Tag Archives: participation

‘Blurry by Design: Public Matters on Social Enterprise’ on KCET Artbound

I had the great fortune of working with Public Matters last year and learned a lot, much of which I didn’t expect. Namely, as I explain in this KCET Artbound post, Blurry by Design: Public Matters on Social Enterprise, how an activist art collaborative strategically blurs the lines between the antithetical institutional logics of the market and social movement to green East Los Angeles’ food desert.

I had fun the whole time because they’re fun the whole time. (Yes, even with institutional logics!)


East L.A. Renaissance Academy Student researchers in the Toxic Edibles Analysis Lab from the video “Have You Noticed How Much Junk Food We Eat?”
From left: Jocelyn Herrera, Martha Meija, Omar Vargas, Amisadai Hernandez.



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the on-the-street political reality of CicLAvia…it’s totally nice

Some of you might know of CicLAvia, LA’s biannual celebration of bikes, feet, skateboards, roller skates, roller blades…anything non-motorized, really. We and many of the world’s cities have Bogotá, Colombia to thank for originating the Ciclovia concept of shutting down city streets to car traffic for real, street-level participation, and straight-up giddy physical engagement with our built environments. The streets are packed and yet the people are smiling.

Angelenos have CARS (Community Arts Resources) for its wildly successful adoption, as well as galvanizing multiple, much needed, bike lane designations throughout the city. If you needed proof of political buy-in, please cast your eyes upon this picture of the tracings of a photo-op. Yes, we were just in front of City Hall, and yes, that is a bike lane. Meta.

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DeRienzo, H. (2008). Community organizing for power and democracy: Lessons learned from a life in the trenches. _The Community Development Reader_, J. DeFilippis & S. Saegert, eds. New York and London: Routledge.

Harold DeRienzo is Managing Member of Greenways Resources LLC. He has served as an advocate, planner, organizer, developer, lawyer, mediator, and protagonist for many of the most pressing housing and community development issues in New York City.

DeRienzo’s polemical chapter begins by distinguishing between the “neighborhood,” a specific, geographically limited “housing services cluster” (p. 181), and the more powerful — and power-related — “community.” The former’s characteristics are: atomization, external economic dependency, and service infrastructure. “Community,” by contrast, requires three things: (1) commonality, which, to DeRienzo, is regrettably sufficient for many community organizers; (2) economic interdependence (Weber, 1968; Berry, 1993); and (3) collective capacity, which follows from the first two and requires sober appraisal.

DeRienzo describes two forms of community building: (1) Static Enhancement, which implies a satisfaction with the status quo, and (2) the Transformative Model, where reality is made (Berlin, 1991). Community power is, like community, fragile and dependent on quality social infrastructure. Given this, DeRienzo sees three types of community organizing efforts: (1) Organizing for Domestication, which he calls “manipulation;” (2) Organizing around Issues, or issue-specific mobilization, which is a bit better but ultimately just minimizes hurt; and (3) Transformative/Developmental Organizing. Here one must recognize the inherent challenges and still strike at the heart of the problem (e.g. public space, institutional accountability and control, political involvement).

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Couldry, N. (2004). The productive ‘consumer’ and the dispersed ‘citizen.’ _International journal of cultural studies_, 7(1): 21-32.

Nick Couldry, PhD, is Professor of Media and Communications at Goldsmiths, University of London. He is the Director of the new Centre for the Study of Global Media and Democracy at Goldsmiths. Prior to this post he taught at the London School of Economics in the Sociology and Media Departments. His research interests are media power, media and place, community media, and voice.

Couldry presents another hybrid consumer-citizen, the productive consumer. He rejects the “plugged-in monad model” of the person buying indiscriminately online because this version ignores the feedback loops involved in what impels us to buy certain products. He challenges the assumed hierarchy of producer v. consumer because while it used to be that the producers were centrally located and the consumers, scattered, this no longer applies. Now production is as decentralized as its distribution patterns.

Per Sen’s (1999) discussion of freedom, Couldry submits economically based values are (and should be) secondary to social or political concerns. Without this arrangement, trust in the established political system is an impossibility. Oscar Gandy (2002) argues that information flow and storage have raised critical questions about how to assure trust in markets and politics. He calls “the real digital divide” (as cited on 24) to be embedded in market and political language.

