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.