Costa Rica urban exercises: promotion of the commons, and the right to the city

Costa Rica urban exercises: promotion of the commons, and the right to the city

[…]the concentration of people and events in time and space is a prerequisite to make anything happen, but more importantly are what activities are allowed to develop […]

In Life between buildings[1] are outlined the applications that must exist in the architectural proposals, so that human being begins to appropriate them. By extrapolating this analysis and relying on the concept established in The Right to the City[2], where it is considered that the gentrification caused by urban processes implies an impact on the present and the future of humanity[3]. The construction and strengthening of social structures that complement the dynamics of interaction of the different actors begins to make sense.

This concept of change of social structure is broad and, at the same time, complicated to define by different actors involved in the subject[4] Therefore, related processes that can be articulated from the academy result in the proposal of systematic variables that, far from wanting to intercede to achieve the purpose of a change of structure, what they seek is to detonate a collective process which add to the existing.

Proposal of social integration.

In this search to promote the use of space and social interaction, the approach to the community Barrio Pinto and its surroundings is proposed in the South of the canton of San Pedro de Montes de Oca, in the province of San Jose, Costa Rica; whose radius of action is located between the kilometer close to the Campus of Universidad Latina. This context contains many different realities. On the one hand, the central avenue has an established structure of commerce and services, in addition is the road that connects the center of the country with the Inter-American route, therefore, highly charged with vehicular flow.

This situation disappears entering avenue 2, 4 and 6. Residential use is giving space to the commerce and offices, but that still encloses a residential range that gives life to the parks of his around. This mutation of the space is reflected in the offer of related services between traditional commercial systems, such as tailors, sodas and informal commerce, as well as other emerging elements (biodegradable cleaning products).

Is under these dynamics – between the behavior of the inhabitants of the sector and the users of the services that are beginning to develop in the area – that the interaction between students of the area and the institutions (who are unaware of the processes, routes, services) arises. For example, there is a coffee shop that offers bike rental per hour and per day, as well as the organization of recreational circuits in the sector.

Then, the question arisen is: how to provide a tool to citizenship that allows articulation in the public space between the collective memory of a specific place and emerging uses that change the image of the city?

It is at this point, where the definition of common goods[5] and Collaborative Economy[6] (Cañigueral, 2014), together with the use of the technological tool Agora PIC (Plataforma de Integración Ciudadana, 2017) developed by the NGO team PIC, that these are taken as the basis of the research, to identify the possible elements to be taken into account, and to define a path that provides information on tangible and intangible variables. Trying to unify the social processes of the inhabitants of the sector, with visitors and users of the different activities in the radio, near to the community of Barrio Pinto.

Within the concrete analysis of the peculiarities of the community, the gap that exists between space of the Square Máximo Fernández-  on the north side of Franklin D. Roosevelt School – and El Retiro Park (650 meters Southwest of Máximo Fernández Square) -, as a hub that makes possible the social connection of a situation different from the current, whose goal is immersed, as Gehl points out[7] – is taken into account, to generate not only the space of transition, but of interaction.

Citizen participation has been necessary for the construction of this project. Across workshops and interviews, as well as different visits to the community to establish collaborative and individual services[8], the rescue of collective memory, stories and accounts of the citizen for the visibility of the human and sensory part of the area began, as well as the delimitation of the emerging uses that change the dynamic preset in the area, and generate a social movement toward the appropriation of common space[9].

Conclusion of a job, start of a route.

In conclusion, it is possible to counteract the thinking and analysis of Gehl[10], about the dynamics of use of public spaces, with the contributions of Zaida Muxí and Joseph María Montaner[11] on the substantial changes that surround the phenomenology of the city for the adequate enjoyment and use of the various variables of the Commons. Processes that lead to interpret the change of the image of the city must occur in an intrapersonal way, understanding that this isolated element is part of an articulated social system[12].

