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.

Photo by Juan Sebastián Escobar at MATZA Edgelands Medellín. Artists in contact with experts at Bodega Comfama.

Our Work in Medellín

As an organization dedicated to examining the impact of digital technologies on the urban social contract, we were drawn to Medellín for its complex history and innovative future. 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  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 the  8-week research sprint “Te Estamos Grabando" (We are Recording You).During the 8 weeks, concluded on December 1st, the participants conducted their own group research in an independently chosen topic. They also created a shared  their hopes for a future urban social contract for Medellín.

Want to learn more about the research results? Read “Another Urban Social Contract is Possible: Learnings from Te Estamos Grabando,” our comprehensive program report.

Phase 3: Exploring Co-existence with MATZA Production (January - March 2022)

Can art uncover solutions to urban insecurity? We partnered with MATZA Production to develop "Common Grounds", an art residency of co-living and co-creation. For three weeks, artists representing Colombia, Geneva, and Kenya lived together and created 11 individual artworks on the theme of security, digital surveillance, technology, and urbanization.

Explore Common Grounds artworks here.

Phase 4: Using photography and data to explore surveillance technologies (March - April 2022)

How do we visualize something that is invisible, such as surveillance, security and coexistence? Among others, this challenge is what participants of our series of research workshops “Decoding Security, Surveillance, and Coexistence in Medellín” undertook through March and April in partnership with EAFIT University.

With the same question on how to “visualize the invisible,” we partnered with Magnum Photos and photographer Peter van Agtmael on a new series of events in Medellín. Peter visited Medellín and worked with Colombian photographers to visually document the digital technologies resulting changes in Medellín’s urban social contract.

Phase 5: Community Conversation (March - May 2022)

Over the last months we partneredwith local community organizations in the city to hold a series of conversations on technology, security and its intersection with Medellín’s society. We worked with Fundación Mi Sangre and Editores de Ciudad on a series of social labs called "We Are Recording You".

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