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Session Overview
4-SP021: How to Conceptualize and Map the INVISIBLE to Inform Solidarity, Peace and Justice Aspirations?
Tuesday, 06/July/2021:
3:30pm - 4:45pm

Session Chair: Dr. Diana Reckien, University of Twente, the Netherlands, Germany
Session Chair: Dr. Javier Martinez, University of Twente, the Netherlands, Netherlands, The
Session Chair: Sandeep Balagangadharan Menon, KRVIA Mumbai, India
Session Chair: Prof. Karin Pfeffer, University of Twente, Netherlands, The
Session Chair: Dr. Christine Richter, Fraunhofer Center for International Management and Knowledge Economy IMW, Germany, Germany

Session Abstract

Invisibility is associated with social inequality and lack of justice and solidarity. In order to inform solidarity, peace and justice aspirations, scholars map invisible people, groups of people, and underlying societal processes. However, invisibility is dynamic and changes depending on environmental, political and/or socio-economic development. This panel invites contributions that critically reflect on traditional forms of mapping invisibility and suggest alternative forms of spatially assessing invisibility and underlying gradients of inequality, poverty and political marginalization. What/ who needs to be made visible in a world of climate change, political fragmentation, and growing distrust to inform solidarity, peace and justice aspirations?

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Practicing (in)visibility in Smart Cities

Hebe J.L.M Verrest1, Karin Pfeffer2

1University of Amsterdam, Netherlands, The; 2University of Twente, Netherlands

Over the last decade, the Smart City concept has increasingly become a popular urban policy

approach of cities across the globe. Smart city approaches are often based on idealized, utopian visions of the future, on digital-, data- and technology-driven urban innovation as well as on new data analytics (Kitchin 2014). They are also considered as universal solutions to varied urban policy problems in different cities. However, they do not take sufficiently into account lived

experiences, ordinary urban places and needs, issues of marginalisation and exclusion (Slavova and

Okwechine, 2016; McFarlane and Söderström 2017). How Smart City policies operate in

contemporary cities is being examined in the emerging, but still underdeveloped, academic field of

‘smart urbanism’. Due to the considerable consequences of Smart City strategies, critical engagement with the rationale, assumptions, methods, target group, implications of Smart City approaches in different urban contexts is required (Luque-Ayala and Marvin, 2015). These include ethical considerations, such as the distribution of risks, opportunities, costs and benefits across social groups and actors. Recently, Verrest and Pfeffer (2019) have furthered such critical engagement by distilling dimensions absent in current mainstream smart urbanism. They distilled three dimensions that require further development to improve our analysis and understanding of what Smart City policies mean for contemporary urban life: (1) the acknowledgement that the urban is not confined to the administrative boundaries of a city; (2) the importance of local social-economic, cultural-political and environmental contingencies in analyzing the development, implementation and effects of Smart City policies; and (3) the social-political construction of both the urban problems Smart City policies aim to solve and the considered solutions. The contribution for this conference builds on Verrest and Pfeffer (2019), and aims to further our understanding of the importance of local specificities for the implications of Smart City and of how problems and solutions are being constructed. We do so by relating Smart City, and data and sensors in particular, to the practice of invisibility: how are smart city policies being used to make urban issues visible? What issues are made visible, by whom and how? What is made invisible? What are the consequences of (in)visibility for different social groups, along lines of class, gender and space? How are these being responded to? We focus on two urban issues: clean water and informal settlements.

The paper explores these questions by a literature review and articulates the finding by two cases, Cape Town and Chennai. It concludes with a conceptual framework to be applied in a full study.

Fixing the Nexus: Including social justice and invisible users in assessing Food, Energy and Water connections.

Marja Spierenburg, Marleen Dekker, Harrison Esam Awuh

Leiden University, Netherlands, The

In this proposed presentation we will present our plans for a collaborative research project involving the University of the Western Cape and Stellenbosch University in South Africa to include social justice issues in assessing food, energy and water connections, by developing ways to include hitherto invisible users.

