Innovative Citizen

Last week we had the chance to be part of the Innovative Citizen Festival in Dortmund: Hosted by Fraunhofer Institut, Folkwang Universität Essen, the Dortmunder U and various local partners, Innovative Citizen is an open festival that tackles civic and public innovation processes, citizen science, and urban interventions.



I was involved as a curator for the track on ‚Openness, Digitalization, Democratization‘ – and in addition to inviting over some very interesting speakers and good friends, we also held a workshop with our newly formed studio forrrest (more on that soon) on Urban Narratives and Identities, which was great fun and very insightful.

A personal highlight, however, was to have the great Cindy Regalado and her partner in crime, Ted Fjallman, over for two days of workshops and a deep dive into the concepts of citizen science and public data. Hailing from London (these days) and being not only part of the Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science but also researching as part of the Extreme Citizen Science group at London’s UCL, Cindy offered a super-practical take on civic data generation and science literacy: Kites! Over two days we built, and flew DIY-kites, attaching them with cameras and eventually stitching together areal maps for specific regions of the city. It was a great hands-on exercise on the power of civic action to generate valid and tangible data that addresses local issues, developments, and insights. The concept for DIY-Kite mapping stems from the public lab itself, which implemented its first large-scale mapping project back in 2010 in relation with the BP oil spill the the Golf – and has been applying it to projects around the world since, including mapping uncharted terrain to support the cause of local populations in DRC to generating a dreamed up „future map“ of Jerusalem to foster communication and collaboration between Israeli and Palestinian children. Around our kite mapping some quite interesting discussions about the potential (and threats) of citizen science to address contemporary challenges of cities the formation of hands-on collaboration in urban settings and communities evolved – including the notion that it could be a great way to count populist opinion making in general .


DIY Kite Mapping


On that note I teamed up with my colleague Max Krueger. Our workshop on Urban Narratives aimed to tap into the space of vague assumptions of our neighbors’s identities and explore the stories, traits, and individual perspectives that make up our neighborhoods, our communities, and eventually our European society. It was a first off dive into this very challenging subject that brought about quite some interesting findings and perspectives: from your trendy neighborhood social web (read: virtual & hyperlocal pin board), to storytelling approaches like HONY all the way to conceptual interventions that tap into the space of interaction design and art, our session marked the beginning of a research project that will hopefully continue way beyond this conference. We’re currently looking to build upon the results of this initial workshop and set up a dedicated ideation session with public and civic stakeholders to explore this further. If you’d like to be part of this, please holla!

There’s a lot to take away from four days in Dortmund. Besides a lot of follow up ideas on projects and question (with hopefully more to tell about projects in Cologne and Berlin, soon), it was a great opportunity to meet likeminded folks and make new friends. Also, it was another event that fits perfectly into the intersection of technological innovation, public and urban societies, and collaborative processes that shapes a lot of the work I am currently looking forward to. There’s a lot to be done for sure – and a lot to learn as well. Let’s get to it!

Photo credit: Cindy Regalado / Ted Fjallman