Topic: Citizen-led innovation: social media, con-joined rural spaces and social haptics.
Many advocates of urban areas and their associated city regions point to the importance of the aggregation in creating the density of interactions and emergent phenomena that will drive the innovations necessary to overcome the grand challenges of climate change, resource depletion and seemingly intractable social conflicts. Often the mechanisms of this agglomeration are a ‘black box’ observed at the level of demography but rarely in practice. It also assumed that urban areas remain the central nodes of innovation with attending to how contemporary forms of communication con-join places and spaces, mixing urban, peri-urban and rural areas. It also elides the complex ‘social haptics’ of how people touch one another online and connect off-line co-creating and co-recreating experiments in how they might live differently.
This paper considers two examples of co-innovation by citizens, spanning rural and urban areas to develop innovations that are citizen-led. The first examples are from the networks around urban food planning in the city of Bristol that have focused on creating plans for a city region food system. Which while they have focused on building formal plans, this paper draws attention to the importance of planning as a form of experimentation. The second is of a series of farmer-led field trials on farms in England, that have brought university researchers together with farmers to find practical, evidence-based innovations for farm improvement. Although seemingly distinct these two examples put citizens as the centre of change. Through comparison, it becomes apparent how the incremental, painful and messy social transactions of innovation take places and make new spaces.