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Representational Politics in Virtual Urban Places

Abstract

EDEN, a famous garden, is also an acronym for the Electronic Democracy European Network (EDEN) a project involving a consortium of public administrations (local authorities), academic institutions and technology companies. The 30 month project aims to improve communication between the administrations and citizens in decision-making processes to do with urban planning, and at time of writing is in the transition from 'requirements development' to 'functional specification' of a software toolkit. The EDEN project is concerned, amongst other things, with the mobility of messages to and from urban planning officers in PA's. Mobility, that is, from people 'outside' a city administrations to people 'inside' it via a website, a virtual place from where messages are to be routed to a correct destination. The planning of virtual urban places is a new concern for both urban planners and systems designers working to implement 'information society' initiatives. These two occupations and research fields share similar methodologies, models and artifacts used to intervene in the practices of their clients. This paper describes how the practices through which planning is made political have been represented in the 'requirements analysis' of the EDEN toolkit. The politics of the project do not just lie in its objective, the re-configuring of 'virtual' political geographies in parallel with the 'real'. The distinctions made between virtual and real politics are themselves political. Setting aside any essential differences between the two, we will look instead at the changes to practice that EDEN proposes to make and point out some of the politics of representation and representations that entails.