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Collaborative and participatory challenges in urban media innovation

(2019)
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Abstract
Urban media, conceptualized as the sum of the socio-technological infrastructure and technologically mediated practices in the urban environment, are increasingly shaping the nature of interactions in the public domain. These interactions entail both interactions between citizens, interactions between citizens and the public space, as well as the interactions between citizens and their local governments. Innovation in urban media is driven by three global shifts, with local implications: (1) urbanization, (2) technological evolutions and (3) changes in urban governance. This results in a rapidly evolving frontier of urban media innovation, often driven by a techno-optimistic discourse, which assumes technology can solve some of the ‘wicked’ societal challenges that a city is facing, and is usually framed as ‘smart city’ technology. This dissertation takes a closer look at this frontier from two perspectives. The first perspective studies the emergence of new urban technology, or more specifically: how cities are collaborating with other urban actors to collectively develop such technologies. The second perspective studies the role of new urban technologies in facilitating new interactions between citizens and local governments, more specifically: by investigating the nature of civic crowdsourcing platforms. Collaboration in urban ecosystems is often driven by ‘open innovation’ strategies and the notion of ‘distributed knowledge’. This means that innovation actors, who are involved in the development of innovative urban media, recognize the value of external knowledge (knowledge that is situated outside the organizational boundaries), and that such knowledge is distributed throughout the urban environment. To manage such collaborations, local governments are implementing ‘quadruple helix’ strategies and ‘open government’ models. Such quadruple helix strategies aim at unlocking and exchanging knowledge between four stakeholder groups: governments, academia, economic actors and citizens. However, how this strategy facilitates knowledge exchange often remains unclear. Therefore, the first study of this dissertation investigates knowledge transfers and knowledge transformations in six smart city collaborations. We propose a framework to analyze such processes and to investigate how value is being delivered in such ecosystems. The analysis reveals, amongst other things, that one of the challenges in such ecosystems is to generate economic value, which is hypothesized to be due to the distributed ownership and the low involvement of economic actors and the low presence of civic entrepreneurship. The second study of this dissertation elaborates upon this observation by investigating the relationship between quadruple helix innovation and ‘urban living lab’ processes, more specifically we focus on collaborations that are explicitly driven by civic entrepreneurship. On the one hand, this allows to understand the relationship between quadruple helix theory, which is focused at the level of the ecosystem, and the urban living lab practice, which is mainly focused at the level of the process. Hence, this study shows how quadruple helix concepts such as ‘mode 3’ knowledge generation and ‘innovation diplomacy’ are put into practice through urban living lab practices, characterized by multi-method, multi-stakeholder, and experimental innovation development processes in the urban environment. On the other hand, the study shows that a process that is driven by civic entrepreneurship indeed has a higher impact on long-term development, deployment and maintenance of urban technologies. Innovation diplomacy in such collaborations is established through an open-ended, semi-formal, ad hoc ecosystem architecture and a process of ‘urban acupuncture’, which attracts relevant knowledge through experiments in the urban environment. We also argue that new, ‘mode 3’, knowledge, is being generated through the establishment of ‘experimental windows’ that facilitate collaborative experience-based learning. Governments increasingly position themselves as brokers in such urban media innovation processes. In line with broader ‘government as a platform’ strategies, governments are looking for new ways to identify and support civic entrepreneurship for the development of innovative urban technologies. A typical example of such a platform strategy is the emergence of governmental open data platforms, which disclose a wide variety of public data through centralized interfaces. A popular strategy to promote its usage, and to raise public awareness of these platform resources, is the ‘hackathon’ format. We conceptualize this as an event-based, competition-based format to support user innovation in urban media development. The third study of this dissertation investigates the nature of hackathons and its relation to both civic entrepreneurship and quadruple helix media innovation ecosystems. It shows that there is a difference between the nature of a ‘product innovation’ hackathon and the nature of a ‘civic’ hackathon. While the first supports mature (urban) technology development, the second is focused on the process of collaborative learning. Since the nature of government-initiated hackathons is closer to that of civic hackathons, the expectations regarding the (long-term) contribution to the development of urban technologies should be carefully managed. An evaluation of the direct outcomes of such hackathons (e.g. developed apps, participating teams, winning concepts) suggests that civic hackathons do not adequately identify and support civic entrepreneurship. However, value