Real-time democracy. Imagining the city of permanent innovation

This paper focuses on the relationships between innovation and democracy at city level. Focusing on the case of San Francisco, it discusses a particular way of imagining the city in the terms of permanent innovation. In the city of permanent innovation, individual urban problems are to be solved by a permanent supply of technological solutions. Imagining the city in those terms has political implications, pertaining to the representation of social groups and public concerns on the one hand, to the public interventions deemed legitimate on the other hand. We contend that the democratic ordering at play in the city of permanent innovation is based on the permanent reconstruction of social identities, and on local experimental interventions. In San Francisco, these forms of urban action are controversial. Proponents of interest-based democratic politics and anti-eviction activists voice counter-propositions for the definition of urban democracy. By contrast, these counter-propositions help us characterize the political project of the city of permanent innovation, which we label real-time democracy.