The new networks of trust, meanwhile, are shaped by local possibilities and innovations, where people generate “new contexts of public communication and trust, whether as frameworks primarily for consumption or for citizen participation (or both). Here the productive and distributional potential of the Internet is central, without excluding the importance of other media” (26).

In his research project with Sonia Livingstone, Couldry set out to evade the following typical media assumptions/habits: (1) the privileging of formal political spaces, (2) the primacy of national connections over other forms, (3) the notion that one medium will have a greater capacity for connection-sustaining than others, (4) that media have a meaningful impact on how connected people feel, (5) the assumption that people even have a sense of public connection in the first place, and (6) that people ought to have a larger linkage with the public realm outside their own lives.

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Filed under Annotated Bibliographies, Media Literacy, Minor Field, Research Fields

Canclini, N. G. (2001). _Consumers and citizens: Globalization and multicultural conflicts_, Volume 6. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Néstor García Canclini, PhD, teaches at the Universities of Paris and La Plata. His current research examines the relationship between aesthetics, art, anthropology, creative strategies, and youth’s cultural networks. He’s received a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Prix Trial Casa de las Americas, and the Book Award of the Association of Latin American Studies. His books include Hybrid Cultures and Consumers and Citizens.

“To consume is to make more sense of a world where all that is solid melts into air” (42).

Canclini argues for an expanded notion of citizenship — not just enlightened democracy but, per Appadurai (1996), access to housing, health, education, and other goods through consumption. If we rethink citizenship as a “political strategy” with various options, rather than a stultifying, reason-boxed and problematic “political matter” (Habermas, 1995).

Within this strategy, Canclini argues for cultural citizenship through consumption: “when we select goods and appropriate them, we define what we consider publicly valuable” (20). Appropriation here is key — this is more about whimsical purchases or expression of taste, consumption for Canclini is “the ensemble of sociocultural processes” (38) of product appropriation and use. He rejects out of hand that neoliberalism is the only way to participate in globalization.

Canclini also rejects the media domination theory: “collaboration and transaction between both parties” (38) is required for communication. He advocates for a “politics of recognition” before one of “identity.” The latter implies sameness, whereas the former “directly integrates alterity, that permits a dialectic of same and other” (13) that accounts for our hybrid constructions (i.e. nationalities and ethnicities). Along with the standard sociospatial definition of identity, he proposed a “sociocommunicational” (29). “Identity is a narrated construct” (89); “theater and politics, performance and action” (96).

“Literary, artistic, and mass media discourses not only document a compensatory imagination, but also serve to record the city’s dramas, what is lost in the city and what is transformed…. Shouldn’t the discourse of the social sciences contain these daring declarations?” (65)

His proposed policies for citizenship:

  1. the point of departure for urban politics should be a democratic plurality
  2. urban policies should uphold multiple identities within their cities
  3. policies should promote the reification of urban imaginaries and, hence, social customs, in contradistinction to reactionary cultural policies
  4. citizenship shall be constituted in local social movements and through the “communicative processes of mass media” (76)

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Buckingham, D. (2000). _The making of citizens: Young people, news and politics_. London and New York: Routledge.

David Buckingham, PGCE, MA, PhD, ACSS, is Professor of Media and Communications in the School of Social Sciences at Loughborough University. Prior, he was Professor of Education at the Institute of Education, London University, where he directed the Centre for the Study of Children, Youth, and  Media. He researches children’s and young people’s interactions with electronic media, and on media education.

“Rather than attempting to measure the effectiveness of the news communicating political information, we should be asking how it enables viewers to construct and define their relationship with the public sphere…. How, ultimately do [news programs] establish what it means to be a ‘citizen’?” (18)

In this book Buckingham tries to address why children are reading news less. “Increasing cynicism can…be seen as a result of young people’s growing awareness of their own powerlessness” (202). Therefore, we should replace cynicism with criticism, a very important distinction. Regrettably, Buckingham contends that much media literacy discourse assumes a gullible other, forgetting how meaningful social context is, when what we need now is a social theory for analysis. Explicit in Buckingham’s research were age, gender, and the very significant ethnicity, while social class was implicit. Buckingham calls for a social theory of political understanding because research suggests that while news consumption is linked with greater political participation, the influence of parents, peers, and community factors is more significant.

