The right to infrastructure: A prototype for open source urbanism

Jiménez, A.C.

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Jiménez, A. C. (2014). The right to infrastructure: A prototype for open source urbanism. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 32(2), 342–362.

Infrastructure , Open Source Urbanism , Prototypes , Right To City , Urban Commons , Urban Ecologies

This paper develops an analytical framework to place the rise of open source urbanism in context, and develops the concept of the ‘right to infrastructure’ as expressive of new ecologies of urban relations that have come into being. It describes, first, a genealogy for open source technology, focusing in particular on how open source urban hardware projects may challenge urban theory. It moves then to describe in detail various dimensions and implications of an open source infrastructural project in Madrid. In all, the paper analyses three challenges that the development of open source urban infrastructures is posing to the institutions of urban governance and property: the evolving shape and composition of urban ecologies; the technical and design challenges brought about by open source urban projects; and the social organisation of the ‘right to infrastructure’ as a political, active voice in urban governance. In the last instance, the right to infrastructure, I shall argue, signals the rise of the ‘prototype’ as an emerging figure for contemporary sociotechnical designs in and for social theory.

Main finding
The author develops an analytical framework for open source urbanism to express the formation of publics with and through the creation of public artefacts known as 'prototypes'. Prototypes were defined as a way of reinscribing new urban ecologies by and for the people - in short, the creation of new infrastructures for being. Drawing on communities of software developers - who create public spheres through writing and coding - and assemblage theory; this ideology affords a destablizsing urban ecology that challenges institutions of urban politics and governance and opens publics to new possibilities through infrastructuring 'in beta'.

Description of method used in the article
Two years of ethnographic fieldwork with self-described open source architectural collectives were conducted. Methods included: semi-structured interviews with members of collectives, archival research of their digital repositories, participation in workshops, online discussions, and seminars (public or organized by the collectives).

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