DIGGEO@ESOMAS_Digital Geographies of socio-political and economic spaces

I established together with my colleague Paolo Giaccaria a new research cluster at the University of Turin -ESOMAS Department on the impact of the digital on contemporary socio-political and economic spaces. This work sits in the critical geography field, critical internet and urban studies, and participatory processes. In performing it, we adopt a deconstructive, material-semiotic, and engaged perspective to unveil the dark sides of the digital governance processes, social and environmental backlashes, and the contested relationship with technological innovation to advance grassroots and creative alternatives.

We are also committed to developing research streams on environmental politics and governance (notably urban sustainability and marine socio-cultural geography), socio-environmental justice and environmental conflicts.

Distinct but interrelated projects are conducted by DIGGEO@ESOMAS in collaboration with other departments at UniTo and partner institutions abroad.

If interested in collaborations, drop an email to chiara.certoma@unito.it and paolo.giaccaria@unito.it

1. Social Digital Innovation e trasformazioni urbane (2020-2022) + Digital Social Innovation in Turin (2021-2023)

Our deconstructive analysis of the semiotic-material dimensions of DSI practices is aimed at (1) developing an analytical framework to explore DSI theory and practices (in particular the different perspectives of DSI in Turin); (2) identifying the conditions that trigger or hinder the agency of digital social innovators in Turin; (3) investigate the interaction between DSI communities and urban space (social, political and cultural) and how these generate distinct spatialities; (4) analyze how the different narratives produced within the ISD are mobilized to create/support specific urban imaginaries. From a methodological point of view, the study adopts the Actor Network Theory, which implies long times of participatory observation to trace the spatial and social relationships produced by different actors through their agency. The project “Digital social innovation in Turin” builds upon previous research funded by the University of Turin (2020-2021) with the title “Social Digital Innovation and Urban Transformations”. These projects have been elaborated and are currently run by Paolo Giaccaria and Chiara Certomà.

2. Digital (un)sustainability. Promises, contradictions and pitfalls of ecological transition through digitalization (2022-2024)

The research is aimed at analyzing how the association between ecological transition and digitization processes, which underlies many international (e.g. European Green Deal, SDGs …) and national (e.g. PNRR) economic and social policy programs, presents contradictory aspects, both from a theoretical and pragmatic point of view. This also generates negative consequences for the socio-environmental sustainability of territorial systems at multiple spatial scales. By contributing to founding the international debate on the topic, a critical reconnaissance of existing studies is proposed to develop a new approach, inspired by Material Semiotics and Political Ecology, to deconstruct the narrative of the sustainable digital transition. The projects have been elaborated and are currently run by Chiara Certomà and Paolo Giaccaria.

3. Networks of Laboratories for Civic Technologies Co-production: Digital Services for the public administration of the future -NCLAB4CIT (2021-2023)

We are collaborating with the project led by the Department of Computer Science, University of Turin, in the EU-funded project “Network of Laboratories for Civic Technologies Co-Production: Digital Services for the Public Administrations of the future” (NCLAB4CIT), PI Guido Boella, and managed by Cristina Viano and Alice Zanasi. The project aims at establishing a European network of Local Laboratories of Civic Technologies, where public administrations, citizens / and economic actors experiment with processes of co-production of public services enabled by digital technologies. Our digital geography team is working on: (1) Mapping available technologies, needs by citizenship, services/sectors involved, and organizations (educational, research centers, SMEs) that can provide adequate skills for the design and production of quality services – in the territorial contexts involved in the experimentation of the project; (2) Mapping existing experiences of “digitally enabled co-production of services” in other territorial contexts, at the European level; (3) Structuring a repository of digital solutions, use cases and co-production methodologies; (4) Contributing to the definition of a scalability and sustainability strategy for a European Network of Local Laboratories of Civic Technologies. The geographical team included Fabio Iapaolo and now Luis Martin Sanchez under the supervision of Chiara Certomà. Project website: https://nlab4cit.eu/

4. Sustainable Cities and Digital Participation. Analysing and modelling digital social innovation processes in the governance of urban sustainability in Turin and Brussels (2022-2025)

In collaboration with Edgeryders O.U. we are running a research project funded by the Italian Minister of Research on green and innovative projects. The project revolves around the identification, analysis and modeling of digitally enabled social innovation initiatives for tackling sustainability challenges in the city and fueling democratic participation processes. By adopting qualitative-quantitative research methods (including web-mining and mapping, Semantic Social Network Analysis, participatory observation, discourse analysis and in-deep interviews) the researcher will investigate the operational practices and the knowledge-sharing fluxes that characterize the work of the social innovators working (socio) environmental sustainability challenges in Turin and Bruxelles. Urban regeneration processes performed via ecological co-housing, green infrastructure restoration and public space commoning are potentially investigated. The project has been elaborated by Chiara Certomà, is run by Samantha Cenere and supervised by Paolo Giaccaria.

5. Preparing a COST Action proposal on DSI in the European cities (2022-2023)

The project funded by the UniTo – MUR Grant for Internationalisation is intended to feed basic research and boost international dimension and attractiveness of UniTo by leading the consolidation and further expansion of a wide international networks of academic and high-level research institutions (including strategic partners from UNITA). 22 universities and research institutions already confirmed their interest. Envisaged collaboration is directed toward the elaboration and submission of a COST Action proposal. COST Actions are pan-European intergovernmental frameworks aimed at creating open networks of excellence in all scientific fields to internationalise the scientific community and to achieve breakthroughs in science and technology by bridging different research communities, disciplines, fields and methodologies. The project and the subsequent COST Action proposal focus on the effects of Digitally Social Innovation (hereafter DSI) in the urban contexts. DSI Initiatives encompass heterogeneous collaborative innovation practices in which communities of innovators adopt digital technologies to advance knowledge and solutions for a wide range of social needs. Being their consequences mainly felt in cities, the COST Action proposal interrogates how digital changes modify society’s organisation, understanding, and functioning in multiple spatial dimensions, with special attention devoted to the agency of innovator communities. The project is lead by Chiara Certomà (UniTo) and has been elaborated in collaboration with Venere Sanna (University of Siena). The UniTo team includes: Paolo Giaccaria, Samantha Cenere, Luis Martin Sanchez, Guido Boella, Claudio Schifanella, Cristina Viano. A network of over 20 international universities and research institutions gathered around the proposal.

