Attending to recent calls within the literature to draw on Community-Engaged Learning (CEL) in urban planning, the Technion-UCSD Project (TUP) is an innovative effort that aims to advance a reciprocal learning process of students, faculty and residents by an exchange of knowledge and insights from two cases located in two global high-tech centers: Jisr az-Zarqa (Israel) and Logan Heights (San Diego). Particularly, the project targets underserved communities’ accumulation of technological capital to overcome conceptual and geographical borders by drawing on what we term Technology-Oriented CEL (TOCEL). The TUP involves students, supervised by faculty, working in interdisciplinary teams on projects identified by residents and social entrepreneurs in Jisr az-Zarqa and Logan Heights. The teams work with instead of for the community, engaging local residents with students in action-teams that follow a circular model of co-planning – co-action – co-evaluation of planning processes and Human Computer Interaction for Development (HCI4D). However, the application of TOCEL in different urban settings brings about pressing issues: 1. How do we mitigate TOCEL in diverse urban settings, learning and planning cultures (i.e., different universities and communities)? Does one size fit all?; 2. How do we move towards placeless planning and design practices?; 3. Can the agenda of working with rather than for people be practiced in planning pedagogy and processes?; 4. Can local Technological Capital be advanced as a means for a change? By drawing on a continuing learning process which is shared among scholars, students, residents, stakeholders, and officials, the research probes into these issues and concerns as well as into future possibilities to deliver academia-community partnerships and collaborations. Additionally, it offers a new conceptual framework to rethink existing top-down agenda of urban planning apparatuses and integrating alternative approaches to planning into official schemes, plans, and processes.
Mor Shilon is a Visiting Scholar at the Department of Urban Studies and Planning, UC San Diego. She is a sociologist and an urban planner specializes in relational theories, inclusive planning, technology and innovation, and planning methodologies. Her research focuses on the affective experience of present-day cities, and on the methods to study this experience to derive inclusive planning research and practice.