di Miguel Martinez
Today June 7th, a small event, highly symbolic however for all of Europe’s historic centres being turned into Disneylands for tourism, will take place in Florence, when the children of the Oltrarno district will plant forty rhizomes of iris about one hundred metres from the Brancacci Chapel, where Masaccio unwittingly unleashed the Renaissance (and also painted an extraordinary allegory of the Commons).
Whatever is bureaucratic and artificial, is easy to understand. Whatever is real is unique and complex, so it will take some explaining, but the fun lies precisely in putting the strands together.
The first strand lies just behind the Carmine church, in Florence’s Oltrarno district: a garden hidden behind a high wall called the “Nidiaci”, a gift by the American Red Cross, in 1920 to the children of what was then the poorest district of the city, riddled with TBC and crime, yet the scene of extraordinary human passions and solidarity.
Today the inhabitants of the centre of Florence are being driven out by an Airbnb economy based on evictions, empty houses, craftsmen overwhelmed by taxes losing their workplaces to pubs.
Flats are filled by people who have no contact with the area they sleep in for a night or two, while bartenders and cooks – largely from remote parts of the world – commute every night for miles, to reach their zoned homes, leaving a trail of burnt fossil fuel behind them.
Metaphorically, we could say that a certain number of Florentines make money by gluing their ancestors’ bones to clothes hangers and putting them up in their shop windows. As an exceptionally kind hearted landowner put it to a single mother and her child before evicting them, “I’m so sorry, but if you leave, I can earn 90 euros a night from this flat!”
To make way for tourists yearning to see the “Oltrarno, district of craftsmen”, the last shoemaker was evicted too: he held out bravely for several months in his tiny shop, with no running water, before finally leaving the city.
The hidden Nidiaci garden has become a rallying point for old and new residents – Florentine carpenters and bakers alongside Macedonian hotel cleaners, Egyptian pizza cooks and Irish artists – who keep it open as a Commons: arts, music, crafts, a vegetable garden, a football school, set up by the legendary Lebowski team (the only soccer club owned by fans in Italy) and guided tours for local children, to remind them that they are the guardians of the rich history of Florence, wherever their parents may have been born.
Children’s concert at the Nidiaci
The second strand concerns the name of Florence, supposedly derived from the Latin flos, “flower”: a city founded, according to legend, during the Roman festival of Floralia, an image which immediately brings to mind Flora in Botticelli’s Primavera, so beautifully thinned out in Evelyn De Morgan’s painting Flora, sold to a Scottish patron.
Evelyn De Morgan, Flora
On the bottom right of the painting, the small tag, written in rhymed medieval Italian, says,
“I come down from Florence and am Flora,
This city takes its name from flower
Among the flowers I was born and now by a change of home
I have my dwelling among the mountains of Scotia
Welcome me, and let my treasure amid northern mists be dear to you.”
The heraldic symbol of the city-state of Florence, since before Dante, has always been the fleur-de-lys, as it appears on the town banners. Here you can see it in one of those ambiguous events where true Florentines wear, with enormous commitment, authentically fake Renaissance costumes, partly to attract tourists, but mainly because they have a tremendous desire to express a deeply felt identity.
People all over Italy do similar things, like the Chivalry Joust of Sulmona, which has no spectators because nearly everybody in town is an actor and nobody knows where Sulmona is.
The fleur-de-lys of Florence is actually an iris, the humble giaggiolo which until not so many years ago used to grow everywhere along the banks of the Arno, but has now nearly disappeared.
Next to Piazzale Michelangelo, where tourists enjoy a splendid view over the city, there is another little known garden, kept open only a few weeks a year by a group of enthusiasts and dedicated exclusively to the iris.
The third strand is the University of Florence, where Professor Stefano Mancuso has opened a new field of research, that of plant sensitivity, establishing the International Laboratory of Plant Neurobiology.
Mancuso is also the inventor of the fascinating and somewhat frightening Jellyfish Barge, a kind of Noah’s Ark to help us survive the Anthropocene we have created.
Right now, probably the most prominent cultural event in town is an unlikely experiment set up by Mancuso and a German artist, in the courtyard of the Renaissance Palazzo Strozzi, on the relations between plant and human psychology.
The Florence Experiment is a research project where visitors slide down a structure from a height of 20 metres; their emotional reactions will be recorded and compared with those of plants to examine the empathetic possibilities between humans and plant organisms.
The issue of relations between plants and us, is of course enormous, quite simply because without plants, we would cease to exist; and our future therefore depends on how we relate to them.
