A City in Common


Phd Projects


Mara Balestrini
University College London

The goal of the PhD was to identify the factors that can guide the design and deployment of engaging, sustainable and impactful civic technology interventions, from the perspective of the communities that they intend to benefit. Three case studies were presented: an ethnographic study of an existing civic technology, and two design and evaluation studies of novel interventions. A set of themes was derived from the studies that highlight factors that are positively associated to engagement, sustainability and impact. Based on these themes and on experience from deploying interventions, a framework was developed and validated. It comprises six key phases: identification of matters of concern, framing, co-design of community technologies, deployment, orchestration, and evaluation.

In line with a new wave of civically engaged HCI and participatory methods, the framework puts people at the heart of socio-technical innovation and technology in the service of the common good by fostering the development of a commons: a pool of community managed resources. Using this approach, the thesis explores how researchers, entrepreneurs, artists, city councils and communities can collaborate to address community issues using digital technologies. It further suggests how citizens can be supported to develop skills that will allow them to appropriate and sustain the interventions.