PARLA (PARticipatory LAboratory) project is meant to network localities and to bring in touch people in the proximity, by organizing events in neighborhood places that stimulate a participatory process. Geographic locations today are part of the hybrid (physical and digital) space, and thus local networking is understood as connecting through both means places, people, initiatives, practices and the like.
The purpose of the PARLA project is twofold. In the long term such deliberative participatory practices enable the formation of local networks, and initiate also social learning processes around neighborhood-relevant topics. At the same time, the project has a transdisciplinary research dimension that pertains to a phenomenological approach to hybrid (physical and digital) local networks, considering society and technology (artifact and attitude that makes it meaningful) as being each other's condition of possibility to be. Note that at NetHood DIY networking technology is considered being both artifact with its emerging relational context, and an attitude conferring sense to it during its lifetime. In community networks, this phenomenological take reveals the constitutive conditions that make local technologies relevant and refers to a know-how that is the result of embodied, improvisational, relationship-attuning practice.
The kick-off event of the PARLA project took place at EXIL, a local music club in Zurich's Kreis 5 neighborhood, through a roundtable and group discussion by the name ‘From polyphony to harmony’. Its date July 17, 2017, was chosen on the public meeting of the NeNa1 housing cooperative, which is the 17th of each month, in July falling on a Monday, when at EXIL is the ‘Montags’ jazz concert program with Nik Baertsch's bands. Nik was the event's host, who introduced to the audience the place, and the regular program ‘Montags’. Afterward his experience as a jazz musician and composer was joined in conversation by Andreas Wirz, an architect and project manager of large cooperative projects, together with Gerda Tobler’s accounts on self-harmony and dialogue, and those of writer Sabina Altermatt, linguistics researcher Robert Schikowski, and journalist Fred Frohofer. A diverse audience from the neighborhood, and from other parts of the city including members of the NeNa1 housing cooperative participated in the discussions, to explore the multiple possibilities of either creating, or not, harmonious outcomes of participatory processes that affirm group differences, and value diversity.
A main goal of this neighborhood event was to begin building shared understandings of what collaboration means in the diverse city, as well as to explore what roles the arts and the craftsmanship tradition may play in participatory practices. This ‘analogue’ event will have a follow-up in 2018, during which a MAZI zone will play the role of a mediator and catalyst of public engagement.