6. The role of ICT in achieving the SDGs in countries with low digital infrastructure (2022-2023)

The proposed project has been funded by the Italian Minister for Cooperation and International Development and is run by the Culture, Politics and Society Department- University of Turin, PI Egidio Dansero. It lies in the enhancement of an area in constant evolution, i.e. ICT for development, and in the possibility of international exchanges between different countries and territorial contexts in the field of digital transition as an enabling factor for the achievement of the SDGs. Starting from the above considerations, the questions from which the proposed research moves are: can ICT play a crucial role in facilitating the achievement of the SDGs? If so, how and under what conditions? Which digital technologies (GIS, Artificial Intelligence, Internet Of Things, Blockchain, …) are most effective in relation to the SDGs in low infrastructure contexts and why? The research is structured in four distinct phases: 1. Cross-scale analysis of the digitization strategies of the priority countries for Italian cooperation (see below) and their relationship with the SDGs 2. Analysis of the quantitative and qualitative use of ICT in Italian development cooperation programs in these countries 3. Evaluation of the role of ICT in the dynamics of international development, in particular in relation to SDGs n ° 1-2-3-5-10, through examples and in-depth case studies 4. Elaboration of recommendations to identify opportunities, gaps and risks in the use of ICT to achieve the SDGs and at the service of international cooperation. Chiara Certomà is in the UniTo research team.

7. NODES Sustainable and Digital Nord Ovest (2022-2025)

The project is funded by the Italian National Plan for Recovery and Resilience and lead by the Polytechnic of Turin. UniTo flagship project aims at favouring the adoption of digital solutions by firms and citizens within mountain areas of the NODES ecosystem. The participative process will be reached by the creation of a lean unifying framework called Collaborative Innovative Mountain Areas Living Lab, with the following characteristics: it acts as collector of the instances of multiple stake-holders (institutions; public administrations; large firms; citizens’ networks and associations…) of the mountain areas of the NODES ecosystem; it helps to coordinate applied research of the spoke and to finalize it in order to provide digital solutions for firms and citizens;it facilitates digital transition of mountain areas with initiative involving small and medium enterprises; it promotes digital inclusion and offer solutions to remove barriers among citizens. Paolo Giaccaria is working with the UniTo in collaboration with Chiara Certomà.

8. The short-term city: digital platforms and spatial (in)justice (2020-2023)

The project is funded by the MUR – PRIN 2017 program and led by the University of Rome La Sapienza, PI Filippo Celata. The increasing pervasiveness of digital platforms is having a tremendous impact upon cities, which researchers have only begun to explore. Short-term rentals platforms such as Airbnb are at the centre of the debate, if only because of the very visible effects they produce in the most affected neighbourhoods and in terms of housing availability and affordability. Beyond Airbnb, a plethora of digital platforms ubiquitously mediate our relationship with space, whether we use them for tourism, shopping, work, mobility, content sharing, social interaction. The project brings together a transdisciplinary team to explore the differential effects platform capitalism has on places, at different scales, focusing predominantly on Italian cities: the new logics, practices and imaginaries conveyed by online platforms, how those reproduce or alter socio-spatial inequalities, how cities, platform users and inhabitants react to and seek to challenge “Airbnbification” and the new geographies produced through and by the digital. We conduct quantitative meso-analyses, critical mapping and in-depth case studies within a general conceptual framework dealing with, on the one hand, the political economy of digital platforms and, on the other, cultural and critical enquiries of internet-mediated imaginaries and identities. Paolo Giaccaria and Nicolò Fenu are working on the project, while Chiara Certomà is part of the UniTo team. Project website: https://www.stcity.it/stc-project/

9. CommonsHood in the Garden. Social economies, civic blockchain and urban gardening in Turin

The funds have been granted by the CRT Foundation to DIGGEO@ESOMAS: “CommonsHood in the Garden. A local network for the creation of non–monetary value at the Orto della SME by using civic blockchain”, in collaboration with the Department of Management (Laura Corazza) and the Department of Computer Science (Guido Boella).

The project responds to the need to increase social cohesion of local economic networks in urban fringes at the cross-road of different socio-economic and cultural contexts, and to improve the quality of the environment and urban greenery, through the collective and circular management of public areas. To this end, it adopts digital tools for civic activism.
The project supports the student community and citizens in managing the collective garden Orto della SME of the School of Management and Economics, UniTo, created with the support of the New European Bahauhs – EIT Food according to the principles of inclusiveness and sustainability (eg. furnishings made with circular material and suitable for the elderly, the disabled and children). Participation in the activities (cultivation, maintenance, events) will be symbolically remunerated with “tokens” managed by the CommonsHoodblockchain app developed by the Department of Computer Science, which can be used in shops and local associations, to support local economic cycles and the urban social economy.

People working with us

Cristina Viano, PhD candidate on “Blockchain tools for civic initiatives in the urban space”, Computer Science Dep. – UniTo & DIST – PoliTo and UniTo

Fabio Iapaolo, Urban and Media Geographer. Research Fellow in AI, Data and Society, Institute for Ethical AI, Oxford Brookes University

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