This takes us to the fourth strand. Professor Mancuso has launched an interdisciplinary master’s degree, called “Plant Future” – Futuro Vegetale, – bringing together scholars from very different fields (biology, sociology, architecture, political science) who are seeking a way out of the suicidal course we are currently engaged in.
Then there is the fifth strand, Florence’s Calcio fiorentino, a no-holds-barred form of football developed in Florence in Renaissance times, played between the four historic districts of the old part of Florence,
Though it is a rediscovered tradition (dating back to the 1930s), it is firmly rooted in local culture, and is the strongest source of identity of the Oltrarno district, which is of the “White” colour, and where a hardy group of unpaid bar keepers, electricians and carpenters risk their lives every year for this match dedicated to Saint John, the city patron.
The official matches are a municipal institution, so fans and players have set up an independent organisation, recreating the fourteenth-century fraternity of the “Whites”, the Compagnia dei Bianchi, one of the countless lively community organisations of medieval Italy, to develop local solidarity and help the countless people whose very survival is in doubt in these hard times.
The scholars of Plant Future decided that the most symbolic place in all Florence to launch a new idea of how to found a city was the Nidiaci garden, its plants, trees and human community.
The first irises would be there, then they would be gradually planted wherever people took care of community gardens.
So they went to the Iris Garden, where the organisers immediately understood, and gave forty of their best rhizomes, kept for international competitions, to plant in the Nidiaci, recreating the original Florentia or flowering.
The minute beginning of a renewal of a whole city, based on commoning.
The Plant Future scholars came over to visit the garden.
An Albanian mother, who sells shirts in the market at San Lorenzo and teaches the children how to grow tomatoes and melons in the Nidiaci garden, decided where the rhizomes should be planted.
Then the organisers got in touch with the Compagnia dei Bianchi, because it was fundamental for them to be present in such a special moment.
All of this is very small, and very concentrated.
And smallness, and concentration, is exactly what we all need.
As Rising Appalachia put it,
Stand up, look around and then scale that down too!”
Christian Iaione, LabGov Faculty Director, published a new study “The Right To the Co-city” on the Italian Journal of Public Law, Volume 9, Issue 1, 2017, p. 80.
This study is an effort to contribute to the current urban studies debate on the way to conceptualize the city by advancing a rights-based approach and to suggest that to build such vision one needs to reconceive the city as a commons, which is to say that the city serves as an infrastructure enabling the “pooling” of city inhabitants actions, energies, resources and the cooperation between city inhabitants and other four urban actors thereby embedding a “quintuple helix” or “pentahelix” approach in the governance design of the city. Part I articulates the most prominent visions or paradigms of the city of the 21st century and the “metaphors” that are currently used to conceptualize the city. From an interdisciplinary perspective, this part then discusses some complications and emerging key points that deserve further reflection. In Part II, the article argues that a rights-based paradigm or vision in the conceptualization of the city is emerging. It does so through the analysis of urban laws and policies adopted in exemplary case studies such as Naples and Barcelona, on one side, and Bologna and Turin, on the other side. Two main rights-based approaches seem to emerge: the rebel city model and the co-city model. In Part III, to better define this fourth urban paradigm and in particular the second approach, a focus on the key concept of commons and a review of the main bodies of literature is provided which are key to carve out the concept of “pooling” as a form of cooperation that encompasses both sharing of congestible resources to avoid scarcity and collaboration around non congestible, constructed resources to generate abundance. Building on the existing literature of a particular subset of studies on infrastructure commons, the concept of pooling is extracted from the observation of how pooling as a demand-side strategy can both expand or leverage the idle “capacity” of an infrastructure to avoid congestion and at the same time generate abundance. Pooling is particular effective in explaining the main features of a peculiar vision of the rights-based city, the co-city approach, ultimately envisioning the city as an enabling infrastructure for social and economic pooling. Part IV offers concluding remarks and proposes the idea of the “right to the co-city” to build a body of urban law and policies advancing “urban rights to pooling” as a key legal tool to structure a commons-oriented interpretation of the fourth vision of the city, the rights-based approach.
The full-text article is available at http://www.ijpl.eu/archive/2017/issue-15/the-right-to-the-co-city
June 15th and 16th 2017 the International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics (IIIEE) of the Lund University (Sweden) hosted the 4th International Workshop on the Sharing Economy. A great venue for the European network of researchers working on the topic of the collaborative and sharing economy.
In two days 95 participants attended the workshop, organized in 10 multidisciplinary sessions, 3 very valuable keynotes speeches, 1 academic discussion and 1 stakeholders debate.
