Edgelands Institute

Studying questions of digital security is an exciting challenge - but how exactly do we go about it?

The Edgelands Institute uses a unique methodology that is for tackling a range of global issues.

‘Pop-Up’ Institute

Our methodology is fundamentally connected to our ‘pop-up’ nature.

The pop-up concept — as well as the energy it brings— is central to our work at Edgelands. We believe that incorporating the pop-up as a mode of engagement will break down the barriers of accessibility and diversity of experience that so often exist in traditional academic and policymaking circles. Furthermore, the excitement of pop-up events spreads awareness about the complex issues that we work on. We create spaces for Research, Art and Dialogues both on and offline that are collaborative and compelling.

Popping Down

After leading a lot of different projects over a period of several months, it is time for us to take a step back of those spaces;. As we leave, we reflect on all the lessons learned and carry them into our future city pop-ups. It is our hope that the seeds we have planted continue to grow, with the help of all the conversations we have sparked and awareness we have spread.

How does this look in practice?

Our first step is to select cities where we will conduct our research and projects. So far, we have been active in Medellín, Cúcuta, Geneva and Nairobi. How do we select the cities we study? Every city brings its unique contexts and approaches to security. We find it relevant to study cities that have different social contracts and attitudes towards digital security, so that our research can include an element of comparison. We also base our decision on varied factors, such as our existing knowledge of a place, the connections we have there, and how accessible it is.

What do we study?

Urban Social Contracts

The classical concept of the social contract originated from John Locke (1632­1704) from the late 17th century in the age of the Enlightenment. Social contract theorists’ central concern was to offer a theory and model about the origin and the legitimacy of the state’s authority over individuals that were separate from religious authority, to understand why individuals endorse and comply with social rules, principles, and institutions and what the terms of political association are and should be.

The concept of the social contract has faced important critiques for as long as it has existed. In more recent critiques, the notion of the social contract has been criticized for upholding power dynamics that have sustained various forms of exclusion and of gender and racial discrimination (see, for example, The Racial Contract by Charles W. Mills and Towards a Feminist Theory of the State, by Catherine McKinnon). After having been criticized and slightly abandoned in the XIX century, the 20th century saw a revival of social contract theory not only as a theory of power and state, but also as a normative one as many countries around the world transitioned to constitutional democracies.  Contemporary perspectives have treated the social contract as an analytical and descriptive tool to understand how individuals relate to each other and to the state - their mutual rights and obligations, for example - given existing formal and informal institutional arrangements.

At the Edgelands Institute we draw from the different iterations of the literature of the social contract to understand contemporary urban social contracts in a threefold way: first, as an analytical lens that allows us to understand and map explicit and implicit agreements and power arrangements between all relevant societal groups and the state; the cultural implications of the social contract in relating to the environment and community; and how people collectively discuss the uses of the streets and corners they live in. Aiming for discussions that improve predictability of future urban issues and, ultimately, enable people to live together, our mission is to redraw social contracts.

Our Approach

Programs and Projects

At the heart of our work at Edgelands, there are 3 building blocks - Research, Art & Dialogues. Our Research, Art and Dialogues components can each be declined into Programs, which we repeat and adapt in each city where we are based, what we refer to as Projects. This means that while a Program refers to a particular methodology (whether relating to Research, Art or Dialogues), a Project is an instance of a Program applied to a specific city.

edgelands blog

our newsletter

* indicates required