Decentralizing Geographies of Political Action: Civic tech and Place-Based Municipalism

Syed Omer Husain, Alex Franklin, Dirk Roep

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This article introduces the concept of ‘place-based civic tech’ — citizen engagement technology co- designed by local government, civil society and global volunteers. It investigates to what extent creating such a digital space for autonomous self-organization allows for the emergence of a parallel, self-determining and more place-based geography of politics and political action. It finds that combining online tools with offline collaborative practices presents a unique opportunity for decentralization of power and decision-making in a manner which both politically motivates civil society and begins to update the infrastructure of democracy. The discussion is supported by a combination of primary and secondary data, with research methods including ethnographic and participatory observation techniques. Research data is drawn from a range of empirical sources, including an in-depth case study of the radical municipalist movement in Spain. The article concludes that there is a clear and compelling narrative of cities taking power back, in the form of a plural and globally networked movement. As such, this study contributes to both the theory and practice of civic tech, collective impact, municipalism and place-based urban politics while emphasizing the need for further research on experiments and movements currently existing below the academic radar.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Peer Production
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Bibliographical note

© 2018 by the authors, available under a CC-BY license


This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 674962


  • civic tech
  • decentralization
  • open source
  • place-based
  • democracy
  • political action
  • municipalism
  • radical
  • collaborative
  • participatory
  • Madrid

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