The workshop was opened by professor Oksana Mont of the Lund University who welcomed the participants and introduced the first keynote speaker: professor Julian Agyeman of the TUFTS University (Medford-Boston, MA) author, with Duncan McLaren, of the book “Sharing Cities: A Case for Truly Smart and Sustainable Cities”.
Agyeman started from the concept of just sustainability – to explain how the reinvention and the revival of sharing in our cities could enhance equity, rebuild community and cut resource use; and he presented the “sharing paradigm” proposed in the book: a paradigm which recognizes the shift from socio-cultural sharing practices to (inter)mediated ones as the central transition in contemporary cities, and also highlights a second spectrum from communal/intrinsic to commercial/extrinsic models. The book in fact explores more cultural then commercial, and more political then economic approaches, that are rooted in a broad understanding of the city as a co-created urban commons. The speech ended with some suggestions for governing the sharing city and developing the methodologies of analysis.
The workshop continued with the sessions exploring both conceptual, methodological and empirical questions, such as concepts, methods, impacts, operations, geographical contexts, actors and governance, gathering Ph.D researchers, research fellows and assistant professors from many European countries and universities, revealing a great variety of approaches, methodologies, fields of research. In the two days of the workshop 39 contributions and 3 pitches were presented.
The second keynote speaker was Michael Kuhndt, the executive director of the Collaborating Centre on Sustainable Consumption and Production (CSCP), an international nonprofit Think and Do tank that works with businesses, policy makers, partner organizations and civil society towards a sustainable planet.
He gave insights and linkages for a sustainable living and presented a global survey on the sharing economy initiatives in North America, Europe and Latin America. He linked the sharing economy with four dimensions, giving data and explanations for each one: lifestyles, digitalization, circular economy and mainstream businesses.
The first day closed with an academic panel discussion titled “Sharing Economy: controversy in the making”. Moderated by Lucie Zvolska, a Ph.D researcher in the sharing and collaborative economy at the IIIEE, it involved Julian Agyeman, Michael Kuhndt, Karin Bradley – Associate professor of the KTH, expert on sustainable urban development, environmental justice and sharing economy, Hugo Guyader – OuiShare Connector Sweden, Ph.D at the Linköping University, Karin Salomonsson – of the Lund University, Department of Arts and Cultural Sciences, and Yuliya Votytenko Palgan – Assistant professor at the IIIEE, expert on new economies (bioeconomy, sharing economy and circular economy) and sustainable urban innovation and experimentation (urban living labs). The panel went through some relevant questions such as topics and issues on which to work today to analyze the sharing economy, and the best methods to use, as well as the social inclusion in the sharing economy as tool for a more sustainable economy.
The first day ended with a collective dinner at the Grand Hotel of Lund.
The second day saw the keynote speech of Martijin Arets, an international experts in the field of scalable online platforms, in particular in the sharing economy, crowdfunding, and the gig economy. He talked about sharing economy and entrepreneurship on the bases of more than 350 conversations he made in 13 countries in the last three years with businessmen and experts.
The speech was followed by a stakeholder debate (after academia a glimpse on the local landscape in terms of sharing economy). Moderated by Steven Curtis – a Ph.D student at the IIIEE researching on urban sharing organisations as a mechanism to realise sustainability transitions in cities, the panel wondered about the future of the sharing economy. Among the participants there were: Eva Eiderström, Director of the Department of Ecolabelling and Green Consumption at the charitable environmental organisation Swedish Society for Nature Conservation. Emma Börjesson, project manager at the Environmental Department in the City of Malmö, expert on sustainable consumption, with particular attention on fair trade, textiles and food; recently, her work has brought her to the sharing economy, due to a project funded by the “European Regional Development Fund”, which focuses on job-creation and lowering living costs. Anna Wittgren, the Business Area Manager of Leisure Travel at Malmö Tourism, an organization that is part of the Malmö Municipality. Matthias Lehner, a Postdoctoral fellow at Lund University engaged in the study of the role of food retailers in promoting sustainable consumption; he is currently collaborating on two projects to examine the role of “the sharing economy” in empowering more sustainable consumer/user consumption behavior. Mattias Jägerskog, founder of the non-profit ridesharing movement Skjutsgruppen who for some ten years now gathers over 70,000 participants, working with over 30 municipalities, counties and regions in Sweden. Jane Olsson, founder of the company SWOPshop, located in central Malmö with the aim to allow people to barter clothes and focused on sustainable consumption in fashion.