On this premise, it is part of this personal relationship, of collective memory and the individual task, for the strengthening of pre-existing social layers. It may not induce a community to take a change in its structure, but it strengthens when an external user can deviate from their daily life to rediscover its immediate context. For this reason, and waiting for the use of the technological tool (Ágora PIC[13]) to boost social skills to community, this intervention has been completed with the start of a journey raised with the student community of the Universidad Latina.

On this basis, we should start from this relationship between the collective memory and the individual task, to strengthen the pre-existing social layers. It is not possible to induce a community to adopt a modification in its structure, but it can be strengthened, when an external user can get away from their everyday life to rediscover their immediate context. For this reason, the use of the Ágora PIC technological tool was envisaged so that it could stimulate the social capacities of community making, ending this intervention with the beginning of a journey through the community.

A circuit that seeks, every four months, that is to say with the opening of the academic semester, to offer the newly admitted student the possibility of knowing their immediate context, and at the same time generate interaction with the dynamics of their area and with its inhabitants. This wants to contribute to the creation of a collective memory and local participatory networks that bring the academy closer to its own territory.

Il progetto pilota del LabGov Costa Rica comincia da esercizi accademici mirati che hanno l’intenzione de rispondere alla domanda: come facilitare uno strumento alla cittadinanza che permetta l’articolazione tra i beni comuni spaziali e la memoria collettiva di un determinato luogo; con una particolare attenzione agli usi emergenti che mutano rapidamente il volto frenetico della capitale e il ricordo di un passato, non troppo passato, campestre e bucolico? Come possiamo conservare la memoria dei beni comuni intangibili promuovendo contemporanemente l’hic et nunc dei commons tangibili attuali?

[1] Gehl, J. (2011). Life between buildings: using public space. Washington, DC: Island Press.

[2] Lefebvre, H. (1973). Le Droit à la ville. Paris: Ed. Anthropos.

[3] Costes, L. (2012). Del ‘derecho a la ciudad’ de Henri Lefebvre a la universalidad. Urban, 1-12.

[4] Lucas, M.A. (2006). Estructura social. La realidad de las sociedades avanzadas. Madrid: Pearson Education.

[5] Fundación Heinrich Böll (2008). Genes, bytes y emisiones: Bienes comunes y ciudadanía. Ciudad de México: Ediciones Böll.

[6] Cañigueral, A. (2014). Vivir mejor con menos. Barcelona: Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial.

[7] Gehl, J. op.cit.

[8] Cañigueral, A. op.cit.

[9] Fundación Heinrich Böll, op.cit.

[10] Gehl, J. op.cit.

[11] Muxí, Z., Montaner, J.M. (2011). Arquitectura y política. Barcelona: Editorial Gustavo Gili.

[12] Lucas, M.A. op. cit.


Can Wi-Fi Community save the world?

Can Wi-Fi Community save the world?

In today’s connected world, access to the internet should be an essential service, like water or electricity. And just like water and electricity, it should be available to everyone, regardless of circumstance.

Building entirely new networks, cities, supported by internet service providers and mobile carriers is good but it would be better if you are able to leverage already existing networks, like all the private residential Wi-Fi networks that are already spread throughout the city. Imagine turning every home currently connected to the internet into a mini Wi-Fi hotspot serving the public, so that anytime a subscriber walked past a participating home network their phones would automatically connect to that Wi-Fi network, thereby lessening their own data charges and significantly reducing the strain on mobile carrier networks. All this is made possible by home subscribers giving up a small, likely unused, percentage of their Wi-Fi to make it available for public use.

This kind of initiative started a couple of years ago in Spain, where Martin Varsavsky founded a company (Fon) with the mission of blanketing the world with Wi-Fi. Now Fon is an international company, supported by some of the world’s most important telcos (Google, Microsoft, British Telecom and Deutsche Telekom and Qualcomm) and in 2014 it broke the barrier with 14 million Fon hotspots.

This project is very important because it aims to help people overcome the barriers they might face when using technology, giving access to the internet to hundreds of people who currently can’t get online. That means you can check and send emails, use your social network, watch videos and browse the web, all without spending money.

