Medellín, a city of complex contradictions, is our first pop-up location. Once given the moniker the "world's most dangerous city," Medellín has a fraught relationship with security, safety, and crime that disproportionately affects its youth. On the other hand it's a city of dazzling urban innovation, which has been recognized internationally for its innovation and use of creative urbanist interventions to further economic opportunity and accessibility. Medellín is often looked to as a global success story not solely because of how it managed to dramatically lower its crime rate over the course of a couple decades, but also because it used innovative technologies to do so. Most famously, the building of the gondola system MetroCable, which offers the poorest neighborhoods in the city easy access to downtown, is an example of how dedicated access to opportunity zones can lessen crime and improve quality of life in low-income areas.
Our Work in Medellín:
Medellín has made great strides to address insecurity in the city through the use of surveillance technologies. Perhaps most famous is the city's complex network of over 3000 security cameras, to which it credits a dramatic drop in crime over the past few years. As an organization dedicated to examining the impact of digital technologies on the urban social contract, we were drawn to Medellín for this very reason. We wondered: had there been an open conversation about striking the complex balance between civil liberties and public security? And how are these practices of surveillance changing the city’s social contract, particularly for young people? Spurred by these questions and the city’s reputation as a hub for innovation, the Edgelands Institute selected Medellín as its first pop-up research location in a global series. Our work in Medellín has followed our Edgelands Methodology, a step-by-step process of rigorous research that informs our pop-up engagement model in each chosen city.
Phase 1, Preparation (May - August 2021)
To prepare for our planned pop-up activities in Medellín, we started our analysis of the city’s security and surveillance policies and the status of the city’s social contract by conducting background research over the course of several months. We divided our research into two segments, with the first being a comprehensive literature review of the security landscape in the city and the second being interviews with 30 key informants from a diverse set of backgrounds. You can read the full diagnostic report here.
Phase 2, Research Sprint (October - December 2021)
The research described above gave us the crucial jumping off point that we needed to launch our hybrid research sprint in October of 2021. In partnership with EAFIT University’s Center for Political Analysis, we launched “Te Estamos Grabando (We are Recording You)” an 8-week research sprint. The purpose of this sprint was to give young people the opportunity to learn how the (in)security of the city, digital surveillance and power structures affect them, as well as prepare them to conduct their own project on security and surveillance in Medellín. Each week, our 50 participants (half online and half in person) met with national and international experts in tech and security policy and then spent time working with research mentors. Read this interview with staff members Laura and Santiago, who led the design and implementation of Te Estamos Grabando, to get a more in-depth sense of the structure of the research sprint.
During the 8-week sprint, which concluded on December 1, participants conducted their own group research on an independently chosen topic. They also created a shared manifesto that declared their hopes for a future urban social contract for Medellín. We'll be releasing a report of the outcomes of the Sprint— check back soon!
Phase 3, Art & Data to Build a Collaborative Social Contract
2022 brings new modes of engagement and collaboration in Medellín. We’re overjoyed to be partnering with MATZA, a Swiss art lab that takes up residencies in different cities to artistically address current social and environmental issues. Starting at the end of January 2022, MATZA will begin their work in Medellín alongside 10 other artists. Read more about the MATZA x Edgelands project here.
Continuing in the same vein as the research sprint, we have a series of data workshops planned for early 2022 as well. We’ll keep you posted as more information becomes available.