So how to fix the news for kids and engage them as citizens? One way to do this is move beyond the classical, extremely conservative model for the news. Buckingham joins Fraser’s (1992) by enjoining readers to remember ours is a world with multiple public spheres, and so we should create “other possible networks for exchanging information or means of cultural expression” (24) that better engages youth. It’s still important to be realistic about what news for young people can achieve, but we should move towards making their news programs more exciting. “As we move into a more competitive, multi-channel era, in which television will have to struggle against less linear, more interactive media forms, innovation of this kind may not be only desirable but unavoidable” (58).

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Media Arts for Community Development in Planning: A Literature Review

“Art, of course, does not produce grand revolutions, but as an event that opens up a new narrative about reality it provides the conditions of possibility for a nascent political consciousness, one born from conviviality, a being-together as a coming-into-being of community: the realization of shared existence.”

Jean Fisher, on Francis Alÿs’ When Faith Moves Mountains, 2007


Today, planning’s esteem for the arts relates primarily to the latter’s capacity as economic engine. Of course, planners admire arts and culture for its notable impact on social and human capital, as well, but the majority of programs bespeak economic development’s continued primacy. I propose planning broaden its creative agenda to include media arts for community development. For one, media arts engage with each of the following crucial planning phenomena: time and space, identity, participation, and process, and uphold context as a decisive factor in all. For another, communication technologies have fast become the basic infrastructure of daily experience for millions. For many millions others, who reside on the other side of the digital divide, I consider this need and opportunity to be even more pressing.

The following literature review, comprising works from two of the last forty years’ most influential planners, and an array of media artists, art historians, computer scientists, philosophers, and sociologists, articulate the myriad benefits media arts can bring to community development in urban planning. In the first section, I introduce what I consider to be Kevin Lynch’s and Manuel Castells’ unwitting championing of media arts for community development. I then use Boris Groys’ 2011 Going Public to introduce context, time-place, identity, participation, and process through a philosophical lens before delving deeper into each of conditions. These literatures and case studies show media arts’ practices, blessings, and cautions are well taken in planning. I conclude by acknowledging there are constraints, but that the opposing benefits merit media arts’ application in community development.

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Eversole, R. (2010). Remaking participation: challenges for community development practice. _Community Development Journal_, 47(10): 29-41.

Dr. Robyn Eversole, Senior Researcher at the University of Tasmania, Australia, is an anthropologist whose work delves into development issues and processes. She studies participatory and place-based development, development governance, cross-cultural development processes, local and community economic development and social enterprise, the role of university in regional development, microenterprise development, microfinance, and migration.

Participation: “a discourse: a way of speaking, signaling (in and implicit binary) that we-as-professionals believe that they-as-communities have something important to contribute to the process of social change” (30).

Participation has a long-held, long-respected tradition of the bottom approach.

“For practitioners deep in conversations about enabling participation, growing social capital, community strengthening, community engagement, or any of the other myriad of terms for local/community participation in development, participation becomes the problem we cannot live without: embedded in our best practice, yet inextricable from it; a central idea, yet unachievable” (31).

Legitimate critiques show participation obscures power asymmetries, understates real difference, and empowers elites and their agendas. However, this totalizing critique isn’t fully appropriate, and in fact the participation problem goes actually deeper than that, bespeaking how formal development agencies see their role as change agents and about development itself. Namely, participation is still about institution to people. The literature shows “how formal institutional leadership continues to define desirable development trajectories” (31).

If community participation is a “mirage” (32), where does this leave community development advocates? Gaventa (2005) says that for community development to work, the development organizations must change with the communities themselves, to reconfigure “the interactions about communities, professionals, and institutions into a truly ‘participatory space'” (32). Participation has really worked in just one direction to date, so the real focus should be on making it multi-directional.

That said, here are the challenges to participatory development processes. First, determining whose knowledge counts. The situated knowledge of the local does what the expert’s cannot possibly, which is the stock of possibilities and constraints. The community also sees the interrelationships, the “seamless fabric of lived experience” (Latour, as cited on 34). Even though their relationships are permeable, there remains the sticking point between communities and experts, namely that the latter are the only ones with valuable knowledge. Second, deciding whose institutions to use. Communities do have their own institutions, though formal development often perceives itself as having “best practices.” The desire for bottom-up change is sometimes hindered by participation fatigue or strategic exclusion, when community members distance themselves from well-intended projects. Third, remaking participation. One can’t make another participate, so the challenge is how to make the practitioners participants.