Luckily, all over the world there are a lot of Wi-Fi communities that have a common, simple and fast operation. First of all, it is necessary to join the community and there are two ways to go: either you are a customer of the company that provides broadband services (in this case, by agreeing to get free and unlimited access to other consumers’ hotspots) or you have to buy pre-paid vouchers or subscriptions to be part of the Wi-Fi community. Secondly, you must download the dedicated app for smartphones and tablets where entering your username and password. Once installed, the app will use your location to show a list of nearby free hotspots that can be in bars, hotels, shops, schools, hospitals, banks but also in private homes. Finally, when you choose your favorite hotspot, you are connected and you can surf the net.

In addition to this, as Alison Powell pointed out in 2011, Wi-Fi communities could have a positive outcome on civic culture because it is clear that these projects are able to “motivate volunteers to participate in building technology and working towards shared social goals. They also hold the potential to shift the provision of communications access away from corporate and towards more public interest models”.

The World Bank estimates that for every 10% penetration of internet access, a country’s GDP grows by 1,28%, so it is useful to work with local, provincial and national government to provide Wi-Fi in communities for the purpose of education, economic development and social inclusion, enabling access to the internet as a catalyst for change. Community Wi-Fi holds a lot of potential for enabling a functional connected future, where the barriers between private and public Wi-Fi blur to the extent that both humans and machines are able to be constantly and reliably connected. The key to ensuring that the connected city, and indeed the connected world works, is to make sure that just as the traffic on our streets is regulated, so too is the data traffic in our air.



Il futuro della diffusione della “connettività per tutti” non risiede solo negli investimenti infrastrutturali delle grandi compagnie del settore tech ma anche nella condivisione della connessione privata dei vari utenti. Le Wi-Fi Community, in modo spontaneo, stanno riuscendo sempre di più a fornire l’accesso ad Internet a milioni di persone in tutto il mondo che altrimenti non ne avrebbero la possibilità


Families and Tribes – A semiotic reading of the business incubation world

Families and Tribes – A semiotic reading of the business incubation world


A semiotic reading of the business incubation world, towards a model of collaborative incubation between small ecosystems.

This article originally appeared in Italian on Doppiozero

Since a few years something interesting has been observed around the word “incubation”. Metaphorology scholars define it as “catachresis”. As happens (happened) to the Italian locution “la gamba del tavolo” (the table leg), we are dealing with a phenomenon where a metaphor settles itself in our language, moving from being a “tropo” to real language, so passing from being a rhetoric figure to an independent item included in dictionaries and encyclopaedias.  The expression does not need any more to make different worlds communicate with each other (which is the main aim of the metaphors). In our days no one while saying “table leg” has the impression of being using a metaphor. In the same way, (almost) no one, speaking about “incubation”, really means to link the neonatology world to the start-up devices.

The word “incubation” has the power to create narrations so visionary and so relevant, but today it is living a saturation phase. There is enough space for a new way of business incubation, which could refill the hole created by lack of sense and activity in the world of support to the companies and that could go even further, opening new generations of modelling metaphors.

What is an incubator? According to the European Commission, during the 90’, was considered “incubator” a space where to concentrate services and support for the start-ups. Lately, at the beginning of the next decade, this definition already underwent a transformation. An incubator is not a space anymore but an organization, an activating subject, an accellerator, who provides services between which an incubation-space, services for supporting the business idea, network creations and opportunities. The definition even tells us that realizing a typology of incubators is possible with a preventive check of some broad variables: rules of employment and admission, functions and services, intensity of the supporting action. In the same report also appears a diagram that tries to make a topologic (in addition to a typologic) representation of the incubators:

The two dimensions on which the map is constructed are the technological level and the management assistance. It means that the main features of the incubation, underlined by this source, are the financial support and the type of activity generated by the helped start up/s.

An important role is still played by the physical dimension of the “incubator” as a place, be it a park or a centre. In the following years, this word turned into an umbrella-term: it detached itself from the single activity to embrace a broader range of experiences, going from education to services providing, assistance, sponsor searching.

