Social Innovation Cha(lle)nging Digital Urban Governance

The Annual Conference of the Science, Technology and Society 2021 organised by the Graz University of Technology, the Inter-Disciplinary Research Centre for Technology, Work and Culture (IFZ) and the Institute of Advanced Studies on Science, Technology and Society (IAS-STS) is taking place online on the 3rd and 4th of May 2021.

This aims to “address the complex ways in which science, technology and society co-evolve and mutually shape one another. In such a way, the participants of the conference aim to provide a better understanding of the world in which we live. This includes the assessment of emerging technologies, the scrutiny of ethical, legal and social aspects of contemporary scientific practices as well as the transition to environmentally friendly and socially desirable techno-scientific futures. Thematic Themes of the conference are e.g. Digitalization of Society, Sustainable and Innovative Public Procurement & Ecodesign, Towards Low-Carbon Energy and Mobility Systems, Gender – Technology – Environment, Lifesciences and Biotechnology.”

Amongst the several interesting sessions, I am chairing the B.1 Social Innovation Cha(lle)nging Digital Urban Governance stream (description below):

The “digital turn” produced new spaces for action and areas of intervention for social innovation practices, by giving rise to a multiplicity of initiatives in which digital social innovators and communities exploit the potential of ICTs to advance creative solutions to social problems and collective needs. In so doing, they advance pathbreaking forms of collective agency that mushrooms and infiltrates social organizations and (government, research and business) institutions; and produce transactive forms of governance characterised by continuous restructuration of power and responsibility relationships between multiple public, private and hybrid actors. Their agency is principally exerted in urban ecosystems, whose relative compactness, combined with a high level of offline and online connectivity, population density, potentially exponential creative contamination, and the tendency towards a progressive decentralization of global governance towards local – albeit interconnected- initiatives, offer ideal conditions in terms of practicality, social acceptability and effectiveness of digital social innovation initiatives.

The session hosts critical contributes on the impact of digitally-enabled social innovations initiatives for digital urban governance. At the same time these initiatives, although strongly rooted in urban contexts brings about a number of criticalities, because while favoring the overcoming of (social, cultural, geographical) boundaries, also hide the risk of hybrid confinement (e.g. monopolistic control, polarization of opinions, emergence of filter bubbles, digital dependence). Therefore, stepping beyond the dichotomy between the technology optimism of smart innovation and the radical perspective of the “wisdom of the crowd” discontents, contributes discuss:

(a) Epistemological challenges, e.g. how can digital social innovation be interpreted in the traditional model of knowledge-production and policy-making; how is it blurring the boundaries between knowledge, science and business; what the status of innovator communities is?

(b) Socio-political challenges, e.g. how is social innovation agency turning traditional multi-stakeholders’ model into a distributed and transactional governance model; how is it reshaping the traditional forms of citizen agency, participation and entrepreneurship; how is social empowerment created, contested and deployed?

(c) Management challenges, e.g. how does digital innovation deal with the controversial shortcomings of a city planned, managed and controlled by highly integrated systems of sentient and interactive technologies; how are critical issues of institutional co-optation, digital exclusions and cyber-segmentation, efficiency and effectiveness addressed; how does innovators community interact with local, national and macro-regional institutions, academics and research institutions, civil society, corporativist organization and intermediate bodies and business?

Photo: Right to the City Coalition, presented by Anna Domaradzka

Session agenda:

1.Right to the better city – from the grassroots to smarter policies; Anna Domaradzka, Anna Wnuk; University of Warsaw, Poland

2.Evolution of Trust in the Domain Name System (DNS); Pouyan Fotouhi Tehrani; Weizenbaum Institute / Fraunhofer FOKUS, Germany

3. A collectively designed critical research agenda on Digital Social Innovation; Chiara Certomà; University of Turin, Italy

4.Platforms, commercial APIs and the right to privacy; Maruška Nardoni; Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia

Check my status at IAS-STS and my research project here.

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