“…there is a need for translation agents who are comfortable in the circles of both the powerful and the powerless, and who are able to facilitate the journeys of both” (37).

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Lovejoy, M. (2011). Defining Conditions for Digital Arts: Social Function, Authorship, and Audience. In _Context Providers_, M. Lovejoy, C. Paul, and V. Vesna, eds. Bristol and Chicago: intellect. Bristol and Chicago: intellect.

Data is now infinitely manipulable and limitless. “Interactivity,” then, just as “interdisciplinary” are practically meaningless terms since digital technologies actually change the mode of interactivity altogether. The open system implies agency; following Duchamp, the production of work extends beyond formalism into “larger  political, social, and spiritual values” (22).

However, there are constraints. The digital divide applies in terms of access, language, and cultural contexts, the last intersecting/reflecting with technological pace, commercial interests and affecting how an artists finds her voice. Institutionally, “media artists regard their art as a form of knowledge” (26) — and I daresay Castells (1989) would agree — and their hybrid, collaborative nature questions larger institutions and their practices.

In new media technologies, there are three narrative modes: (1) transcriptive (multiple layering for loops and reassembling of paths), recombinary (algorithm-controlled permutation strategies that shape the meaning of artistic works), and distributed (enabled by telematics).  Also three are the number of groups of cultural producers using digital media: those using it to create traditional work, those using/producing/distributing in full, and those collaborating with other modes (e.g. video, performance) to make interdisciplinary works.

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Eriksson, L. (2010). Community development and social pedagogy: traditions for understanding mobilization for collective self-development. _Community Development Journal_, 46(4): 403-420.

Lisbeth Eriksson is in the Linköping University’s Department of Behavioural Sciences and Learning. She studies adult education, community development, folk high schools / folk schools, popular education, and social pedagogy.

Eriksson opens with theories about “community”: a “common value system containing such elements as solidarity, fellowship, and trust” (following Walzer, 1998; Fraser, 2000 [405]), or collection of variables, such as geography, shared interest, or perceived connection with group or place.

In the 1960s, “community development” had no fewer than 94 definitions. Eriksson sees community development’s emergence in the colonial administrators’ actions, the goals being industrial and economic development. In the 60s U.S., community development’s primary objectives were poverty- and race-related problems. Outside experts were presumed then and often now. Today it’s linked to social work, adult education, and urban planning, and comprises both philosophical approaches and specific modes of action, but there is almost always a prevailing social aspect.

Van der Veen (2003) considers community development to be a type of citizen engagement with three forms, each of which operationalizes education, first as training, or consciousness raising, or service delivery. Van der Veen sees the second as resulting from group discussion. “This form starts with learning and the goal is an active act” (411). Education as training can have either an outside or indigenous leader, but the focus is on action first, which comes from the learning.

Like social pedagogy, community development houses both conservative and radical perspectives. The former holds the community is threatened and best restructured through top-down programs, which often lead to well-intended dependency situations. This view believes consensus is possible and desired. The more radical form is about mobilizing people around conflict, not cooperation, for participation in a better world. This emerged in the 1960s and has since lost primacy in the 21st century to the conservative attitude that privileges cooperation and self-volunteerism. “Participation, a bottom-up perspective…[is] advocated by the process is continuously ‘controlled’ and monitored by the pedagogue” (413). This mild form of control, so-called “funneling” stands with the conservative approach’s preference for adaptation and integration, while the radical view calls for full structural change.

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I reflected yesterday. It was hard.

“Media exerts a general influence on forms of perceiving space, objects, and time, and they are tied inextricably to the evolution of humankind’s sense faculties.”

Oliver Grau (2007, p. 140)

I regret to say that as often as not, I start sentences in the middle of my thought process. Generally speaking, I’m the only one not thoroughly confused. (Though not always – my third-gear-before-first approach sometimes gets the better of me, too.) My boyfriend rebukes me lovingly. My advisor assures me there’s plenty of time. Slow down. Think. And yet I persist in running headlong into ideas and projects before establishing the all-important introduction.

