics and Media Ecologyco-taught with Melaine Crean, and was awarded a $20,000 collaborative research grant titled Revitalizing NYC Neighborhoods through Public Innovation Places, with my faculty colleagues Lara Penin and Eduardo Staszowski (in Parsons), and in partnership with the organization No Longer Empty.
Sawhney, N., de Klerk, C. and Malhotra, S., 2015. Civic Engagement through DIY Urbanism and Collective Networked Action. Journal of Planning Practice & Research, 30(3), Special Issue: Using Social Media and Mobile Technologies to Foster Engagement and Self-Organization in Participatory Urban Planning and Neighbourhood Governance, Taylor & Francis, pp.337-354.
Malhotra, S., de Klerk, C., and Sawhney, N. 2015. Mobilizing Collective Urban Actions through MicroActs. In Civic Media Project, MIT Press.
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