Beyond the digital: politics, participation and local interaction platforms

Authors: Beth Perry*, Urban Institute, University of Sheffield, Warren Smit, African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town, Rike Sitas, African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town, Magnus Johansson, Department of Urban Studies, Malmo University, Margareta Forsberg, Mistra Urban Futures, Chalmers University of Technology , David Simon, Mistra Urban Futures, Royal Holloway University, Stephen Agong, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology, Alfred Otom, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology
Topics: Urban and Regional Planning, Urban Geography
Keywords: platform, coproduction, transdisciplinarity, sustainability, urban development, Mistra Urban Futures
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Balcony L, Marriott, River Tower Elevators, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In 2010 Mistra Urban Futures, a sustainability centre with headquarters in Gothenburg, Sweden, set up Local Interaction Platforms to bring together knowledge and skills from within and outside the academy to address ‘wicked’ issues associated with urban sustainability (Rittel and Weber 1973). Platforms were established in Cape Town, Kisumu, Gothenburg and Manchester and since then have expanded to include partner cities in the UK and Sweden (Sheffield and Skane) and the development of new ‘nodes’ (Palmer and Walasek 2016). The common concept of the ‘platform’ is one based on an integrative epistemology: learning-by-doing from different approaches to transdisciplinary knowledge coproduction within multi-stakeholder partnerships to realise just cities (Fainstein 2010; May and Perry 2010, 2018).

Data from stakeholders drawn from interviews, focus groups and a series of reflections exercises over 2016-2018 suggest that the ‘platform’ idea is operating as a boundary object in the context of new understandings about the relationship between knowledge and urban development (Starr 1989, 2010). The paper sets out the work that the platform concept does in different contexts, yet also urges caution in seeing platforms as fixes for ‘wicked’ urban issues. Boundary objects may accelerate the depoliticization of knowledge and action around a new urban consensus, and ironically hide or undermine the messy, conflicting and contested debates which surround the idea of the ‘just city’ itself (Wilson and Swyndegouw 2015). The paper concludes by suggesting that work on platform urbanism needs to decentre the digital and recentre the political, alongside questions of citizen participation and empowerment.

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