El Carrito: Week Twelve, Saturday, April 9, 2011

Tools of the Participation Trade

Participation Tools of El Carrito

Saturday was a sunny day in Plaza Fort Pienc; we introduced the Participation Canopy – atop El Carrito. The structure acts to display the varied tools of El Carrito, including Raons pins, student drawings, postcards of other participation projects in Barcelona and, soon, Public Space Trading Cards! (more about this last element next week…)

El Carrito on Ribes Street in Plaza Fort Pienc

In addition to the model of the neighborhood, the maps and survey sheets, Raons is aware that participation at its best is pluralistic; therefore we need a wide array of tools in order to engage community members representative of the existing diversity. The process is necessarily slow since we are learning about them, just as they learn about us.

Public Space Dialogues

Conversations with Manuel Delgado Ruiz

More than ever, today I wished that my Spanish skills had increased to a good enough level to understand all the subtleties of the dialogue between Raons members and Manuel Delgado Ruiz, Professor of Religious Anthropology at the Departament d’Antropologia Social at the Universitat de Barcelona and Coordinator for the Doctoral Programme in Anthropology of Space and Territory and its Research Group on Public Spaces. If your Spanish isn’t lacking, you can watch this engaging lecture on Public Space As a Space of and for Communication.

Certain things are clear, however, and that is that the idea of democratic public space is still elusive in understanding and practice. One of the reasons for this, according to my interpretation, is that people have an idealized and nostalgic image of public space; this vision is at odds with reality (which is messy and complex), and thereby proves unproductive as a point of departure for dialogue. Essentially, people have a sudden and often defensive reaction to imminent change; the nostalgic image of how good things used to be is a defense mechanism  that has its merits for coping with change and challenging change, however, it does not always facilitate a democratic exchange of ideas. ( I will update this post as soon as I get any translations of his work.) Along the same lines, I recently read an article about NIMBYism (Not In My Back Yard – a widespread view antagonistic to development widespread in the United States, among other places), in which Matthew Kiefer suggests that among all the complex opponents to change, the common denominator is that “NIMBYists resist change imposed by others.” This is an important distinction, especially in light of what we are trying to do with participation that comes before not after a project is decided upon, designed and practically in the construction phase.

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