Professor Oksana Mont closed the workshop highlighting the connections made in the event in terms of co-creation and co-sharing values: engaged academic community, engaged young researchers, interest from stakeholders. In line with this approach of co-creation and co-sharing all the sessions were spaced out with networking coffee breaks to give participants the opportunity to exchange opinions, to reflect together, to ask more questions even after the discussion space during the sessions.
Professor Mont also remembered that the workshop contributors can participate at the draft of a book to help in describing and understanding the sharing economy phenomenon, sharing organizations, sustainability impacts and institutionalization processes. In addition a Special Issue of the Journal of Cleaner Production will be issued. A legacy of the workshop will also be the creation of a Ph.D student network on the sharing economy, to connect diverse backgrounds, ways of working, places and perspectives, and to apply for funding for workshops and meetings.
At the end, Dominika Wruk, of the Mannheim University and member of the project I-Share, presented the date and the venue for the next edition of the workshop 5IWSE: University of Mannheim (Germany) , June 28th and 29th. A new opportunity to brainstorm about sharing and to connect researchers and ideas in an innovative city, a real sharing hotspot (there are more than 70 sharing organizations), easily reachable with public transportation from all the European countries. So, save the date!
[The workshop was arranged by IIIEE together with the department of urban planning and environment at KTH (Royal Institute of Technology) and the funding support of the agency Formas (Swedish Research Council for Sustainable Development)]
Il 15 e 16 giugno si è svolto presso l’università di Lund, in Svezia, il 4° International Workshop on the Sharing Economy. Un’importante occasione di confronto per i ricercatori europei che lavorano sui temi dell’economia della condivisione e della collaborazione in diversi ambiti accademici. 10 sessioni per presentare 39 ricerche e 3 pitch, che hanno visto la presenza di 95 partecipanti. Il workshop è stato impreziosito da tre keynote speakers d’eccezione: Julian Agyeman della Tufts University (Boston, MA), Michael Kuhndt del CSCP – Collaborating Centre on Sustainable Consumption and Production e Martijn Artes, esperto internazionale di piattaforme collaborative; oltre a un panel accademico e un tavolo di discussione tra stakeholders locali. Prossimo incontro: 28 e 29 giugno 2018 all’Università di Mannheim per la quinta edizione: save the date!
Since its birth in 1999, the Department of Sociology and Social Research of the University of Milano-Bicocca has promoted sociological research and scientific investigation of contemporary society, following its changes, with a special focus on the city of Milan.
From May 4th to May 7th 2017, the sociologists and the social scientists of the Department shared and presented their researches, analysis and investigations to the citizens of Milan, within the framework of the initiative “URBANA. Quality of life and social innovation in Milan”. The initiative, coordinated by the Department Director, Prof. Giampaolo Nuvolati, was promoted and organized by the Department under the patronage of the Municipality of Milan and the University Milano-Bicocca; with the aim of bringing university and sociology from the suburban Bicocca neighborhood to the core of the city, and in this way to strengthen and consolidate the relation between the university and the city.
Photo Credit: Simone Barbagallo
Four days of city storytelling to describe its changes through different languages and perspectives, in some of the main representative locations of Milan, with more than 100 experts, social scientists, sociologists, journalists, artists and performers, for a total of 24 free entry appointments. The event, touched many different topics, such as violence, food, gender, ageing, mobility, sharing economy, health, security, job market, sustainability and metropolitan city among others. Not only conferences and workshops but also artistic installations, music and theater performances, that gathered more than 1000 enthusiastic participants. The events was divided into four main macro themes:
- a creative breakfast with sociologists and practitioners to talk about food policies, a topic of great interest in the current international debate;
- a seminar at ‘Fabbrica del Vapore’ on the international positioning of the city with the professor Roberto Camagni to reply to the question: is Milan a global city?;
- two interesting moments to discuss about flexibility, innovation and rights in the cognitive capitalism, with many experts from different fields: the first one at the new headquarter of Giangiacomo Feltrinelli Foundation to reflect on the new forms of self-employment and on the topic of the modern representation, and the second one hosted by Impact hub, one renowned local coworking, to analyze the new spaces of work that are rising in the sharing economy era with a special intervention of the council member Tajani (Labor Policy, Production Activities, Trade and Human Resources)
- Giangiacomo Feltrinelli Foundation hosted also a round table on the topic of social innovation and on the current state of the sharing economy in Milan with some of the main experts in the city and the participation of local practitioners;