is generated at higher and more long-term levels, such as the promotion of the public resources, the development of the platform infrastructure, the connective capacity of the city administration and improvements of data and innovation policies. While civic entrepreneurship is often regarded as the best way to drive innovation in urban media forward, it is not always possible nor desirable for local government to outsource such developments. For these urban technologies, local governments should involve citizens in a dyadic relationship that consults citizens (a ‘design for’ or ‘design with’ approach), rather than to give them full autonomy in the development of such technologies (a ‘design by’ approach). Furthermore, the emergence of connected participatory media (such as social media), has created new opportunities to support and enhance such civic participation in a digital way, since these technologies are able to facilitate large scale digital collaboration and deliberation processes. A particular - and popular - application of such technology to support urban innovation is ‘civic crowdsourcing’. Civic crowdsourcing platforms are online platforms that allow citizens to formulate ideas and to evaluate ideas of others. Hence, these platforms support civic participation and collective decision-making processes. However, the participation opportunities that such platforms offer are not adopted equally by every citizen. Therefore, the fourth study of this dissertation investigates participation differences on these platforms to better understand the nature of these urban media and to assess the empowering potential and the legitimacy of the outcomes of such technologically enhanced participation processes. The results show that civic crowdsourcing platforms mainly empower those who already show high levels of traditional political engagement. However, other levels of engagement should also be considered as important civic contributions since these facilitate new participatory roles and new modes of engagement, which pleads for a broader conceptualization of (digital) citizenship. Hence, in order to support sustainable collective policy making processes, civic crowdsourcing platforms should carefully be implemented within a broader, balanced and complementary offer of participatory instruments. A second characteristic of civic crowdsourcing platforms is its deliberative nature. These technologies build upon the assumption that a numeric deliberation by a large and diverse ‘crowd’, yields better decisions compared to (individual) experts (cfr. ‘the wisdom of crowds’). While the fourth study of this dissertation focusses on participation differences between individuals, the fifth study looks at the outcomes of such a deliberation process. More specifically, the study examined the differences between the characteristics of a crowdsourced evaluation, and an evaluation made by experts. Such analysis reveals that a selection made by ‘the crowd’ is characterized by higher levels of user benefit, but that such a selection also tends to be less feasible. This implies that the ‘smartness’ of the crowd should be considered in a more nuanced way. The ‘civic crowd’ should mainly be seen as an expert of their own everyday lives and can therefore only make smart decisions if these are built upon such knowledge. Hence, the outcomes of crowdsourced deliberation processes should always be negotiated in relation to the outcomes of other participation strategies and (long-term) policy strategy. However, this is challenging, given the unambiguous and transparent nature of civic crowdsourcing platforms, which openly shows the numeric outcomes of the collaborative deliberation process. Therefore, expectation management and two-way communication need to be carefully considered. In the final section of this dissertation we reflect upon the nature and implications of the next generation of (participatory) urban ICT, and to the relation between such technologies, a growing importance of data, and data-driven urban innovation processes. New technologies such as (cheap) sensor networks, data storage and data processing infrastructure increasingly quantify, measure and store a wide variety of urban phenomena. Citizens can contribute to this growing body of ‘urban data’, by allowing access to their smartphone sensors, wearables, or by building their own sensors and connecting these to large interconnected databases. This can be conceptualized as a new mode of civic participation, a new way for citizens to contribute to collective decision-making processes. However, this evolution also poses several challenges for local governments, such as attracting new skills and adapting its organisational structure. Against this backdrop, both critical reflections upon the ‘politics of data’ (data can never be neutral) as well as active experimentation are to be encouraged.
Keywords
urban media, smart cities, innovation-ecosystems, civic engagement, open innovation, urban living labs, crowdsourcing, hackathons

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MLA
Baccarne, Bastiaan. Collaborative and Participatory Challenges in Urban Media Innovation. Ghent University : Faculty of Political and Social Sciences, 2019.
APA
Baccarne, B. (2019). Collaborative and participatory challenges in urban media innovation. Ghent University : Faculty of Political and Social Sciences, Ghent.
Chicago author-date
Baccarne, Bastiaan. 2019. “Collaborative and Participatory Challenges in Urban Media Innovation.” Ghent: Ghent University : Faculty of Political and Social Sciences.
Chicago author-date (all authors)
Baccarne, Bastiaan. 2019. “Collaborative and Participatory Challenges in Urban Media Innovation.” Ghent: Ghent University : Faculty of Political and Social Sciences.
