Processing the unplannable



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ISSUEPAPER
THE USE OF SPACE IN THE INFORMATION/COMMUNICATION AGE –

PROCESSING THE UNPLANNABLE

march 2000
INFODROME


Elizabeth Sikiaridi
and
Frans Vogelaar

Written for us in the Workshop Ruimtegebruik

which was held on 11 april 2000 in Amsterdam


ISSUEPAPER
THE USE OF SPACE IN THE INFORMATION/COMMUNICATION AGE –

PROCESSING THE UNPLANNABLE

march 2000
INFODROME


Elizabeth Sikiaridi

(Professor Dipl.-Ing. architect, Universität GH Essen)
and
Frans Vogelaar

(Professor for Hybrid Space/Medialer Raum, Kunsthochschule für Medien Köln)


PREFACE
This paper presents an introduction to the questions raised by the developments in information/communication technology (ICT) and their interaction with the urban. It also addresses the challenges of urban/regional planning in the early stages of the information/communication age. This issuepaper is intended to be a basis for a workshop within the framework presented by Infodrome, dealing with the theme of the "use of space in the information/communication age".
The paper is based on our long-term research and work in the development of a new field of planning and design that combines urbanism and architecture with information/communication networks and media spaces ("Soft Urbanism", "Networked Architecture").
With this contribution we seek to raise relevant questions and trigger off and support a constructive discussion in the working sessions of Infodrome.
K.W.H. van Beek

Director Infodrome



CONTENTS:

SUMMARY …………………………………………………………………………. 6

1. PROLOGUE ………………………………………………………………… 7
1.1 The Interaction of Urban and Information/Communication Networks …….. 7

1.2 The Intermingling of the Analog and the Digital …………………………... 7

1.3 "Hybrid" (Combined Analog/Digital) Spaces ……………………………… 7

1.4 The 'Media Model' ………………………………………………………….. 8



    1. Historical Examples of the Interaction between the "Space of Flows"

and the "Space of Places" …………………………………………………… 8

2. TRANSFORMATIONS OF THE URBAN ………………………………… 8


2.1 Global Cities …………………………………………………… ………….. 8

2.2 Nodes / Network City ………………………………………………………. 9

2.3 Transformations of Suburbia ……………………………………………….. 9

2.4 Electronic Cottage / Televillages …………………………………………… 9

2.5 Smart Cities …………………………………………………………………. 10

2.6 The City of Events …………………………………………………………... 10

2.7 Dual City …………………………………………………………………….. 10

2.8 The Importance of Location ………………………………………………… 11

2.9 Planning and building the Network City ……………………………………. 11

2.9.1 The Dynamics of the Network City …………………………………………. 11

2.9.2 Planning Constant Change …………………………………………………... 11

2.9.3 Flexibility and Quality in Building ………………………………………….. 11

3. @ HOME …………………………………………………………………….. 12
3.1 The Networked House ……………………………………………………….. 12

