In our society, youngsters often do not have the space to participate in public policies despite being the present and, above all, the future of the city. This could be the result of a reduced and stereotypical understanding of everyday life and the reality of youth. There is also a tendency to deal with participation with young people just to probe opinions and not co-create solutions with them. In addition, the information and communication channels of participatory processes are not always adapted to this type of participants.
The COVID-19 pandemic has acted as a catalyst for questioning many aspects of our daily lives, and as a result, Coboi lab has organized a series of talks called ciutat[s] possible[s]. As part of this second session of this cycle, focusing on the roles that young people can play in the design of the city from the present, an ethnographic research of the youth of Sant Boi was facilitated.
What mental frameworks, forms of communication and cultural code allow us to better understand the reality of the youth?
Our challenge is to try to understand, empathize and connect with the daily realities of the young citizens of Sant Boi.
- How do they understand the city? How do they relate to public administration? How do you understand participation? What do they expect from the city and the institutions?
- How do they communicate in their daily lives? What are the best models and channels to communicate with them?
- How significant is physical and digital space for building relationships?
An ethnography is a qualitative social research method that explores cultural phenomena from the point of view of the subject of study. It does this by examining the behavior of the participants, in this case the young people, in a certain social situation and understanding the interpretation that the group of participants makes of this behavior. In this case, it was decided to do the ethnographic research through the mobile phone, due to time and budget limitations. This method allowed us to cover intensely a whole week in the lives of 10 participants by using a device that everyone already uses daily. During the week of the study, a conversation was facilitated on these topics through geolocation, images, text, voice messages, videos, and hyperlinks. Various provocations were sent throughout the day in the form of open questions, new perspectives and futures, which were answered by participants via text, voice, etc. In the evening a final reflection was guided to critically land what happened during the day and make its own meanings. In relation to the composition of the group, the aim was to ensure the highest level of ethnic, gender and class diversity. All participants are young people between the ages of 18 and 25 who belong to Generation Z: digital natives who can share their daily activities, thoughts and perceptions about the city via their smartphone. We undertook to treat the participants as experts and, as such, their contribution was rewarded. Finally, the research addressed the following urban issues:
- Services and infrastructures
- Resources and values
To summarize all the results of ethnography, one was created an interactive map, that is divided into different blocks:
- What does Sant Boi mean to me?
- What does Sant Boi offer me?
- Participating in the city
- Space of frustrations and desires
The map also includes different types of information, such as quotes transcribed directly from participants, titles that group and summarize topics, and images and videos that can be viewed by clicking on them.
>> Here you can consult the interactive map: By clicking on “see the board” and using the manual tool (space bar + click + drag), you can move around the map and start navigating the different layers of information.
- Remunerated contributions in participatory processes are still scarce, although they contribute to the depreciation of civic involvement.
- It is important to work with established networks of organized citizenship to ensure diverse participation
- Each participant must be informed in advance of their expected dedication, as well as the general logistics of the study.
As a qualitative and applied form of social research, ethnography does not seek to discover the truth but to discover more relevant frames, metaphors, and mental models for understanding realities. In this sense, the ambition of this study is not to serve as an anchor for decision-making, but to inspire new perspectives in policy making to be further explored in future experiments, prototypes. and interventions.
>> Final report