On May 15 2011 the ethnographic project that Adolfo Estalella and myself had been carrying out around Medialab-Prado’s ‘cultures of prototyping’ bumped onto the irruption of the Spanish ‘indignados’ movement. The popular assemblies that thence took out to the streets assumed the contours of urban prototypes in their own right.

We have since developed a collaborative project with two well-known Spanish architectural collectives, Basurama and Zuloark, on the question of emerging architectural prototypes — or as we call them, ‘urban furnitures’. The project is called 15Muebles (15 pieces of furniture, echoing the May 15 movement). On May 2014 we launched one of the project’s most ambitious developments, Ciudad Escuela, which we rather brandishly described as the world’s first open-source urban pedagogy.


ciudad escuela

Ciudad Escuela might be translated as ‘The City as School’. It is an attempt at designing an open-source urban pedagogy: What would a city look like if reimagined as a pedagogy sourced (open-sourced) on grassroots and community projects?

Ciudad Escuela is built using Mozilla’s Open Badges technology. Briefly put, Open Badges have been designed by Mozilla to help people learn skills that might otherwise not easily be ‘verified’ in the age of the Internet. Although Badges can be put to many different uses, they are particularly useful for showcasing pedagogical capacities that escape the disciplinary and normative canons of traditional schooling systems. Badges are of course ideal for experimenting with in an urban context. From urban community gardens to dérives, from protest camps to Occupy assemblies, from free and open source Wi-Fi networks to recycling communities, urban projects are pregnant with relational capacities through which people learn to turn their cities into more hospitable and sustainable environments.

Ciudad Escuela is designed with a view to turning these various capacities into pedagogies. The website’s home has three icons: Discover (Descubre), Learn (Aprende) and Do (Haz). If you click on Discover you will be introduced to our 5 pedagogical itineraries: five approaches to thinking about open-source urbanism, from ‘Open Infrastructures’ to ‘Code and Languages’, ‘Interfaces’, ‘Urbanism in Beta’ and ‘Dis-placements’ (in Spanish, des-plazamientos, a playful word game on plazas-that-move).

Each itinerary offers a route into imagining and re-assembling the city as an open-source experiment. Each itinerary is made up in turn by a variety of Badges. Some Badges form part of more than one itinerary (for example, ‘Open Designs’), while other Badges are exclusive to a particular itinerary. One can also navigate directly to the various Badges on offer by clicking directly on the ‘Learn’ button on the website’s home.

There are 15 Badges altogether. Our Badges may be thought-of as grassroots urban skills: skills, abilities or tools that have proven useful for specific community projects. Our hope is that communities will eventually propose Badges themselves, or even whole itineraries of their own design. (The Badge that goes under the name Pedagogías Abiertas (Open Pedagogies) is in fact awarded to those who design a Badge or itinerary themselves.)

Thus, to earn a Badge, we have teamed-up with community projects all over Madrid (and, incipiently, with initiatives at other Spanish cities) to have some of their activities included as skills that can earn Badges. There are auto-construction workshops by guerrilla architectural collectives, dérives and walkabouts led by neighbourhood associations, workshops on urban gardening, seminars on critical urban studies by academics, etc.

One of our itineraries speaks of the city as ‘Urbanism in beta’ and Ciudad Escuela is very much an experiment ‘in beta’ itself. Yet it is perhaps this capacity to mobilize relations, media surfaces and devices, and urban sites in novel contingent and productive arrangements that signals to a new field of political praxis in the city. Our School is as wide as the city itself, and it is our hope that this willingness to source its teaching materials, to open-source them from the city’s inexhaustible inventiveness, will warrant its proliferation and generativity.



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