About

We are Urban Species, an action-research group based in Brussels focusing on citizen participation

As part of its prototyping strategies and experiments, Urban Species collaborates with developers, graphic designers, citizens, associations, public authorities and a whole series of species, human or not, living or not, digital or not.

Urban Species brings together researchers from ULB (LoUISe, Faculty of Architecture, Grap, Faculty of Social Sciences and Philosophy) and Luca School of Arts (Intermedia).

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Urban Species is currently engaged in two projects, p-lab and SUCIB

p-lab.

Identifying and amplifying new forms of urban participation.
The Brussels city center pedestrian zone as a laboratory

What does “urban participation” actually mean? The aim of the p-lab project is to broaden the definition of participation by pointing out existing minor forms of citizen involvement, such as commercial, ludic, technical or artistic practices and actions performed in an urban environment, as well as innovative institutional engagement processes that go beyond the mere consultation or debate.

These forms do not typically fit the standards of institutional participation procedures, but nevertheless contribute significantly to society.

The groundwork of p-lab is an extensive ethnographic survey of these forms of participation “spotted” in, around and about the Brussels city center pedestrian zone, in order to dig out transition enablers.

Transition enablers are specific objects, actions or devices that enable a transition towards the politicization of ordinary practices (a yellow vest, a controversial work of art, a piece of urban furniture, the delay in construction works) or through which public authorities are shifting political issues towards unpolitical procedures and actions (i.e. through the use of social media, entertainment, gamification...).

Once detected, we experiment different ways of amplifying, attenuating, hacking, hybridizing or disseminating these transition enablers. A small mobile broadcasting robot, a bike transformed into a database of electoral platforms, tape-framed traces of past participation.. are all part of a design research process with an increasing level of consistency, evolving from rough prototypes to design solutions for specific urban participatory projects and initiatives.

 

SUCIB.

SUCIB, which is short for "Smart Urban Community Interaction Blocks", aims to develop and deploy a series of interconnectable IoT ('Internet of Things') modules. The development and deployment are done incrementally, in collaboration with citizens, civil society organizations and local administrations and authorities. The SUCIB toolbox is made up of sensing devices which allow people to measure and collect data, as well as 'actuators', which allow the collected data or measured issues to be made visible, audible, tangible, ... The creation, deployment and testing of the Sucib modules is done through a series of concrete participatory projects -from a light choreography created by a group of neighbours in a given street to addressing issues of noise nuisances through co-created interactive installations. In the long run, the process should make it possible to constitute something of a 'technotèque', where the modules can be borrowed by all sorts of engaged individuals and communities in their proper collective urban projects. The modules will run specific 'recipes' that can be followed, improved, extended or adpated.

We are a multi-disciplinary team at the crossroad of anthropology, sociology, urban planning, and design.