El Carrito: Week Eight, Thursday, March 10, 2011

 

El Carrito in Antiga D'Horta Interior Court

In Case You Didn’t Know…

While on one hand the philosophy of Raons Publiques is based on engagement without intrusion, which is why members rarely approach people that don’t seem interested in participating, El Carrito itself is under a bit of modification. Today El Carrito proclaims its presence with a large sign:

 

A bigger presence

And, as this week is Semana Blanca, the week marking the beginning of Lent and a holiday from school, we need all the attention we can get.

Too Young to Participate

Due to Semana Blanca and the lack of school-aged children in the Fort Pienc Civic Center Plaza, we made our way with El Carrito to an interior court designed for the play of younger children. Perhaps because the children are too young here, with few over the age of five, and the parents more attentive to the youngsters’ safety, El Carrito only receives minimal attention.

 

Some interest at El Carrito...

While participation was low today, I began thinking about the nature of participation once more. The other night at our weekly meeting, I passed out small pieces of paper and asked each Raons member to write down what each person thought was the objective of this Diagnostico (study) in Fort Pienc. I expected a variety of answers, but in fact they all revolved around the theme of residents being part of city building, including decisions about policy and design. The idea that a participation process can go beyond simply stopping bad development and act as a catalyst for good or even innovative development, which results from the deep knowledge of an area and the complexity of all its history, social relations, conflicts and paradoxes, is extremely exciting.

 

People at playground

And so, there we were, with our participation El Carrito, surrounded by people, not participating. Along with the paradoxes of any robust neighborhood, there are also contradictions in the objective of Raons Publiques’ attempts to engage the residents. Probably, one of the main obstacles is that people don’t usually look at their environment and think of it as constantly changing; by the standards of how fast other technologies evolve, cities are pretty static. I also think that the process of participating in city design has some relationship to voting, although the former is obviously in its infantile stage. Nevertheless, like voting, participation requires a certain engagement with the external processes of society, and even as different groups of people fought for their right to vote, voter turnout is not a unanimous practice. As a note, voter turnout in national elections in Spain is indeed high. While there are many reasons why voter turnout suffers in some regions and flourishes in others, one of the factors is literacy. Applying this to our desire for participation in the domain of public space, I often think about the “spatial literacy” of people. How could a deeper understanding of the surrounding environment, both natural and urban (although it is somewhat unfair to make them seem so separate, when they are so interconnected), encourage productive engagement with the environment as well as participating in its creation.

Until further developments, El Carrito waits for the Neighborhood Detectives to retrieve their Mission Portraits!

 

Mission Portraits await pick-up by Neighborhood Detectives

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