Urban farming

Researchers from Södertörn University blogs about urban farming and digital practices.

Activism, permanence and change

In our initial explorations of the research in this field as well as our initial visits, one interesting issue has surfaced: the issue of permanence and lasting commitment. Above all, we are interested in the role of design and technology here: to what extent is digital design part of the practices that inspire and structure social movements such as urban farming? The other day, the Swedish journal Dagens Arena discussed why people do not engage in social movements as much as before. This is their analysis:

“Firstly, there has been a transfer of commitment from traditional social movements to smaller and, in many cases, newly established organizations. Secondly, the commitment is less permanent. Many people want to be active in one project or campaign, and then they move on to the next subject or activity when the goal is reached. People are what the sociologist Alberto Melucci called “nomads in the present”. Thirdly, there is no longer an equal sign between commitment and membership. Sometimes it’s the other way around. Many people are reluctant to get involved if it is required to become a member, since membership implies that one commits for a long time.

Fourth, a substantial part of the engagement has moved online. There, the question is not how people should become more active, because new social media are full of networks, such as ‘like campaigns’, political discussions and debates. The question is, rather, how these activities should have a larger impact outside the internet as well. Fifth, several studies, including the Democracy Commission (Demokratiutredningen) a decade ago, demonstrated that class, education and income affect the degree of commitment more distinctly than earlier. Those who really need the force that a social movement can offer is, or in other words tend to be, largely excluded. This is the great challenge of our time for social movements.” [our translation]

It seems that digital media must be designed in line with practices that generate changes that are experienced as attractive, meaningful, and interesting to various social movements such as urban farming. Also, enthusiasm for growing food together needs some further back up. In our application for this project we wrote about digital interaction as an inspirer for action, but the more we learn about urban farming, the more the use of digital media as a resource for stability and commitment over time become interesting. The question is, then, what kinds of technological functionality and design that supports these values and practices.