Design, Social Media and Technology to Foster Civic Self-Organisation

Design, Social Media and Technology to Foster Civic Self-Organisation

Universiteit Hasselt - Knowledge in action

Design, Social Media and Technology to Foster Civic Self-Organisation

May 21st - 22nd 2015 

Ever since the turn of the millennium, countries all over Europe are increasingly witnessing situations in which citizens are demanding a more direct form of democracy, ranging from a cry for more information, to being involved in actual decision-making procedures, and even to get the autonomy to (partly) self-organize. At the same time, governments of these countries are increasingly putting citizen participation at the centre of their policy objectives, striving for more transparency, the coproduction of public projects, and even the empowerment of local people and communities to self-organize and take up part of the decision power (e.g. the idea of the ‘Big Society’ in the UK and the ‘Participation Society’ in the Netherlands). In short, there is a loud and clear call for civic self-organisation. In order to facilitate this call, what is needed is a multitude of “architectures, technologies of speech, sets of procedures, definitions of freedom and domination, ways of bringing together those who are concerned – and even more important those who are not concerned – and what concerns them, and ways to obtain closure and come to a decision” [1]. Design, social media and technology have been put forward as a way to operationalize this multitude. Design refers here both to the analogue and the virtual, the temporary and the permanent and can range from the scale of objects to cities. Social media refers to digital applications supporting posting, sharing, commenting, rating, etc. And technology refers to hardware such as urban screens, smart tags, georeferenced sensors. The objective of this conference is to discuss three issues related to the implementation of this multitude. These are structured in the three following tracks:

Track 1 – How can design, social media and technology encourage and empower citizens to take part in and/or start up civic self-organisation practices?
This track welcomes contributions exploring methods, such as, intervening, playing, mapping, data-mining, etc.

Track 2 – How can design, social media and technology sustain civic self-organisation practices over longer time periods, and within a diversity of socio-economic contexts?
This track welcomes contributions reflecting on concepts, such as, civic learning, capacity building, generativity, duration, etc. All reflections should preferably depart from actual cases.

Track 3 – How can the impact of design, social media and technology on civic self-organisation practices be documented and evaluated?
This track welcomes contributions addressing issues, such as, quantifying qualitative data, thick documentation, the formalisation of self-organisation processes, measuring civic learning, etc.

[1] Latour, B. 2005. From Realpolitik to Dingpolitik or How to make things public. In: Latour, B. & Weibel, P. (Eds), 2005. Making Things Public: Atmospheres of Democracy. MIT Press. Pp.14-41.

This conference is a follow-up of the Conference ‘Using ICT, Social Media and Mobile Technologies to Foster Self-Organisation in Urban and Neighbourhood Governance’, organized by the OTB Research Institute for the Built Environment, Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands, from May 16th – 17th 2013.

This conference is organized in collaboration with:

  • TRADERS (short for ‘Training Art and Design Researchers in Participation for Public Space’), a Marie Curie Multi-ITN project. More info:
  • Play!UC (short for ‘Playing with Urban Complexity’), a JPI Urban Europe project. More info: