Hybrid Space @ de Balie

Asphalt or Fibre Optics: on new technology and spatial planning.

A series of debates on spatial planning of the Netherlands.

The new information technology may well emerge as the biggest disruptor of national spatial planning in the coming years.

Within five years, the spatial effects of the internet as a socio-economic network will be felt in all their intensity.

Lecture & Discussion Asphalt or Fibre Optics @ de Balie, Amsterdam, 25 January 1999


A series of debates on the design of the Netherlands
The spatial history of a country, like that of a household, can be summarised in two gestures: bringing order and disrupting order. Those who furnish a house bring order. Whoever subsequently lives in it, reads and folds newspapers, eats and washes dishes, buys a chair, tears down a wall, disrupts and restores order in constant alternation.
Similarly, the spatial planning of our country is characterised by the dynamic of disrupting-establishing-disrupting order. These days, however, government attempts to establish and preserve spatial order seem more difficult, and the disruptions manifest themselves more powerfully than ever.

With the participation of, among others: Jaap van Till (Stratix Consulting Group and Delft University of Technology), Toon van der Hoorn (Advisory Service Traffic and Transport, Ministry of Transport and Public Works), Marcel Bullinga (Senior Advisor Digital Strategy Directorate Information Management Organisation, Ministry of VROM), Oetsge Atzema (Department of Spatial Economics, Utrecht University), Frans Vogelaar (Academy of Media Arts, Cologne)

Asphalt or Fibre Optics On new technology and spatial planning
The new information technology may well emerge as the biggest disruptor of national spatial planning in the coming years. Within five years, the spatial effects of the internet as a socio-economic network will be felt in all their intensity. Some things are already visible now: cities are proving to be a fertile knowledge network, incubators for start-ups developing applications for the new technology. Large companies are establishing facade-defining divisions in prestigious locations in the cities, moving support functions to low-cost locations (abroad). For the residential consumer, modern information technology seems to enhance the appeal of both rural and highly urban environments. How to deal with this highly dynamic technology? We talk about that with builders, planners, residents, technicians and the drafters of the Fifth Memorandum on Spatial Planning.

“Information and communication technology (ICT) fascinates. It is a story of unprecedented advances in technology, having a far-reaching impact on . society. ICT has made its entry into our daily living, working, and living environment over the past 30 years. Radio, CD, TV, PC, Internet, mobile phone, they are the icons of this century. At the same time, ICT is a very elusive phenomenon. Virtually none of the users are able to fathom how the equipment used works, and the creators of the technology are themselves unable to tell how the technology will evolve. In short: a high-dynamic unpredictable technology with far-reaching social consequences.”
From: ICT spatial planning: A source of turmoil, discussion paper commissioned by the RPD.

As with the advent of the steam engine, the automobile, the telephone and television, several myths have emerged about the impact of the latest information and communication technologies. For instance, the completion of the digital highway would finally solve the traffic jam problem. We could log in at home, be connected to a central network and, without moving, carry out orders from the boss or give instructions to subordinates. We could order virtually attractive groceries from our living rooms, which would then be delivered throughout the country in large delivery vans. This would reduce commuting and eliminate the need to actually go to furniture malls and department stores. The reality turns out to be different. “Rather, ICT will generate mobility growth because, thanks to ICT, time can be spent usefully, for example via mobile phone or by working with a laptop. Perhaps ICT can somewhat-somehow lead to rush-hour smoothing, especially through greater freedom of choice of travel time.

The overcapacity of the road network outside peak hours is very high and thus offers ample opportunities for very extensive mobility growth. In the most extreme case, two-hour traffic jams per day will be replaced by twenty-four-hour ‘just no traffic jams’ per day.”
From: ICT spatial planning: A source of turmoil, discussion paper on behalf of the RPD.

“Unfortunately, one inescapable law applies to technology: when the most revolutionary inventions become accessible to all, they cease to be accessible. Technology is potentially democratic because it promises the same services to everyone, but only functions if only the rich use it. When a train took two hours to get from A to B, the car appeared on the scene and you were there in an hour. That is why it was prohibitively expensive. But it did not yet become accessible to the masses or the roads were closed and the train was faster again. If you accept that you are not privileged, public transport gets you there before the privileged.” me on a journey with a salmon by Umberto Eco.

Schier eindeloze netwerken van glasvezelkabels onder de grond en permanent rondom onze planeet cirkelende satellieten bepalen in de toekomst het gebruik van de ruimte. Wij zijn niet langer gebonden aan landgrenzen en ook werelddelen vormen geen afgesloten eenheden meer. Het woord globalisering is niet meer weg te denken uit het hedendaags vocabulaire.

“De toegenomen snelheid van wereldwijde informatienetwerken en transportsystemen (digitale netwerken, luchttransport) creëert een onderscheid tussen ruimtes die lokaal zijn en ruimtes die globaal zijn.
We ervaren vandaag niet alleen een privatisering maar ook een atomisering van elektronische media op lokale schaal, met bijvoorbeeld de vermenigvuldiging van lokale tv-kanalen of radiostations. Aan de andere kant vermengen globale en lokale ruimtelijke hiërarchieën zich in stedelijke agglomeraties. Sommige stedelijke fragmenten (bank- en beurswijken, omgeving van luchthavens etc.) krijgen kwaliteiten van mondiale prestaties en kunnen worden gezien als onderdeel van de stedelijke conditie.”
Elizabeth Sikiaridi & Frans Vogelaar: Soft Urbanism Public Media Urban Interfaces, in LAB, Jahrbuch der KHM.

In world cities such as Los Angeles, New York and Tokyo, one work tower after another is rising, brimming with modern techno-logy. High-rise buildings are also springing up on the edges of Amsterdam, housing companies for telecommunications and high-end information technologies.

“ICT allows knowledge acquisition, marketing and management to be physically separated from production units. This is contrary to the development until the early 1990s, where many companies felt compelled to move their entire organisation with them due to the scaling-up of their production processes. In the early 1960s and 1970s, for instance, newspapers moved their editorial offices along with the printing presses to the outskirts of cities. The recent move of Philips’ headquarters to a metropolitan Amsterdam location shows the counter-movement. An underestimated location factor for the knowledge-intensive and strategic parts of companies is the importance of fertile net-works. Innovation often arises in places where knowledge domains overlap, where knowledge can be exchanged smoothly in networks. Dense urban environments are therefore an attractive location for knowledge-intensive parts of companies due to their great diversity of networks.”
From: ICT spatial planning: A source of turmoil, discussion paper commissioned by the RPD.

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