An On-line Observatory for Urban Centers

Among the outcomes of the Conference on Urban Centers, “A Glass House for Urban Policies”, organized by Urbit in relation to Urbanpromo 2006, it was clear the imperative of fostering a new season for participatory interaction among all the actors involved in city transformation.

The traditional stockholders and their institutional interlocutors have been joined by an increasing number of new actors imposing the need of pursuing and taking advantage of new debate opportunities and more effective dialogue tools. Among these, the role of Urban Centers has shown to be particularly important. They can be seen as potential places for the interactive construction of “visions” as frameworks for urban policies and effective actions in transforming cities and territories.
In order to support this role, the undersigned scholars, together with an inter-university research group, are setting a start-up framework for an Observatory on Italian Urban Centers activities, comparing them to the most important foreign experiences.

The Observatory was presented with a specific symposium in Rome (Forum PA, february 2008); the conference explored the potential of new on-line communication technologies in developing enhanced cooperative and participative milieu for the so-called “pro-active involvement” of old and new actors in decision-making context and in new forms of social interaction. Moreover it was started the new network among Urban Centers, launched by UC Turin Metropolitan (UCM) in the seminar, Urban Center Network, held last 21-22 June 2007 in Turin, with the aim of identifying the main issues of the UC session in the XXIII UIA World Congress (Turin, summer 2008).

Substantially the Observatory, from the beginning, has been seen as a portal that, changing over time, can be the prototype for a social interaction/pro-action device, corresponding to the work needs of Urban Centers (“UC site”), and regularly updated based on research activities and connected “best practices” selection. Referring to the present “state of art” of the World Wide Web, the research activities and the technological transfer of the Observatory is focused on new on-line social interaction tools, commonly referred to as Web 2.0 domain  and on the more recent, conceptual open source and free software results.