March 7, 2023

Geneva, Join us at the Open Innovation Festival!

Laura Garcia Vargas

Join us at the Open Innovation Festival to participate in “Dropping the Pin” and “Edgelands Maps,” and take part in the ongoing conversation about the digitalization of security and the way we live together as a society !

People walking and biking next to the Geneva lake

Photo: J.B.R

Between February and April 2022 we hosted a series of interviews and round tables where we asked different people in the city —members of government, academia, civil society, and regular citizens— How is the digitalization of security transforming the social contract of the city?‍ With this, Edgelands Geneva began.

To summarize the main trends that we heard on those interviews and round tables, we wrote the Diagnostic Report GENEVA: A CITY OF PARADOXES AND DUALITIES. Based on the findings of this report, since June 2022 we have been hosting various spaces where residents of Geneva can explore, think about, and discuss the benefits and risks of the use of digital technologies to provide security in Geneva, and the ongoing digitalization of our daily lives (see e.g., Participatory survey, Research Sprint, Audio-Walk).

During the 7th edition of the Open Innovation Festival, we will hold the next two spaces: "Dropping the Pin on Surveillance: Capturing Security Cameras in Geneva,” and a session of the Edgelands Maps workshop. In each of these we invite residents in Geneva to explore different aspects of the relation between security and digital technologies, and to contribute to the conversation about how this relation is changing the way we live together as a society.

Transparency and Technologies

One of the emergent findings from our work in Geneva so far is that accessing information of existent surveillance technologies, practices, and data is a complex task. For instance, we have found that there is no clear information about the number or location of cameras recording public spaces, specially those cameras that are owned by private security companies.

Complete lack of information is problematic because one of the basic requirements for meaningful conversations about how the digitalization of security affects our ability to live together is to know about the digital technologies in use, the data that is collected, by whom, and how it is used.

Having this in mind, “Dropping the Pin on Surveillance” aims to provide an entry point for a conversation around transparency and surveillance technologies in Geneva, and to start filling a gap on the lack of available information. For this, during ten days, we invite people living in Geneva to co-create a catalog of the location and pictures of security cameras in the city, and to reflect on the potential uses of this catalog in research, policy, and art. (Read more about this project here)

Perspectives on Security and Surveillance

A second emergent finding is that security is a topic that most people feel uncomfortable talking about, mostly because they do not feel qualified. Additionally, the conversations around using digital technologies to provide security are usually reserved to “experts circles”. However, the digitalization of security is a topic that concerns us all.

We spent our daily lives in public, private, and digital spaces. In each of these spaces there are different threats and risks that define contexts and situations where we feel (and are) more or less safe. For this reason, the answer to the question “what is (and what should be) the role of technologies in providing security in Geneva?” should include the voices of traditional experts and residents of the city alike.

Peoples’ views and perceptions are important because they can help us to better understand the positive and negative impacts that the use of technologies have on our ability to live together. For instance, for Geneva’s residents what indicates that a place is safe or not? Does the presence of technologies (e.g., cameras) have an influence on this answer? What is the relationship between security, coexistence, and surveillance? Is sharing one’s location with people via apps (e.g., WhatsApp) a safety or surveillance mechanism?

In this context, “Edgelands Maps” aims to provide a space for conversation, in which, based on their own experiences and perspectives, participants can identify spaces and situations of security and insecurity, and think about the potential role (or not) of digital technologies to improve their security. (Read more about this workshop, and the experience in other cities here)

Join us at the Open Innovation Festival to participate in “Dropping the Pin” and “Edgelands Maps,” and take part in the ongoing conversation about the digitalization of security and the way we live together as a society !