Friday, June 12, 2015

Guerrilla Civic Hacks: Onomatopoeia & Tweeting Potholes, DIY Urbanism

This is a follow-up to the earlier post “Are They Right To Stop Guerrilla Street Repairs?

I’ve got two new pothole hacks to highlight and a bit of background on the general topic of guerrilla civic hacking. If you’ve not heard anything before about civic hacking that seemed useful or interesting to you, maybe you’re a guerrilla civic hacker at heart!

Tweeting Potholes

The Quartz article “The potholes in Panama City are tweeting their own repair requests” talks about a pothole guerrilla civic hack that I wish I had thought of. On the positive side of things, I’m glad I don’t live in a city where the road maintenance department allows huge potholes to develop in the local roads. Shortly after I graduated from college, I lived in Wyandotte, MI, a suburb of Detroit. At that time, if you didn’t watch the road in front of you in Wyandotte and swerve quickly when necessary, you could easily damage your vehicle in the huge potholes. So click on the link above, and read all about potholes that use Twitter to make sure the
Panama City Ministry of Public Works is aware of severe problems with positively perilous Panama potholes.
The Dubai of Latin America” is a nickname often used to refer to Panama City. But far below its sparkling skyline of office towers and apartment buildings, streets pocked with potholes make drivers’ daily life rather bumpy and unpleasant...the TV show Telemetro Reporta has launched the project The Tweeting Pothole...installing motion-sensitive the craters that mar Panama City’s streets. When a car runs over one of them, a tweet is sent automatically to the account of the Ministry of Public Works...The initiative has already gotten a reaction from a minister, Ramon Arosemena, who has declared that the Panama City’s holes are the result of years of “neglect and poor practice” in construction. Telemetro Reporta has dedicated a section of the show to The Tweeting Pothole...also gathering testimonies of citizens tired of the cracks...“My next car will be a tank,” tweeted one young driver. “My baby is going to be born blurred due to so much shaking,” declared a pregnant woman. “Dampers, arrowhead, wheels… these wholes have broken every piece of my
car,” said a cab driver. There are plenty of visual gags too. “We are trying to use humor and technology to try to solve a problem that is not easy to solve,”...Users have reported on Twitter that workers from public works are finding their way to some of the tweeting potholes for quick repairs.”
Pothole Onomatopoeia In Toronto

A GOOD magazine article in the same vein as the tweeting potholes, “Pothole Onomatopoeia in Toronto,” shows how the Urban Repair Squad of Toronto, who started blogging about guerrilla civic hacks in 2005, approached the pothole problem in their part of Canada. The URS approach may not have been as technologically impactful as tweeting to the people responsible for fixing the holes, but these guerilla civic hackers were also using humor to highlight an easily-fixable city problem that affected many citizens.
"Last week, a group called the Urban Repair Squad painted sound-effect words-"Thunk!" "Oof" and the like-along Toronto's Harbord Street where potholes and other perils threaten cyclists. They're calling the project "Pothole Onomatopoeia."And as it turns out, the Urban Repair Squad has a profile on GOOD, where they explain their purpose:  The action-hero drama of dodging obstacles and potholes, escaping devil-may-care drivers in super-fast cars, and braving the fierce, temperamental elements, may seem, and feel, quite comic. Unless you're face-down on the pavement. With some wit, we endeavour to provide warning with humour; suggest danger with comedy; invite caution without frightening...and most importantly, we appeal to our fine city to remember that potholes aren't just uncomfortable, they really, really hurt."
The Guerrilla Civic Hacking Movement

Guerrilla civic hacking goes by various terms and likely goes unlabeled in many instances. A few terms that seems to belong in the category of guerrilla civic hacking include:

  • DIY urbanism
  • Pothole activism
  • Pothole gardening
  • DIY urban design
  • Guerrilla urbanism
  • Guerrilla urban hacks
  • Guerrilla urban intervention
  • Collective urban action
  • Ground level activism
  • Urban design-hacking

In “German DIY Store Embraces DIY Urbanism,” covers an interesting approach to guerrilla civic hacking.
Nearly everyone around the world has done some kind of an attempt to improve or fix their home and garden. DIY stores such as Hornbach, Germany, provide the necessary tools to do so...Hornbach’s most recent marketing campaign has adopted the idea of DIY urbanism, a way of fixing up your street or neighborhood in the bid to make it a more pleasant place to live. The video commercials...features a collective of urban hackers in a Portugese city carrying out several creative interventions to improve parts of their city. The videos and the campaign suggest that DIY is not just for your home, but also for the area in which you live,
scaling up ideas so that they can help improve your local area...With DIY urbanism becoming increasingly popular, it is perhaps no surprise that DIY chains such as Hornbach are embracing this and trying to provide people with the ideas and the means to do so.”
The DIY store Hornbach (sort of a Fleet Farm or Lowe’s) in German, encouraged guerrilla civic hacking. An outside-the-box approach like this to civic hacking in NE Wisconsin would be fun to launch. A grassroots group of NE Wisconsin residents could develop a group of interesting and fun urban improvement projects to create in various cities throughout our region. We could pitch the proposal to Fleet Farm, Lowe’s, Ace Hardware or a similar organization, possibly with matching funds from one or several civic-minded corporations from the region, like Thrivent, Kimberly-Clark, the Packers, Schneider Truck, Associated Bank, etc, and maybe more seed funding from someone like the Community Foundation For The Fox Valley Region.

Click here, or on the embedded video below, to see (and listen to, if you understand Dutch) a Hornback DIY urbanism promo video showing guerrilla civic hackers using their skills and energy to make their neighborhoods interesting and more fun.

Click here for an English version of a Hornbach off-beat DIY video that isn’t strictly about DIY urbanism, but has an interesting approach that could be used to promote the above-proposed NE Wisconsin guerrilla urban hack.

If you’re not a coder (computer programmer) and want to be a civic hacker, maybe DIY urbanism is just the type of civic hack you can get passionate about…


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