Vancouver
1.
Baccarne B. Collaborative and participatory challenges in urban media innovation. [Ghent]: Ghent University : Faculty of Political and Social Sciences; 2019.
IEEE
[1]
B. Baccarne, “Collaborative and participatory challenges in urban media innovation,” Ghent University : Faculty of Political and Social Sciences, Ghent, 2019.
@phdthesis{8629731,
  abstract     = {Urban media, conceptualized as the sum of the socio-technological infrastructure and technologically mediated practices in the urban environment, are increasingly shaping the nature of interactions in the public domain. These interactions entail both interactions between citizens, interactions between citizens and the public space, as well as the interactions between citizens and their local governments. Innovation in urban media is driven by three global shifts, with local implications: (1) urbanization, (2) technological evolutions and (3) changes in urban governance. This results in a rapidly evolving frontier of urban media innovation, often driven by a techno-optimistic discourse, which assumes technology can solve some of the ‘wicked’ societal challenges that a city is facing, and is usually framed as ‘smart city’ technology. This dissertation takes a closer look at this frontier from two perspectives. The first perspective studies the emergence of new urban technology, or more specifically: how cities are collaborating with other urban actors to collectively develop such technologies. The second perspective studies the role of new urban technologies in facilitating new interactions between citizens and local governments, more specifically: by investigating the nature of civic crowdsourcing platforms.
Collaboration in urban ecosystems is often driven by ‘open innovation’ strategies and the notion of ‘distributed knowledge’. This means that innovation actors, who are involved in the development of innovative urban media, recognize the value of external knowledge (knowledge that is situated outside the organizational boundaries), and that such knowledge is distributed throughout the urban environment. To manage such collaborations, local governments are implementing ‘quadruple helix’ strategies and ‘open government’ models. Such quadruple helix strategies aim at unlocking and exchanging knowledge between four stakeholder groups: governments, academia, economic actors and citizens. However, how this strategy facilitates knowledge exchange often remains unclear. Therefore, the first study of this dissertation investigates knowledge transfers and knowledge transformations in six smart city collaborations. We propose a framework to analyze such processes and to investigate how value is being delivered in such ecosystems. The analysis reveals, amongst other things, that one of the challenges in such ecosystems is to generate economic value, which is hypothesized to be due to the distributed ownership and the low involvement of economic actors and the low presence of civic entrepreneurship.
The second study of this dissertation elaborates upon this observation by investigating the relationship between quadruple helix innovation and ‘urban living lab’ processes, more specifically we focus on collaborations that are explicitly driven by civic entrepreneurship. On the one hand, this allows to understand the relationship between quadruple helix theory, which is focused at the level of the ecosystem, and the urban living lab practice, which is mainly focused at the level of the process. Hence, this study shows how quadruple helix concepts such as ‘mode 3’ knowledge generation and ‘innovation diplomacy’ are put into practice through urban living lab practices, characterized by multi-method, multi-stakeholder, and experimental innovation development processes in the urban environment. On the other hand, the study shows that a process that is driven by civic entrepreneurship indeed has a higher impact on long-term development, deployment and maintenance of urban technologies. Innovation diplomacy in such collaborations is established through an open-ended, semi-formal, ad hoc ecosystem architecture and a process of ‘urban acupuncture’, which attracts relevant knowledge through experiments in the urban environment. We also argue that new, ‘mode 3’, knowledge, is being generated through the establishment of ‘experimental windows’ that facilitate collaborative experience-based learning.
Governments increasingly position themselves as brokers in such urban media innovation processes. In line with broader ‘government as a platform’ strategies, governments are looking for new ways to identify and support civic entrepreneurship for the development of innovative urban technologies. A typical example of such a platform strategy is the emergence of governmental open data platforms, which disclose a wide variety of public data through centralized interfaces. A popular strategy to promote its usage, and to raise public awareness of these platform resources, is the ‘hackathon’ format. We conceptualize this as an event-based, competition-based format to support user innovation in urban media development. The third study of this dissertation investigates the nature of hackathons and its relation to both civic entrepreneurship and quadruple helix media innovation ecosystems. It shows that there is a difference between the nature of a ‘product innovation’ hackathon and the nature of a ‘civic’ hackathon. While the first supports mature (urban) technology development, the second is focused on the process of collaborative learning. Since the nature of government-initiated hackathons is closer to that of civic hackathons, the expectations regarding the (long-term) contribution to the development of urban technologies should be carefully managed. An evaluation of the direct outcomes of such hackathons (e.g. developed apps, participating teams, winning concepts) suggests that civic hackathons do not adequately identify and support civic entrepreneurship. However, value is generated at higher and more long-term levels, such as the promotion of the public resources, the development of the platform infrastructure, the connective capacity of the city administration and improvements of data and innovation policies.