- the conference ‘Feed the City’ to discuss the relation between city and countryside, the topic of the waste of food, the innovations in agriculture and the political perspectives of the local government in the metropolitan city, hosted at the EU Parliament Headquarters of Milan;
- a double event inside Trotter Park to discuss of art and politic as transformative practices with the participation of the master Michelangelo Pistoletto (painter, action and object artist, and art theorist) together with experts on public spaces and musicians;
Photo Credit: Simone Barbagallo
- a conference on the topics of health, prevention, participation, promotion in the city hold at the local Health Care Agency;
- three events with prisoners at the three Milanese jails to connect the city and the jails and underline the importance of this connection: the first day a music performance of the San Vittore Choir (Memory House of Milan), the second day a theatrical show with the detained of Bollate Jail (Trade Union); and the third day an artistic happening with the Opera detained in collaboration with the Brera Academy (Ex Church of San Carpoforo);
- a conference to analyze the relation between economic competitiveness and social inclusion with the participation of council members and experts on the topic, to deepen the theme of the social city in the urban agenda and to present the second Report on cities: “ The Urban Agendas in The Italian Cities” by Urban@it;
Photo Credit: Simone Barbagallo
- three meetings to deep the issue of domestic violence with Caritas Ambrosiana, Rete Antiviolenza Milano and SVS Donna Aiuta Donna Onlus. For the occasion the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II was transformed for a day in a labyrinth as violence metaphor: enter is easy, exit no;
- a rendezvous to discuss the opportunities for women in the city of Milan with many local success women in different field;
- a seminar to talk about active ageing with the main local stakeholders and to promote forms of elderly participation;
- a day voted to young people and their artistic abilities in terms of resilience with the participation of youth involved in the project MiGeneration Lab of the Municipality of Milan.
- at the presence of the Public Prosecutor of the Republic, Armando Spataro, a moment of reflection on the history of the local criminality and on the perception of citizens with speeches from criminologists, sociologists and journalists, at the ‘Casa della Memoria’ (Memory House of Milan);
Photo Credit: Simone Barbagallo
- a debate on the topic of mobility to reason of new urban populations, new uses of the cities and new forms of mobility hosted at Spazio Avanzi – Barra A @ Upcycle Milano Bike Café;
- continuing with the subject of mobility, the Rossignoli Atelier, one of the last place in Milan for the artisanal production of bicycles, hosted a workshop on the history and the evolution of the bike in the contemporary society, its use as geographical tool of exploration and its agonistic dimension, with a closing demonstration of how to assemble a bike.
- a conference to discuss the creation of the Metropolitan City, its potentialities and risks, with some contributors at the drafting of the Delrio Law and experts on the topic in partnership with the Centro Studi Grande Milano, the Metropolitan City of Milan and the Navigli Institute;
- The last event of the initiative was an incredible interactive performance with a local theater company (‘Teatro degli Incontri’) that guided 80 participants in the area of Via Padova involving people in finesse acts to re-discover the beauty of the city.
In addition, URBANA proposed also a metropolitan walk “So far, so close: walks in the Bicocca neighborhood” to explore the historical places that marked the life of this industrial area, and to understand its processes of regeneration. The walk was guided by Ph.D Student and researchers in Urban Studies.
As underlined by the Department Director, URBANA powered the subject of the quality of life identifying the needs of the population as well as innovative solutions and it has been the opportunity for many citizens to approach new topics or to deepen old issues. The Vice-Mayor, Anna Scavuzzo (also council member for education, university and research), took part to some of the events and stressed the important role of the universities also outside their doors, as engineer of innovation, research and scientific method underling their ability to text, experiment and activate, together with the local institutions and associations, new ways to make Milan more beautiful, open and livable.
All the information about the event are available at the link: www.urbana.sociologia.unimib.it
Dal 4 al 7 maggio 2017 Milano è stato un palcoscenico diffuso per la sociologia e le scienze sociali. Il Dipartimento di Sociologia e Ricerca Sociale dell’Università Milano-Bicocca ha infatti promosso ed organizzato, con il patrocinio del Comune di Milano e dello stesso Ateneo, una rassegna per portare la sociologia in città e affrontare i temi del cambiamento urbano, le problematiche sociali e le soluzioni possibili. 24 eventi in 4 giorni con oltre 100 esperti, tra sociologi, scienziati sociali, antropologi, criminologi, giornalisti, performers ecc hanno animato la città coinvolgendo oltre 1000 partecipanti. La rassegna ha rappresentato una grande occasione di conoscenza, confronto e connessione tra l’università e la città.