I was delighted to read that the Personal Democracy Forum’s 2009 Conference (twitter slurp here) includes a Birds of a Feather meetup on the topic of “Hacking the City.” I first heard community technologists use this phrase in 2005, when Mike wrote a post about how community Wi-Fi is a way of hacking the social space of cities. What he was referring to was the way that community interventions in provision of communications infrastructure could change how people socialized – since so much of our interactions are mediated by various types of networks.
But “hacking the city” like so many good ideas, has taken on another life. It’s now used to describe how networked technologies can be harnessed so that citizens can take action in their own cities. There’s DIYCity.org, where volunteers in cities around the world build open source tools and advocate for open data , New York City’s The Open Planning Project (who advocate for open source software in government, and run several citizen-participation blogs) and MySociety’s FixMyStreet, which features maps where my neighours have flagged two instances of fly-tipping and two piles of dog poo within 1 km of my house.
After doing some work this year about other types of digital activism, I’m returning this summer to thinking about the politics of local networks – it’s time, and furthermore it matters! Can anyone think of other good examples of hacking the city?
UPDATE: Exciting! Personal Democracy Forum Europe in Barcelona in November.