Over 30 people attended the second UrbanA Community Conversation, on April 21st, about the Wiki set up and curated by UrbanA with the hope of creating a Knowledge Commons for Sustainable and Just Cities. The Conversation included practical advice, hands-on experience of creating and editing wiki pages, and broader discussion about the wiki and knowledge commons.
Tom Henfrey of UrbanA partner ECOLISE, began with a short background piece on commons and their importance to the theme of sustainable and just cities. He emphasised that commons do not ensure either sustainability or justice. However, because commoners can self-organise according to the values they choose to emphasise, it allows them to prioritise sustainability and justice in ways that centralised top-down government and profit-oriented business seem unable to do. For UrbanA partners, creating a knowledge commons is a way to build our own commitment to justice and sustainability into the way we deliver the project, and support others in our community of practice to do the same in their work.
DRIFT’s Karlijn Schipper gave participants a tour of the wiki and facilitated practical exercises in creating a wiki user page and setting up a new wiki page. Reflecting on her experience, she said, “When I started experimenting with the Wiki myself last summer, I remember that I was both excited and frightened at the same time.
With no experience in HTML editing or formatting at all, I needed some time and patience to get used to the software. It turned out to be quite easy.
This was also the reason why we wanted to make this community conversation practical: to provide space and help people to use the wiki. As one of the UrbanA fellows mentioned during the discussion, this fear is not only about learning a new technical skill, but also about having the confidence to share your knowledge and experience as a city-maker. It made me think that sharing knowledge is also a skill — familiar to some, new and scary for others — that needs practice. I think it’s nice that these community conversations and the wiki can facilitate this learning process.”
Key questions raised in discussion included the following:
- What are the boundaries of participation, and how do we regulate these? Who can contribute, and who decides this? How do we ensure information is credible, and contributors are legitimate knowledge holders?
- Can we overcome the emphasis on European/EU-funded knowledge, including bringing in experiences and practices beyond Europe?
- How can we make the wiki more accessible to a broader audience? Can we ensure content is written in accessible language, and use languages other than English?
- How can we use other platforms (like social media channels) to communicate what is in the wiki effectively?
- In times of degradation of (and overload of) online information, fake news etc., how do we safeguard the quality of the information on the wiki, while at the same time retaining its key characteristics of being open and inclusive?
- What mechanisms can we put in place for governance, as the knowledge creation community expands? We started the wiki as an experiment with a limited set of rules and guidelines. Its user base and audience are still relatively small, sufficient that centralised organisation and decision-making by the UrbanA consortium has been adequate so far. However, we do want the wiki itself, and the knowledge commoning community that curates and uses it, to grow in the coming years. This raises important questions of how to manage the wiki using commons principles in the future
The call helped us grow our community of wiki users and contributors. Around thirty people signed up for new wiki accounts following the call for co-creation launched in the run-up to the call, and during the call itself. Call participants created new wiki pages on several topics, including Open Food Network, art as a pedagogical tool for urban resilience, the Crafting Future Urban Economies project, Socratic digital democracy, and the Social Innovation Strategies for Sustainability Transitions project.
Access the Wiki
Do you want to learn more? Visit our UrbanA-projectpage, join the UrbanA Community of Practice LinkedIn group or subscribe to the UrbanA newsletter.
The blog was also published on Medium.
April 22, 2020