Urenio Watch Watch: Digital Cities / Cyber Cities

Urban Computing

IEEE Computer Magazine - Sept. 2006Adam Greenfield’ s & Kevin Slavin’ s class on Urban Computing at New York University’ s Interactive Telecommunication Program investigates both the urban architectonic and the nature of metropolitan experience as they evolve under the condition of ambient informatics.

  • By urban architectonic they mean the city considered physically, as an object which possesses both structure and function;
  • By metropolitan experience they mean everything that makes big city life particular in its subjective, psychological, emotional and affective dimensions;
  • And by ambient informatics they mean an emergent, post-PC paradigm for computation, to be found anywhere distributed, networked information-processing resources are found. (This might mean platforms and interfaces as simple as mobile phone, as elaborate as Minority Report-style ubiquitous computing, or something still more advanced).

During the class Adam & Kevin will be building the city up from an array of primitives – physical patterns or archetypal situations (wall, window, door, house, street, crossroads, commons, station, market, park, playground, office, crowd and port) – asking what set of functions each has served over time, how people have used and understood them over the history of human settlement, and what happens to each of them when computation saturates the urban environment at every scale. They want to consider them both in isolation, and in their interaction; our intent is to privilege neither the virtual nor the actual, being much more interested in how these two conditions inform, interpenetrate and condition one another.

Adam Greenfield has also presented the material from his next book, “The City Is Here For You To Use,” at NYC’s Cooper Union on April 9.

Over the past few years the “computer’ has begun to disappear into the fabric of everyday life, its power to collect, store, process and represent information diffusing into the objects and surfaces around us. Things as ordinary and seemingly familiar as running shoes, elevators and lampposts have been reimagined as networked devices, invested with unexpected new abilities. Meanwhile, the phones we carry have become ever more powerful “remote controls for our lives.’

Proponents and enthusiasts argue that no domain of human behavior will be untouched by this transformation, but relatively little thought has been given to specifically how these changes might unfold at the scale of the city. How will the advent of a truly ubiquitous computing change our urban places – both the way they’ re built, and the way we live them? In this new talk, Everyware author Adam Greenfield tries to wrap his head around this dynamic set of conditions, to clarify what’ s at stake and to offer some potential frameworks for building humane and livable cities in the age of ambient informatics.