Back to the narrative sphere, “incubator” has an interesting oscillation of meaning, never taken afloat. Differently from what happens in the Italian language, where the word incubator is used both with a male and a female meaning, in the English one, the female acceptation doesn’t exist, making the word far from its bond with a maternal meaning.

The smart marketing is made of leading narrations: abstracts stories that deals with a complex system of values. An example of leading narration is the myth, which at the same time is general and peculiar. The myth, as all leading narrations, is so effective as it activates those values that represent the basis of a society. Myths are simplifications full of meaning. The narration that has been dominating during these years of fast development in the business support area is based on a kind of familiar relationship, as the one between father or mother and son, whose main feature is the support. In the paternal case, chronologically preceeding the second one, the support came out through the perspective of an economic remuneration; in the maternal one instead, through the physical take caring by giving spaces and other assets for the business development. It is as if we were saying (in this dominant and simplifying narrative) that the father gives a pocket money every month, while the mother takes care of the son. Both the parents make their sons depend on them for heir survival, in a kind of relationship one-to-one. As we can see, in the semiotic square standing downward (like a figurative Cartesian Diagram), in the upper axis are settled the two ruling logics, while in the lower one we find the logics of formation (quite totally paternal) and acceleration (quite totally maternal).

When we put in the diagram all the traditional incubation experiences, expression of the tension generated by these two values, we notice that there are more crowded sections contrasted by sections which are almost empty, and which could therefore be available for new players entering the market.

In all the experiences present in the diagram we observe the activation of a hierarchical relationship between the incubator and the incubated subject. Horizontal links are missing. In the open-innovation world, but generally in the collaboration sphere too, a more “collaborative” kind of narration can be discovered. In order to realize it we need a new leading narration, not based on parenting relationships anymore. In the main narration of traditional incubation, in fact, the collaborative logic brings to a negative competition (as between brothers). What we really need is a different logic, similar to the one  that we have found studying the scientific communities, where collaborative platforms are already used in order to realize open innovation (in research), but ,moreover, that we have found during two years of considerations (shared between Kilowatt and  Social Lab)  developed thanks to the CoopUp Bologna experience.

In our experience (CoopUp Bologna as first experiment of community business incubation, ie. incubation ecosystem – our tribe) we noticed a different logic: more “tribal”, based on the construction of a practice and knowledge community, of a collaborative network, of tools for value distribution and creation, of opportunities for exchange, relationship and comparison, in a common growth perspective. To this, we want to dedicate the proposal of collaborative incubation, dedicated not to a single start-up but to ecosystems of new enterprises that are growing together (even together with already existing and structured companies). This proposal might not be suitable for all new businesses. Our experience is addressed in particular to the so-called cohesive companies, as defined by Domenico Sturabotti and Paolo Venturi, and in general to the startups with a “social vocation”, attentive to their impact and consequently not always feeling comfortable with a form of support that promotes a development model very different from that for which they – the new enterprises – have decided, in the first instance, to start a business.

It is possible and perhaps necessary to move from the familiar logic towards a collaborative logic: from the concept of family – dependence, to that tribe, where there is not a parent, but a chieftain – or a shaman – coordinating all (the community, the chain , etc.) and needing everyone to be independent but collaborative (and conscious), so that the whole community functions. The chieftain has to win the confidence of the community, which the parent is not required to do.

We must try to explore a new incubation narrative, starting from a new ecosystem model based on relationships, trust and community. We have grown too used (we catacresizzati) to import without reflecting models from outside, “in the periphery of the empire”, as it was common to say few decades ago. The economic and especially financial magnetism of the Silicon Valley has become a cultural values and entrepreneurial magnetism. Everyone’s commitment should be to recover a European and cooperative approach to the company support. It is specially for this reason that the tribe seems to us a narration which is worth exploring.

