Newsletter February 2020

With ubiquitous digitalization of cities, different social and urban approaches provide alternative inputs, opening up room for the possibility for shaping urban-tech.

At its core, it is a question of what factors contribute to the quality of the urban environment, and how do these factors interact, and how to think inclusively. It is urgent to factor in for the socio-urban dimensions involved in urban technology concepts.

The coming together of the Urban Age, with the majority of the world population living in cities, and of the Digital Era with Information-Communication Technology (ICT) is transforming our cities. This is accompanied by new urban models and concepts for the digitally networked city. How we currently frame the increasing pervasiveness of urban-tech has repercussions on our future habitats. It also influences our understanding of our urban history with the related social and urban concepts.

What are the social models and city concepts shaping urban technology?

On the one hand, an approach borrowed from information technology aims at increased optimization and efficiency of urban functions. Such an approach facilitates the collection of data from real-life, the datification of urban phenomena. On the other hand, the approach inspired by communication technology allows for greater complexity, nuancing the efficiency-oriented, optimally networked urban landscape by enhancing citizens’ possibilities of participation, hosting negotiation processes and the formation of intelligent collectives.

Contemporary cities face numerous challenges, spanning from urban management at large, to sustainability, to security and control, and approaches focusing on optimization offer a solid contribution to supporting urban resilience. Nevertheless, it is worth bearing in mind that qualities of urbanity are underpinned by urban functional, social and cultural richness and complexity. Furthermore, it is important to ask who benefits from such optimization processes and who is left behind.

Both aforementioned approaches stand in a continuity of past urban models, with historical concepts focusing on functional optimization and, on the other hand, with approaches to the urban that entail an understanding of society as organically communicated and mediated, negotiated and co-created.

Analogously, some social concepts have given functionalist interpretations of society, other social theory approaches focus on conflict perspectives of society, and again, other micro-level of sociological analysis with symbolic interactionist perspectives suggest that the behavior of individuals is shaped and codified by constructed and shared meanings and definitions maintained through interactions with others.

The relationship between ideas and concepts from the past and urban futures remains to be co-created and collectively processed, with trans-disciplinary and cross-contextual inputs from active citizens, social and political sciences researchers, planners, designers and architects elaborating urban and technological visions.

To address these issues, on 20th February 2020, Hybrid Space Lab  is curating Visions for the Networked City as part of City Making Lab, a program focusing on digitalization and the city. The evening features short lectures and invites participants to join in the conversation. The program’s language is German.

What is the social and urban history of city technologies and infrastructures?

What is not addressed by these urban-tech solutions and who is left behind?

Would human-centered approaches to urban technology promote practices for the self-determination and empowerment of Smart Citizens?

Visions, Concepts and Narratives for the Networked City