Planning from the base: Circular participatory projects

Mankind’s success has crucially depended upon the ability to cooperate for a common goal and to create communities. This is how we moved from caves to megacities. The value of cooperation relies in the community: a group sufficiently small to deal with daily based decisions, and big enough, to understand the relevance of external dynamics. Participation represents, at the local level, a strategy often more successful than representative politics which could be constrained by local interests (in Italy, only 20% of citizens trust local politicians; Demos, 2014).

WS Angolazioni, 2013, Venezia, progetto partecipato per il riuso degli spazi sottostanti i numerosi cavalcavia di Mestre


The first participative projects, at the community level, were organized in England in the 70’. Several problems rose. The main ones related the lack of dialogue within the community and the unwillingness to delegate power to citizens. In practice, pre-defined forms of engagement were preferred to more elaborated and participative approaches. Citizens’ participation was limited and choices could be easily driven by the architect interest. Transparency and engagement were limited. A mediator was in charge of planning and implementing strategies to favour the public debate to finalize a shared decision. The participative planning was an idea to empower people but it was organized upon the needs of the policymakers.

Then something happened. A new technology, the internet, redesigned the concept of participation solving some crucial problems. Now, it is possible to participate without being physically present, enlarging the target of participation and allowing an unprecedented level of transparency. Identity became irrelevant. Everybody could express her opinion on everything. Finally, Internet allowed combining an infinite number of information, the biggest dataset ever collected.

Such combination of elements defines Internet as the most useful tool to implement participative projects, and finally, we start doing so. In the last fifteen years, the relevance of local participative projects has constantly risen. The key-words “participatory design” was 600% more common in 2014 than in 2000. In 2013, Island has been the first country to design a Constitution through crowdsourcing. Ushadidi, a crowdsourcing app aimed signalling emergences, has drastically reduced the intervention time of local authorities in Equatorial Africa. The pyramid of decision making is slowly moving, switching from a system where few specialized agents take decisions from an opposite scenario where the bottom of the pyramid holds the power. Institutions got the message as they are more and more likely to favour participative projects (the OECD recently advised the diffusion of participative planning to foster citizens’ trust). However, this operating system is still based on key agents who define the object of the participation. What would it happen eliminating such intermediate players? What would it happen delegating all the power to the bottom?

Salisburgo 2010, azione spontanea di riuso temporaneo di uno spazio urbano, ad opera delle comunità di quartiere.

Such cases are called “circular” participative projects: citizens who cooperate to solve community’s problems to solve different sets of welfare, urban and governmental issues. The first input comes from citizens who then build personalized, bottom-based, solutions. The current challenge relates the creation of web-platforms able to guarantee such participative projects, “digital squares” created to host public debates. Raymond Lorenzo di ABCittà explains that “the participative planning is an educative process”, as “such interactions, among citizens, guarantee reciprocal knowledge and feelings of belonging towards the local community”. Internet is not a shortcut but a method to allow shared decision making in the 21st century cities, an ally to the standard methods of participative planning.

CivicWise’s goal is to generate a platform which allows interactions within and between communities, identifies problems and define suitable solutions, following their implementation. No intermediate players, no compromise. Only citizens united to work together for a shared goal.

Vittorio Netti


Nexus 5 Review: The Best Android Can Offer (Especially For the Price)

What Is It?

It’s the new Nexus, baby. It’s a smartphone from Google (built by LG) designed to showcase the newest version of Android (4.4, a.k.a. KitKat) in its purest form. It has a 5-inch, 1080p IPS Plus screen (445 pixels per inch), Qualcomm’s current flagship in the quad-core 2.3GHz Snapdragon 800 processor, 2GB RAM, 2300mAh battery, and a 8MP camera on the back. And yes, unlikelast year’s Nexus 4, the Nexus 5 supports LTE with no hacking required.

Perhaps most significantly, you can buy it, unlocked, and without any carrier subsidies for $350 (16GB version) or $400 (32GB version) straight from Google. Most major US carriers will be selling it as well at significantly reduced on-contract prices, though you have to promise your first born or something. Sadly, Verizon customers are being left out in the cold on this one.

Why It Matters

The Nexus 5 matters because it’s Google’s pure, unadulterated vision for what an Android phone should be. And its predecessors have always been among the best phones of any kind you can buy.

The most important feature of a Nexus phone is that it offers a vanilla Android experience. Hardware manufacturers can’t help but pollute their offerings with skins, which almost without exception degrade your overall experience. Some of them are okay, and some of them make you want to feed your hands to an alligator, but none of them are 100-percent pure Google.

It’s not just software, though; Nexus hardware has—in theory, at least—been dialed in by Google to show off the full potential of its platform. As with last year’s Nexus 4, Google has tapped LG to produce the body to pair with its KitKat soul. Ultimately, it’s the closest thing in the Android ecosystem to what Apple is able to offer with its iPhone, where Google has full control of the software and the hardware. Oh, and because the Nexus program essentially exists outside of wireless carrier control, OS updates come much, much faster.

Screen Shot 2013-11-05 at 6.49.28 PM


On the outside, the Nexus 5 is unremarkable. That doesn’t mean bad, just that nothing really stands out. It’s a slightly rounded rectangle, most reminiscent of a Galaxy S4except a bit taller (5.43 vs 5.38 inches), a bit thicker (0.34 vs 0.31 inches), and just a hair narrower (2.72 vs 2.75 inches). The back is a brushed plastic that strikes a nice balance between smooth and grippy. The only physical buttons on it (the power button and the volume rocker) are both placed just prominently enough, and offer a satisfying click.

Really the Nexus 5’s only distinguishing features are an extra-large camera lens (which is necessary for the built-in and fantastic optical image stabilization), and its big bright screen. Speaking of the latter: that IPS Plus display is sharp and plenty bright, even in direct sunlight. When compared to an AMOLED display, you can see a bit of rosiness in the whites (whereas AMOLEDs tend to skew a bit greenish) which we find pleasing, but no IPS display can come anywhere near an AMOLED when it comes to blacks. The Nexus 5 manages a respectable very dark gray, but it can’t touch that vacuum-of-space blackness that the AMOLEDs have.

There is no removable battery, expandable memory, or IR blaster on the Nexus 5. There is, however, wireless charging, which actually comes in pretty handy.