3.2 New Housing Types ………………………………………………………….. 12

3.3 New Facilities Connected to the House ……………………………………… 12

3.4 More Space for Living ……………………………………………………….. 12

3.5 @ Home on my Portable PDA ……………………………………………….. 12

3.6 'High-speed' Living for Modern Nomads …………………………………….. 13

3.7 Spreading Roots ………………………………………………………………. 13

3.8 The Revitalisation of the Neighbourhood ……………………………………. 13

3.9 Quality as an Important Factor in the Choice of Place of Residence ………… 13

4. PUBLIC SPACE TODAY ……………………………………………………. 13


4.1 Privatisation of Media and Urban Space ……………………………………... 13

4.2 Segregation in Media and in Urban Space …………………………………… 14

4.3 Loss of Function of Urban Public Space ……………………………………... 14

4.4 The Market is the Driving Force for ICT ……………………………………… 14

4.5 The Need for Publicly Driven Media Spaces …………………………………. 14

4.6 The Need for Public "Hybrid" Spaces ………………………………………… 14

5. CATEGORIES TO PROCESS THE URBAN ………………………………. 15
5.1 Urban Idensities™ …………………………………………………………… 15

5.2 Idensities™ of the Urbanite …………………………………………………. 16


6. STRATEGIES ……………………………………………………………….. 16
6.1 Planning from Prognosis to the Processing of Change ……………………… 16

6.1.1 The Limitations of Prognosis ………………………………………………... 16

6.1.2 Supporting Change and Processing the Unplannable ……………………….. 16

6.1.3 Developing Visions of our Environment ……………………………………. 17

6.2 Planning between Laissez-faire and Control ………………………………… 17

6.3 Providing Infrastructures …………………………………………………….. 17

6.4 The Infrastructural Paradigm in Urban/Regional Planning ………………….. 17

6.5 "Bottom-up" Strategies as Strategies for Defending Plurality ………………. 17

6.6 "Quality Control" ……………………………………………………………. 18

6.7 Enhancing Identities …………………………………………………………. 18

6.8 Image Policies ……………………………………………………………….. 18

6.9 The "Hybrid" (Media and Urban) Economy of Events ……………………… 18





  1. ICT/MEDIA AND THE TRANSFORMATIONS OF URBAN/

REGIONAL PLANNING …………………………………………………… 18
7.1 Processing Information ……………………………………………………… 18

7.2 Computing the Unpredictable? ……………………………………………… 19

7.3 Visualising Complex Data …………………………………………………... 19

7.4 Making Information Accessible ……………………………………………… 19

7.5 Exteriorising the Planning Process …………………………………………... 19

7.6 Providing Communication Spaces and Involving the Public ………………… 20

7.7 Supporting a Public Event Industry ………………………………………….. 20

7.8 Generating Public "Hybrid" Spaces …………………………………………. 20

7.9 Public Media Interfaces for Urban Planning ………………………………… 20

7.10 Urban/Regional Planning and the Politics of the Future …………………….. 21

8. CONCLUSION ……………………………………………………………….. 22
Hypoteses ……………………………………………………………………………… 23
Brief reading list ………………………………………………………………………. 24

SUMMARY

This issuepaper is introduced by a short sketch of the trends in contemporary urban growth. ICT supports the transformations of the urban today into a network structure ("network city"). Within this so-called "network city" we can observe both parallel contradictory tendencies of concentration and deconcentration of urban functions.


With the expansion of the freedom of choice of location, enabled by ICT, the significance of location for individuals and enterprises does not disappear but is increased. Quality and identity of a place as well as density of connections (transport and communication infrastructure) are very important assets for the attractivity of locations.
Information/communication networks and media spaces absorb functions from the urban organism (teleshopping, teleworking, television, etc.). Still, the urban does not dissolve; the city will not disappear. "Real" space will change in character, its very specific qualities as an environment for direct physical encounter and experience, as a generator of (intuitive) trust needed for social cohesion, becoming more pronounced.
More interesting than the competition between the urban as such and the information/communication networks are their combinations: the whole new series of so-called "hybrid" (combined analog-digital, combined urban and media) networks and spaces emerging, ranging from the networked house to the "hybrid" (media and urban) spaces of the event economy.
The developments in ICT are mainly driven by market forces. To counterbalance the privatisation of spaces of social interaction, urban/regional planning, with its tradition of public concern, should work on the development of public "hybrid" ("real" and media) networks and spaces.
Within these new landscapes of "hybrid" ("real" and media) networks, traditional categories for analysing the urban are becoming obsolete. A new field of planning and design that combines urbanism and architecture with information/communication networks and media spaces is emerging. New categories for researching and developing the new "hybrid" network city have to be formulated. 'Idensity™' is proposed in this context as such a new approach to the contemporary "hybrid" network city.
New strategies and instruments to process the ongoing transformations of today's network city, to process the unplannable, have to be developed. ICT offers a broad range of tools not only for processing but also for communicating planning issues. The emergence of these information/communication spaces for planning issues will strongly affect the planning process by enabling and supporting public involvement. Planning will be exteriorised; citizens and (urban) interest groups will have a stronger influence on the decision process.
Public media event spaces and public "hybrid" (media and urban) interfaces are proposed as an infrastructure for urban/regional planning, for developing communal visions of our worlds. These communication spaces for urban issues could develop into very important forums for the mediatised, regionalised and globalised politics of the future.

