A City for All! An Inquiry into the Technical Democratisations of Inclusive Urbanism (book project)

Source: CC BY Ajuntament de Barcelona (May 1996)

Draft version: December 2018

My plan for next year is to search for a publisher and find a way to start writing a book monograph, tentatively called:

A City for All! An Inquiry into the Technical Democratisations of Inclusive Urbanism.

I have created a very drafty table of contents for this, trying to order some of the materials (in a wide variety of states: published, publicly presented or just discussed) I have been working on in the last 6 years.

Any recommendations, tips, suggestions, criticism–constructive or harsh–, and proposals on how to do this more than welcome…

  1. Which press might be the most suitable and for what reasons?
  2. How to deal with issues of joint translation in the process–as most of the people I have been working with speak Spanish or Catalan–, or even whether it might make more sense to write it first in one language or another, or to work simultaneously? Any experience of that you might want to share?
  3. An important element for me would be that the book is open access, and I am also searching for funding not only to have time to write it, but also to make this happen, any ideas or tips?
  4. Do you have any references or good book outlines–preferably also open access–sent to English-speaking publishers that you might want to share?

Tentative description

Drawing on ethnographic and archival materials of independent-living or disability rights movements, together with accessibility struggles taking place since the 1980s in the city of Barcelona, this book is an inquiry into a wealth of activist initiatives––both intra-and extra-institutional–whereby ‘inclusive urbanism’ became a design and political project of technical democratisation: in particular, drawing on Anthropology and STS works on infrastructures and processes of techno-scientific democratisation, I describe how in their aspirations to build ‘a city for all’, these multiple initiatives have entailed the creation of a wide array of singular urban situations–made out of policy documents and building codes, infrastructures and standards, collaborative design processes and prototypes, and manifold sensitising devices and documentation interfaces–transforming technocratic forms of urban planning from the appreciation and articulation of bodily diversity. But rather than a mere procedural take to citizen participation–searching to include a particular group engaging in identity politics and a struggle for their rights through particular public infrastructures or equipments–, I would like to describe these situations as opening up an experimentation with the meanings of technical democracy. One that entails the generation of urban topologies of ‘mutual inclusion’, whereby the social and material affordances to understand and host unknown bodily diversities are devised and tested. Indeed, by remaining constantly open to such never-ending supplementary dimension of the bodily diverse demos a more specific and concrete meaning to what technical democracy is and should be about becomes apparent: a permanent project of building situations to remain attentive to the many contours of bodily diversity, thus enabling the enactment of redistributions of the sensible to experiment with alternative forms of togetherness.

Tentative table of contents / chapter outline


A series of ethnographic/historical vignettes making the aim of the book vivid and explicit, also showing what will come next

Introduction: A City for All!

  1. Technical Democracy and the City
    1. The city and democracy
      1. The polis and the demos: A history of the city from its bodily otherness
      2. A genealogy of ‘public space’ as an issue of urban democracy
    2. Democratising city-making
      1. Technical democracy as an urban phenomenon
      2. An urban focus in technical democracy
  2. A City for All: An anthropology of inclusive urbanism in Barcelona
    1. An ethnographic tale of the transformation of urban infrastructures and/as their democratisation
    2. Una ciutat per a tothom!
      1. Barcelona as a hyperbolic urban democracy forum
      2. The neoliberal modernisation of Spain, or how Welfare happened through infrastructural sublimation 
      3. Inclusive urbanism as a missing link of the Barcelona model
  3. The many versions of the ‘all’: Outline of the chapters of the book

Infrastructure as ‘the people’

  1. Sidewalking democracy in an infrastructural style
  2.  The Barcelona model of ‘urban accessibility’? A relational approach to accessible sidewalk standards
    1. Reclaiming modernism: Urban infrastructures before and after Franco
      1. The long tail of Cerdà’s urbanisation 
      2. Barraquisme, the predominance of cars, and the social-democratic dream of ‘good’ public space infrastructures
    2. Towards systematic, legible, and reproducible public spaces
      1. Oriol Bohigas and his ‘golden pencils’ remake Barcelona
      2. Conceiving a system of urban elements
    3. An accessible ‘urban element’: Building the Gual 120
      1. Standardising emplacement and repair
      2. Noble materials
      3. Accommodating ‘different bodies’
      4. Including weather patterns into the mix
      5. The Gual 120 in a system of ‘urban elements’ 
    4. The 1995 Catalan Code of accessibility: Standardising Barcelona, and the Gual120-ification of Catalonia 
    5. A city hall under transformation, and a rising milieu of outsourced accessibility experts
      1. The catalogue of urban elements as a market regulator
      2. Accessibility in a world of prizes, normalisation, and city branding 
  3. Alternative configurations of ‘the people’: A clash of accessibility regulations between Spain and Catalonia in the midst of a ‘shared streets’ controversy
    1. A changing context: The state-wide 2010 Orden VIV and its synthetic-aggregating principle
      1. A podotactile clash from 2011
      2. The making of the 2014 Catalan accessibility law
    2. The Carrers per a tothom (streets for all) platform: or the predicaments of direct participation in a ‘technical’ environment
  4. Infrastructure as ‘the people’, or the perils of ‘social-technocracy’?
    1. Barcelona’s infrastructural sublime and the ergonomics of democracy
    2. Inclusive exclusion and the paradoxical production of outsiders
      1. Who’s accessibility is this? Codes and standards as regimes of imperceptibility
      2. The problems of an infrastructured demos, or why there will always be urban revolts…