This website is no different. I realize now I should have stated explicitly that the annotated bibliographies herein are more descriptive and less analytical; that they’re here to serve as study guides for the late summer intellectual gauntlet that are my qualifying exams. So they’re thin on analysis (perhaps no less thin than my defense of their thinness). In all likelihood, I’ll persist in doing the “then the scholar said this” coverage for the rest of my major and minor field titles, but not today. Today I reflect. Component to this endeavor is a lot of introduction, as much to my intellectual intentions as to the paper itself.

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Debord, G. (1983). _Society of the Spectacle_. Detroit: Black and Red.

Co-founder of the Letterist International and later the Situationist International (SI), which played a considerable part in the Paris Uprising of 1968, Marxist philosopher and artist Debord articulates a bleak and totalizing view of modernity in 221 theses.

“In societies where modern conditions of production prevail, all of life presents itself as an immense accumulation of spectacles” (#1).

The spectacle for Debord is the overwhelming and distracting power not of images, “but a social relation among people, mediated by images” (#4). Whether it is concentrated, as in the totalitarian regime revolving around a sole figure/state, or is the diffuse antipode, as in the market economy-embedded society where acts of liberty are performed through purchase power, “the spectacle presents itself as something enormously positive, indisputable, inaccessible” (#12). Not only is the spectacle inaccessible, it is enduring. Since revolutionaries generally operate within the logics of the spectacle, efforts to overthrow it are doomed. Complicating matters further, Debord insists a successful revolution is “a unitary critique of society” (#121). This critique is manifest action, exemplified by the SI’s favored activities, the dérive (“drift”) and détournement.

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Crawford, M. (1995). Contesting the Public Realm: Struggles Over Public Space in Los Angeles. _Journal of Architectural Education_, 49(1): 4-9.

Margaret Crawford, PhD Urban Planning from UCLA, is Professor of Architecture at UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design. Her research focuses on the evolution, uses, and meanings of urban space. She is known for her work on Everyday Urbanism, a concept that promotes the quotidian as the basis for urban theory and design.

Following Fraser’s (1992) “Rethinking the Public Sphere: A Contribution to the Critique of Actually Existing Democracy,” Crawford argues we’re not seeing an end to public space. Rather, our conceptions of public space and the agents who constitute them need to change. Here, the two populations most designed against are street vendors and the homeless. The splintering of democracy and attendant contests/tensions provides us with opportunities. Counterpublics comprise women, immigrants, workers, and they demand their rights outside the Habermasian public sphere. They blur the lines between private and public in their modes because they adopt unconventional practices, including acts of civil disobedience, in concert with the accepted legislative processes.

And following Holston’s (1996) “Spaces of Insurgent Citizenship,” these democratic uprisings take place in public arenas, whether Sorkin, Davis,  et al. choose to recognize it. Counterpublics affirm their is not one place that can adequately convey an inclusive, democratic space. This is because “public spaces are constantly changing, as users reorganize and reinterpret public space. Unlike normative spaces, which simply reproduce the existing ideology, these spaces, often sites of struggle, help to overturn it” (5). In the civil unrest of 1992 and in the time hence, marginalized groups have reclaimed the streets, sidewalks, and vacant spaces for their purposes, democratic, economic, and participatory. While no one calls them public space in full, their actions “reveal an alternate logic of public life” (6).

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Helguera, P. (2011). _Education for Socially Engaged Art: A Materials and Techniques Handbook_. New York: Jorge Pinto Books.

Pablo Helguera is a New York-based artist who works with installation, sculpture, photography, drawing, and socially engaged art and performance. In addition to his artistic practice, he has worked as an education curator in contemporary art museums. From 1998-2005, he was the head of public programs at the Guggenheim. Since 2007, he has been MoMA’s director of adult and academic programs. He’s written several books, ranging from novels, to curatorial stories, to essays on memory, and so on. His most recent product is based on his “knowledge, experience, and conclusions derived from specific applications of various interactive formats, from discursive and pedagogical methods to real-life situations” (x).

The goal, which I believe he achieves handily, is to give insight into how to use art in the social realm, while placing it within a larger discussion about the debates, both theoretical and application-based. His main point is that the tools of education share parallels with art — they rely on collaborative dynamics, experimentation, and the development of materials. However, what educators understands better than many artists is their “socially engaged art [SEA] can’t be produced inside a knowledge vacuum” (xiii).

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