South Africa faces the daunting task of finding the best mix of water, energy and food (WEF) solutions to achieve sustainable development goals (SDGs). This task is complicated by the fact that WEF systems and their interactions remain mainly studied and managed from the supply side, ignoring important dynamics in resource distribution. On the demand side, problems of inequalities in access and use, either as a cause of nexus challenges or as a consequence are not well understood. Addressing issues of access and use and the social dimension of sustainability requires disaggregated documentation of access and use and paying special attention to governance issues, and as well as the power relations between actors, particularly in relation to largely invisible marginal and vulnerable groups.

The aim of the research project is to enrich existing WEF data with socio-economic data in order to improve the quality of WEF data. This will address issues of inequality and access which are often not considered in current data sets. To achieve this, we will adopt a landscape-level social-ecological systems approach to ‘surface’ the missing people and the demand side dynamics in WEF issues. The socio-ecological systems (SES) approach allows us to link the demand and supply side of the WEF nexus. Using the SES approach allows us co-identify the demands of invisible or traditionally marginalized groups through participatory scenario modelling.

Everyday Visibility Making Practices in Lima’s Multi-scalar Water Management

Fenna Imara Hoefsloot

University of Twente, Netherlands, The

Current redevelopments of the water infrastructure in Lima, Peru, aim to reduce the unequal distribution of water consumption, water connection, and water coverage by implementing digital information technologies. The premise is that by installing meters and implementing a supervisory system, it becomes possible to construct an informative representation of urban reality and ‘see’ the water flows through the data and make the infrastructure legible. However, due to a bundle of technical, administrative, and spatial contingencies, not all people and places are represented equally in the institutional data image of Lima’s water infrastructure.

Previous analysis has shown that despite the rhetoric of improved water management, legibility making practices create differential hydrological geographies in the city beyond the formal/informal dichotomy and perform the citizens of Lima in distinct categories of consumer-citizens. In this research, we build on this framework and analyze how datafication is perceived and performed by Lima’s diverse water consumers. Specifically, we focus on how datafication influences the dynamics in the zones where top-down governance practices meet with daily mundane practices of people living in cities as consumers and users of urban resources.

We draw on an ethnographic research approach, using formal and informal interviews, focus groups and social media interaction with communities in three districts of Lima. Together, these three districts provide a transect of the city, representing Lima’s diversity in settlement categories. Preliminary insights show how, in practice, the water meter fulfills different roles within the infrastructure. The data generated about the water consumption is used by the water authority as well as households for the management of this scarce resource. In addition, the meter makes visible inequalities in the water distribution and consumption within the city as well as within communities.

This research contributes to understanding how everyday visibility making practices influence the management of water on different scales. This is specifically important in the case of Lima, where climate change is reducing water resources and might increase hydrological inequality within the city.

Narrative Of Single Mother Invisibility And Intra-Gender Inequality In Africa

Taiwo Olaiya

Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria

Despite decades of enormous scholarly contributions towards national policy advocacy and mainstreaming gender equality in the global economic debate, intra-gender inequality still substantially looms large in nearly all societies. This study investigated the gradient of economic and political marginalisation arising from the estrangement of single mothers from membership of indigenous women association in Africa. The ‘compound’ system of Yoruba communities in Nigeria and Benin Republic is an indigenous grouping with the substantial influence of men on the status of women within the defined enclave. The married women in each compound often associate as ‘wives’ association— a socio-cultural organisation for composite economic and political opportunities. How does being ‘unmarried’, or rather being a single mother, shape the gendered rights for membership of the associations? To what extent does the association represent intra-gender inequality for single mothers in today’s gender discourse? Emphasis centred on conceptualising intra-gender inequality and the experiences of single mothers following their alienations. What peculiar meaning do these concepts convey for gender movements across the globe and social justice? We utilised symbolic interactionism and recognition theory to provide a sociological explanation of the nexus between the invisibility of single mothers, the connected bias indicator and the ensuing intra-gender gap in Africa. What does being socially (in)visible mean for single motherhood? Empirical information was sourced qualitatively through participant-observers from Nigeria and Benin Republic. Results showed that single mothers, oft alienated from ‘wives’ associations, are significantly invisible with associated social inequality. The evidence of the marginalisation of single mothers suggests a preclusion of broad-based political and social participation of womenfolks in the African gender movements. Consequently, the study points attention to socio-cultural factors that present African gender movements and social justice as challenging and challenges to the prevailing global norm of intra-gender equality.