1. PROLOGUE
1.1 The Interaction of Urban and Information/Communication Networks
The emerging space of digital information/communication flows is modifying traditional analog urban networks. These "virtual" spaces (Internet, telephone, television) are influencing and interacting with "real" urban places. This interaction process between information/communication networks and the urban environments is a complex and dynamic one.
By negating distance, information/communication technology is reducing the importance of spatial proximity for the location of functions. At the same time, the "spaces of flows" of information/communication networks are attracted to existing urban structures, supporting given centralities and enhancing urban differentiations.

The spaces of information/communication networks are absorbing functions (for example, teleworking, teleshopping) and power (for example, economic transactions, politics) away from urban organisms. However, the relation between the urban realm and ICT networks is not just one of simple competition.


The anticipation (and fear) of the replacement of urban organisms by the "soft" cities of tomorrow is proving to be too simplistic. ICT will not absorb all the functions of urban organisms by withdrawing them from the urban and transferring them to telecommunication networks. The city will not disappear, but it will change in character, in that its very specific qualities as an environment for direct physical encounter and experience, as a generator of (intuitive) trust needed for social cohesion, will become more pronounced.

1.2 The Intermingling of the Analog and the Digital
Interesting as it is to consider urban/architectural space and the space of information/communications networks as competing, even mutually exclusive frameworks of social interaction, it will be more fruitful to recognise the emerging fusions of analog space and digital networks.
We are increasingly dealing today with these fuzzy mixes of the analog and the digital, as for instance with miniaturised digital communication devices integrated in wearables as watches or safety coats. "Intelligent" home devices such as refrigerators networked via your personal portable information/communication system ("personal digital assistant" or PDA) will in the near future tell you that you haven't any milk left and, if you don't want to teleshop, your car will guide you to the next shop where you can buy milk. Networked wall-paper and doors, as integral elements of the system of the "smart" house, will recognise the owner of the house and process the patterns of his habits. "Intelligent", networked materials and objects will be everywhere.

1.3 "Hybrid" (Combined Analog/Digital) Spaces
But one does not have to go into science fiction (for example, into the quite probable future merging of three scientific fields that are developing at the moment at a very high speed - biotechnology, nanotechnology and information technology - and the then expected exploding possibilities for "intelligent", networked materials). Already we can find fusions of analog and digital space, the so-called "hybrid" networked spaces all around us: on the trading floor of the stock exchange, in our living rooms with the television set or in the (dance) clubs with their disc-jockeys and video-jockeys. These "hybrid" environments, these products of the alliances of "real" space and media networks are ambivalent spaces that are at the same time analog and digital, virtual and material, local and global, tactile and abstract.

1.4 The 'Media Model'
Information/communication networks should here be considered in their whole breadth of range. Today's Internet and World Wide Web are just early forms of digital communication spaces. Enabled by digitalisation, we are experiencing today, a convergence of different media (television, radio, telephone, Internet, Global Positioning Systems).
Network providers (AOL) are fusing with content providers (Time Warner: media / EMI: music). Music or videos can today be produced on your PC and their world-wide distribution is just a matter of a couple of mouse clicks. We will thus experience in the near future a whole new range of (one-to-many and one-to-one) mass media. This acceleration and proliferation of media is part of the general trend of the transition from a textual towards a more visual culture.
In this text, the term "information/communication technology" (ICT) will be used for describing the enabling technology, whereas the term "media" will refer to the communication spaces that are supported by this technology.


