If not us, then who?
In the first instance, I would like to thank everyone that has read or interacted with my blog posts. I would also like to congratulate my cohort, who participated in these unique student-driven activities. The blogs have been an innovative platform to discuss and deliberate on pressing issues within the urban realm. And in doing so, possess great potential in inducing significant social reform. This is in line with an article by Sherry Arnstein in 1969 titled “A Ladder of Citizen Participation”. According to Arnstein (1969), the process of sharing information is an important element of citizen participation towards achieving citizen control.
I and my colleagues worked together as multiple stakeholders in the development of a successful blog. Growing up in Lagos, a post-colonial African city, the many diverse backgrounds provided avenues for learning. As well as opportunities to exchange ideas about how we might approach/develop the urban environment. One of the main agendas of the blog was to collectively present and deliberate on the urban realm through a social platform.
To achieve this, we attended fortnightly group meetings, the second of which I lead with Kate chambers, taking the minutes and disseminating this information afterwards. We also assigned a rota for the blog on the google drive. Personally, I found this a bit difficult to adhere to because of an “Informal-formal” style required whilst not losing its focus, specificity or rigor. However, the design studio field trip across Italy, particularly Venice and Rome, provided the perfect place-specific foil to engage .
If not now, then when?
A major element of writing the blogs was to present information to the everyday street bureaucrat. This informed questions about the readability or lack thereof of formal academic writing. I personally found transitioning from the formal style of writing to an informal one quite enjoyable, however, it was quite challenging to maintain the same amount of detail and rigor. The SEO and readability ratings tools on the blog were quite useful in solving this challenge. Through them, I could ‘re-access’ the succinctness of my paragraphs and deliver my ideas in a more accessible manner.
Louis Albrechts (2002), stresses that the best way to reach groups of people is through informal meetings. Once a blog was written, sharing through social media was one way of distributing the information. This was quite a unique experience as we had the opportunity present the information to the ‘real world’. Specifically, Thelander (1981) notes the importance of notifying and informing people, to incorporate different views and perspectives. I believe this has been one of the successful points of the blog. As Naomi noted in her comment on my blog, there is never one solution/ perspective. The idea of commenting on other people’s blogs, trying to generate constructive criticism has helped to uncover different perspectives. Although however, it is still difficult to access the level of external engagement.
I am happy to have been a part of this unique blogging exercise. I also think that the blogs have been a fantastic exercise looking to a future of public engagement. Although certain aspects of the experience could be improved, the formal and especially informal nature of some of the activities gave a good balance as to what real world agency entails.
Albrechts, L. (2002). The planning community reflects on enhancing public involvement. Views from academics and reflective practitioners. Planning Theory and Practice, 3(3), 331-347.
Arnstein, S. (1969). A ladder of citizen participation. Journal of the American Institute of Planners, 35, 216-224.
Thelander, A. (1981). Citizen participation in land and water use planning. Acta Sociologica, 24(4), 321-329.