This article on the Quayside project (by Shannon Mattern) takes a really interesting dive into the “rhetoric” of public engagement. The result is a great and long, reflective piece that opens up to a critical perspective of participatory planning practices at large, and that prompts questions about what it means to “participate” in civic design.
“Civic design tools such as participatory maps and community engagement apps help keep urban data and oversight powers in public hands. Yet those same tools can be co-opted by savvy tech developers who have mastered the techniques of discursive engineering. “Participation” is now deployed as part of a public performance wherein the aesthetics of collaboration signify democratic process, without always providing the real thing. A disingenuous use of maps, apps, and other tools of participatory planning — call it mapwashing — threatens to undermine the democratizing, even radical potential of civic design.”