While civic entrepreneurship is often regarded as the best way to drive innovation in urban media forward, it is not always possible nor desirable for local government to outsource such developments. For these urban technologies, local governments should involve citizens in a dyadic relationship that consults citizens (a ‘design for’ or ‘design with’ approach), rather than to give them full autonomy in the development of such technologies (a ‘design by’ approach). Furthermore, the emergence of connected participatory media (such as social media), has created new opportunities to support and enhance such civic participation in a digital way, since these technologies are able to facilitate large scale digital collaboration and deliberation processes. A particular - and popular - application of such technology to support urban innovation is ‘civic crowdsourcing’. Civic crowdsourcing platforms are online platforms that allow citizens to formulate ideas and to evaluate ideas of others. Hence, these platforms support civic participation and collective decision-making processes.
However, the participation opportunities that such platforms offer are not adopted equally by every citizen. Therefore, the fourth study of this dissertation investigates participation differences on these platforms to better understand the nature of these urban media and to assess the empowering potential and the legitimacy of the outcomes of such technologically enhanced participation processes. The results show that civic crowdsourcing platforms mainly empower those who already show high levels of traditional political engagement. However, other levels of engagement should also be considered as important civic contributions since these facilitate new participatory roles and new modes of engagement, which pleads for a broader conceptualization of (digital) citizenship. Hence, in order to support sustainable collective policy making processes, civic crowdsourcing platforms should carefully be implemented within a broader, balanced and complementary offer of participatory instruments.
A second characteristic of civic crowdsourcing platforms is its deliberative nature. These technologies build upon the assumption that a numeric deliberation by a large and diverse ‘crowd’, yields better decisions compared to (individual) experts (cfr. ‘the wisdom of crowds’). While the fourth study of this dissertation focusses on participation differences between individuals, the fifth study looks at the outcomes of such a deliberation process. More specifically, the study examined the differences between the characteristics of a crowdsourced evaluation, and an evaluation made by experts. Such analysis reveals that a selection made by ‘the crowd’ is characterized by higher levels of user benefit, but that such a selection also tends to be less feasible. This implies that the ‘smartness’ of the crowd should be considered in a more nuanced way. The ‘civic crowd’ should mainly be seen as an expert of their own everyday lives and can therefore only make smart decisions if these are built upon such knowledge. Hence, the outcomes of crowdsourced deliberation processes should always be negotiated in relation to the outcomes of other participation strategies and (long-term) policy strategy. However, this is challenging, given the unambiguous and transparent nature of civic crowdsourcing platforms, which openly shows the numeric outcomes of the collaborative deliberation process. Therefore, expectation management and two-way communication need to be carefully considered.
In the final section of this dissertation we reflect upon the nature and implications of the next generation of (participatory) urban ICT, and to the relation between such technologies, a growing importance of data, and data-driven urban innovation processes. New technologies such as (cheap) sensor networks, data storage and data processing infrastructure increasingly quantify, measure and store a wide variety of urban phenomena. Citizens can contribute to this growing body of ‘urban data’, by allowing access to their smartphone sensors, wearables, or by building their own sensors and connecting these to large interconnected databases. This can be conceptualized as a new mode of civic participation, a new way for citizens to contribute to collective decision-making processes. However, this evolution also poses several challenges for local governments, such as attracting new skills and adapting its organisational structure. Against this backdrop, both critical reflections upon the ‘politics of data’ (data can never be neutral) as well as active experimentation are to be encouraged.},
  author       = {Baccarne, Bastiaan},
  keywords     = {urban media,smart cities,innovation-ecosystems,civic engagement,open innovation,urban living labs,crowdsourcing,hackathons},
  language     = {eng},
  pages        = {204},
  publisher    = {Ghent University : Faculty of Political and Social Sciences},
  school       = {Ghent University},
  title        = {Collaborative and participatory challenges in urban media innovation},
  year         = {2019},
}