Ciudad Escuela

Today we are delighted to launch a project that has long been in the making. We have called the project Ciudad Escuela and have rather ambitiously dubbed it the first open-source urban pedagogy in the world. It is the outcome of a most fruitful and exciting collaboration with Domenico di Siena, Alfonso Sánchez Uzábal, Basurama and Zuloark.

There is no better place to get a sense of what the project is about than roaming about the website itself, but for the sake of English readers I offer here a brief description of the rationale of the project and our hopes for it.

We might translate Ciudad Escuela roughly 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, or even whole itineraries of their own design. (The Badge that goes under the name of 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.

The city as school is now open — the city as school is open-source.

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May 2024