The ecosystem incubation square takes to hart the experiences developed in the last year in the open innovation field. It “contains” the traditional incubation square in the top-left corner, it displays open innovation in the bottom-left corner,  the research and development and peer to peer experiences in the bottom-right corner and also leaves open an almost plain space in top-right corner. To say it differently: it is coming to maturity.

In the square of community incubation, in the collaborative and mutualistic ecosystem support, there is need of new figures. The first is a tribal chief, who brings into the system “soft” and interpersonal skills and tools of community organizing. He is in some ways shamanic: his relationships are based on a trust channel, he must be able to read the “health” of an entire community, he needs to know how to manage community-driven dynamics. He is able to go beyond the single sector and above all he knows how to manage in a participatory way the community engagement dynamics. Finally, he knows how not to create dependence on its presence.

But there is not only the head of the tribe, the shaman who knows how to have a systemic vision, the community ecosystem managers. There are also the “community leaders”, situational leaders that activate according to their own talents and skills: those who depending on the specific objective can activate and strengthen the accountability of the entire ecosystem. In open innovation there can be large organizations who work as flying start, which signal a need for innovation that can then activate different collective growth experiences. But also, communities and informal groups, pushed by intense motivation, competence, talent.

The tribe operates as a system in which cooperation prevails over competition. The tribal chief maintains the vision and is able to measure out the roles of the community participants. In the semiotic square of collaborative incubation it is important to firstly populate the team of interlocutors who accept the challenge to co-manage their role as community leaders. We are in an almost-smooth space, more rhizomic that hierarchical, where wit is more important to know how to manage relationships than how to defend positions. “In the smooth […] the points are subordinated to the journey”, was said in Mille plateaux of Deleuze and Guattari. A common journey.



In questo articolo, originariamente pubblicato su Doppiozero, Gaspare Caliri propone una lettura semiotica del mondo dell’incubazione d’impresa e ripercorre la storia del termine “incubazione”, nato come una metafora ed ormai entrato nei nostri dizionari.

È necessario provare a esplorare una nuova narrazione dell’incubazione, partendo da un nuovo modello di ecosistema basato sulla relazione, sulla fiducia e sulla comunità”

Waiting for the 8th & 9th of April

Waiting for the 8th & 9th of April

 img-20151121-wa0049On the 5th of March 2016, at the LUISS Campus of Viale Romania, LabGovers came together to discuss and find solution to the problems related to the School Pisacane. They divided themselves in five groups in order to organize the various activities for the days of 8 and 9 April. Each group had it’s own task. This division in groups allowed the labgovers to organize every single aspect of those two days of celebration at the school Pisacane. Two were the main issues of every discussion in each group: the sustainability and the duration of the effects created by the intervention of LabGov at the school Pisacane. The first group focused on different possibilities of games for the children involved in those two days; the second group had to think about a serious matter: cleaning the schoolyard and keep it clean also on the long term.  The third group paid img-20151121-wa0035attention to the communication of the event, by preparing the script for a video that should narrate the event and explain the experimentations made by LabGov. A concrete sign of the intervention of the LabGovers was developed by the fourth group and it is the realization of small gardens for the schoolyard, realized by the children of the school with the help of the LabGovers and the parents and the teachers. The fifth group looked after another relevant feature: the illumination of the schoolyard; this is a problem underlined by the teachers and the parents. This day of reasoning and researches gave the labgovers the opportunity to improve their knowhow in organizing events and in taking care of a common good.

Nella giornata del 5 Marzo, nel Campus Luiss di Viale Romania, i LabGovers si sono riuniti ed insieme hanno organizzato le giornate dell’ 8 e 9 Aprile, nella scuola Pisacane. I due giorni saranno dedicati alla rigenerazione degli spazi costituenti la scuola e della comunità che la vive. Le attività, che verranno svolte dai LabGovers insieme ai bambini, insegnanti, genitori ed associazioni del luogo, saranno le seguenti: rigenerazione del cortile interno, costruzione e cura di orti in cassone, trovare delle soluzioni sostenibili al problema illuminazione, organizzazione dei giochi e video.