  1. Disability rights advocacy and political representation
  2. Give us an institute and we will raise an accessible Barcelona
    1. From la rebelión de los cojos (cripple’s revolt) to the creation of the Municipal Institute of People with Disabilities (IMPD)
    2. Inclusive policy-making, or accessibility as…
      1. Comparative policy analysis  
      2. Public infrastructure
      3. Intra-/Extra-statecraft
  3. The IMPD’s participatory governance: A genealogy of Barcelona’s approaches to ‘accessibility’
    1. A politics of representation around types of ‘impairment’
    2. Different versions of ‘accessibility’: From ‘barrier-free’ to ‘a city for all’ 
    3. The Transportation and Urbanism Participatory Commissions (1996-2010)
      1. Reassembling street design, public transportation, and citizens’ sensibilities
      2. Experience as evidence: Self-reporting and supervising the work of technicians
    4. In a state of participatory unrest
      1. ‘Too much friction’ and the model’s challenge
      2. Individual spokespeople or organised civil society?
    5. Project supervision: How micro-actors macro-structure a huge and non-coherent city hall
      1. Policing ‘accessible’ public spaces: Of squares, sidewalks, beaches, playgrounds…
      2. The many quandaries of ‘reasonable adjustments’: From the ‘right to the city’ to the ‘right’ politics of materials
  4. The sensitising devices of intra–statecraft
    1. A non-coherent social-architectural complex: Sensitising a huge city hall, corporations and citizens
    2. The importance of ‘sensitised’ administrators in a state of infrastructural sublime

Interlude I – A decentred genealogy of ‘the social’

Prototypes for ‘joint problem-making’

  1. Democratising inclusive design practice before and after the 2008 crisis
  2. Bodily diversity in a DIY ecology of diseño libre (free design)
    1. The ‘indignados’ and their obsession with free/open design
      1. Taking the squares, liberating their source-code
      2. Functional diversity commissions
      3. MedialabPrado and the Funcionamientos workstation
      4. Going beyond ‘the catalogue’? Low-cost care arrangements
        1. The independent-living movement in Berkeley
        2. PROJIMO in Mexico
        3. Bajo Coste in Spain and Latin America
  3. En torno a la silla I: Cacharrear (tinkering) with technical aids
    1. Encuentros (joints, connections, meetings), makeshift materials and spatial connections
    2. La rampa no es la solución: Experimenting with care arrangements at the inclined plane of a ramp
    3. An armrest-briefcase: Allowing other social and material relations
    4. Primavera cacharrera (Tinkering Spring), Cacharratón (Tinkerthon), and the Red Cacharrera (Tinkering Network)
  4. Joint problem-making
    1. ‘Sensitised’ professionals and ‘technified activists’ rethinking urban supports
    2. Fragile prototypes to trouble market-centric inclusive design

‘How-to’ accessibility politics

  1. Beyond Inclusion
    1. Is ‘inclusive design’ the solution?
    2. Experimenting with other social and material modes of being together
  2. Diverse non-normative alliances: Atmospheres of collective self-experimentation
    1. The independent living forum: ‘Functional diversity’ and ‘diversocracy’
    2. A feminist and intersectional debate around ‘care’ and ‘personal assistance’
    3. Queer-crip frictional alliances
    4. A DIY turn in accessibility politics in and after the indignados
  3. En torno a la silla II: A relation around the ‘how-to’
    1. Tecnologías de la amistad (Technologies of friendship)
    2. Circulating experience 
      1. A-saltos (assaults, jumpy-walking), an interventionist stance
      2. Cualquier sistema (Any System)
      3. La suma de nuestras suertes (Adding up our fates), a particular approach to co-design in the design of a removable table
      4. Mundo-valla, and other interstitial aspirations 
  4. ‘How-to’ relations: Exploring a DIY ecology of support
    1. ‘How-to’ ecologies and their documentation interfaces
      1. Particular epistemic and political ecologies obsessed with ‘how to do’ things and relations, but also 
      2. that document and relate their ways of doing with others in a wide variety of genres, for others to engage with them (activists, technologists, and public administrators) so as to put social and material vulnerabilities in common
    2. A ‘how-to’ accessibility politics: Technologies of friendship and a project for ‘mutual inclusion’

Interlude II  – ‘The social’ otherwise?

Conclusion: The technical democratisations of inclusive urbanism

  1. Inclusive urbanism as a project of technical democratisation
  2. Technical democratisation through sensitising devices and documentation interfaces
    1. Becoming sensitive to sensitising agendas: Activating bodily diversity and the urban affordances to host it
    2. Urban situations for the joint appreciation of bodily diversity in institutional-infrastructural and activist-prototypical modes
      1. Making oneself known: Auto-documenting one’s bodily experience from in/accessibility maps to reports
      2. Knowing once and for all: Standardising and enforcing a legal/institutional common ground
      3. Making others knowable: Cultivating the designer’s body through simulation gadgets, ongoing trials, and tests
      4. Knowing each other: Inventing interstitial topologies for mutual encounters
    3. Readdressing urban democracy from the appreciation of bodily diversity
      1. Reassembling ‘pedestrians’ and ‘public spaces’
      2. Experimenting with togetherness: From spaces of mutual indifference to a topology of supports and accompaniments
  3. The ‘all’ always to come: A Rancièrian coda
    1. The method of equality: Vindicating the city-making capabilities of ‘the anyone’ 
    2. Beyond identity politics as inclusion: Paying attention to the redistributions of the sensible of ‘the part of those that have no part’
    3. Embracing the unknown: Creating situations for the appreciation of the supplementary dimension of a bodily diverse demos