Representing the (in)visible ‘Other’ : Academic Explorations in Mapping the Subaltern

Rohan Shivkumar, Sandeep Balagangadharan Menon

Kamla Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute for Architecture and Environmental Sciences, India

We live in a time where questions of visibility are inextricably linked with the question of rights. Organisations all over the world are currently deploying new technologies along with bureaucratic processes to identify and locate individuals, systems and processes that can be classified and isolated for whatever purpose deemed fit. These may range from the provision of infrastructure to complete disenfranchisement. Academic institutions are often enlisted in these processes. Yet, academic institutions also bear an ethical responsibility that may often be at odds with the agenda of the powers that be. Herein begins a tricky negotiation between the making of the visible and opening out of the possibility of its consequences, and the careful choice of representational forms that reveal only as much as is necessary. Adding to this problematic, is the often insular language through which knowledge of the ‘other’ is articulated within academia. Often inured within the conceptual frameworks and categories of academic thought, ways of seeing and understanding the world that disturb its presumptions are disregarded, slip away and disappear. This begs the question about the role of the researcher and her relationship with the object of research. Who is enabled to speak, where and how?

The KRVIA is an architecture school in Mumbai that believes in the creation of an academic environment that is relevant to the context within which it operates, that is able to train students to perform ethically in the process of building our cities. Of the many initiatives the college has initiated to engage with the city, the Research and Design Cell of KRVIA serves as an interface between the academy and the city. Here we work with governmental organisations, community bodies etc. on real-time projects for the betterment of the communities and the urban environment. These include projects working with the fishing communities and the slum settlements of Mumbai. As part of these processes, the school has been engaged with understanding the forces shaping our cities through mapping and representation exercises. This paper will use these as examples to meditate on some of the questions concerning representation within the academy, the forms it engages with, who it chooses to represent, why and the political implications of these decisions.

Sense Of Place And The Shifting Geographies Of Migration In Italy: Undocumented And Vulnerable Migrants’ Place Based Learning And The Experience Of COVID-19 Lockdown

Sarah De Nardi

Western Sydney University, Australia

My talk outlines work in progress and an agenda for future work on the theme of place-based learning and its implications for opening up more democratic ecologies of urban spaces. As this project is still in its pilot phase, I will delineate my approach to the open mapping method in the context of social inclusion and cultural citizenship with various migrant service provider centres in Italy. After a few examples in which I evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of the method and offer participant feedback, I make a case for this methodology as a tool for initiatives aiming to strengthen place-based agency and belonging. I then propose some ways that this method’s potential practical application relates to issues of spatial justice and cultural inclusion and agency more broadly, but in particular, with relation to COVID and the pandemic.

In countries like Italy, before the COVID-19 outbreak, migrants and refugees were largely racialised minorities who faced racism and discrimination in many parts of society (often from the authorities), but were otherwise supported by a network of community groups, settlement services and other sites of welcome including places of worship and socialisation (urban squares, train and metro stations, ‘ethnic’ shops). Then COVID-19 struck: messages to migrants and refugees during the pandemic have been ambivalent, especially in Italy where health and hygiene regulations were issued only in Italian. COVID-19 has shown a pressing need to strengthen efforts to increase migrant inclusion. Sadly, during the pandemic, this greater visibility of non-white Italian residents who strived to get by in public spaces resulted in a greater likelihood that they were targeted and picked up by police and the authorities. In other words, COVID-19 has shown the need for better efforts to increase non-citizens' inclusion in the context of the blatant disadvantages they face in that country. The only possible silver lining is the emergence of opportunities to more closely observe the disadvantages many of the most vulnerable are facing. What if spatial justice could be promoted and explored through the unequal spatial ecologies and experiences afforded by lockdown and social and physical distancing? What if a suitable platform for this awareness-raising was the openness and accessibility afforded by Google Maps and similar outlets, in coordination with educational initiatives and civil society efforts?

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