Urban Tactics and Media Ecologies for Civic Action in Moscow

Part of: a series of workshops for changing urban environment


Dates: July 14 – 21, 2012 (informal meeting with participants on Friday, July 13 evening)

This workshop will examine how art, design, and technology can be used to support citizen engagement and enable public participation to transform urban conditions.

The workshop will look at how activists, municipal agencies, and businesses all perform in the urban environment by producing, exchanging, and acting upon information in different ways, based on examples from New York and Moscow. The participants will then investigate how media and technology can inform tactical strategies and support civic actors in neighborhoods and public spaces in Moscow.

The workshop examine how to connect and network activists in the cities on shared themes and areas of interest to support individual efforts across the city and foster a spirit of collaborative DIY urbanism. The participants will work closely with such DIY projects: Partizaning and Delai Sam.

Key terms:

Civic media is an emerging social phenomenon encapsulating diverse forms of technology-mediated communication, civic engagement and advocacy for social change. Civic media promotes change either by revealing existing systems, information and infrastructures or by visualizing and projecting new possibilities of social interaction in the built environment.

Media ecology studies how media and communication processes affect human perception and understanding, feeling, and value; studies complex communication systems as environments.

Urban tactics is a deliberate approach to city-making that features the following five characteristics:

– A deliberate, phased approach to instigating change;
– An offering of local ideas for local planning challenges;
– Short-term commitment and realistic expectations;
– Low-risks, with a possibly a high reward;
– The development of social capital between citizens, and the building of organizational capacity between public/private institutions, non-profit/NGOs, and their constituents.


Participants will work in teams and focus on a place-based situation in Moscow. Participants will identify existing tactics, practices, networks and data sets within communities; methods and technologies for augmenting and supporting these tactics; and collaborative mechanisms for citizens and communities to collaborate transforming urban life.

Methods will include:

– critical engagement with readings that cover the work and scholarship of artists, designers and urban media theorists;
– breakout sessions for hands-on, participant-lead introductions to media design tools;
field research using audio/video capture and crowd-sourced data annotations via smartphones.

Participants will ultimately:

– showcase a data model, visualization, and participatory data project plan to support civic action and grassroots decision making (including ideas for collaborative mapping).
– design a working prototype of an interface or intervention that could transform urban conditions.

Questions for participants to consider:

How are public spaces used to form interest-based communities online (vs. offline) and why do you think this is the case? What are the different forms of information social media and the internet facilitate in the era of technology and collaborative / participatory geo-spatial tools? How can we support these connections and transfer this online dialogue, discussion and activity into the physical realm of the city?


Nitin Sawhney, Ph.D. is Assistant Professor of Media Studies at the New School for Public Engagement. His research, teaching and creative practice engages the critical role of technology, artistic interventions and DIY cultures among communities in contested spaces.

Christo de Klerk is a graduate student in the Media Studies program at the New School. His most recent projects include the interfacing of open data on privately-owned public spaces, noise complaints, and graffiti removal in New York City.

Photo by The-Village.Ru