1.5 Historical Examples of the Interaction between the "Space of Flows" and the "Space of Places"
An interesting historical example of the complex interaction between information/communication networks and the city is supplied by the development of the telephone system and its influence on the process of urban growth. When it was introduced, the telephone helped dissolve the traditional specialised monofunctional trade districts like the fish market or the goldsmith's street and enabled the formation of multifunctional, lively "urbanity". Later, with a higher level of penetration, together with other communication and transportation systems (television, car), the telephone supported suburbanisation, the separation and the spreading of functions in the suburbs.
Information/communication networks not only support and drive the transformations of urban environments. Information/communication networks are attracted and adapted to existing urban structures. For example, the now disappearing public telephone booth would be positioned at a strategic crossing of streets. This choice of location for the public telephone booth would strengthen existing centralities of the city.
Today's emerging information/communication systems with their growing degree of penetration are supporting the development of urban organisms towards a more heterarchical network structure. Yet these information/communication networks are corresponding to the given logic of urban structures. Information/communication networks are attracted to traditional urban structures and are thus enhancing to some extent existing centralities.

2. TRANSFORMATIONS OF THE URBAN
2.1 Global Cities
At the moment, we can observe a concentration of power and skill in a few central nodes, the "global cities" as major international financial and business centres: New York, London, Tokyo, Frankfurt, Zurich, Amsterdam etc..
These cities offer the advantage of a high density of direct communication: face-to-face contact supports informal exchange and the generation of trust needed for high-level managerial functions. As centres for international corporations, they occupy a dominant position in the public imagination, thus obtaining a symbolic centrality, strengthening their identity as "global players".
These cities, or certain parts of these cities, are becoming nodes within the global space of (capital) flows, thus gaining in influence, while other, sometimes neighbouring locations loose in relevance. These "global cities", or parts of them, are linked on a global scale more closely to each other than to their immediate surroundings. Simultaneously these global players are part of a network of nodes of several functionally and symbolically differentiated centres of the "network city".

2.2 Nodes / Network City
The networking structure reproduces itself in regional and local sub-centres. 'Traditional' settlements (Rotterdam, Den Haag, Amsterdam, Utrecht, etc.) as well as "Edge Cities", highly developed areas at the highway interchanges, function as nodes and are connected by "metropolitan corridors" (highways, high-streets etc.). This multicentered "network metropolis" is part of the chain of the western European urbanised region, of the vast extended network of the European "banana" that stretches from Manchester and London, through the Randstad and the Ruhrgebiet to the Rhine area, and via Switzerland to the Milan-Turin agglomeration.
Urban organisms are changing from hierarchically structured systems of centre and periphery, where the periphery is organised around one single centre, into the heterarchy of network organisations. The nodes of this network city are functionally (high density) and symbolically (strong identity) differentiated nodes, mutually complementing each other. This network pattern is an open and flexible structure with the inherent quality of easily expanding and integrating new nodes, following varied ever-changing patterns of urban growth and transformation.

2.3 Transformations of Suburbia
Within the fragmented landscape of the interurban periphery, suburbia is changing from the monofunctional "biotope of the closed domesticated nuclear family" into a multifunctional (low density, no identity) in-between of network-nodes. The classic suburban bungalow, "existing precisely to isolate women and the family from urban economic life", is being transformed into a "woon-werk" base for the "patchwork-family" of the teleworker. In so-called "postsuburbia" with its shopping malls, (back-) office parks, high tech laboratories, etc., we increasingly find a mix of functions of living, trading, producing and recreating. This trend of spreading of functions will be enhanced and supported by global positioning systems guiding one through the labyrinths of suburban sprawls.

2.4 Electronic Cottage / Televillages
The density of connections (nodes), the urban density of social interactions and communication, is a decisive factor in the choice of location (see "Global Cities"). Simultaneously, as telecommunication reduces the importance of spatial proximity and expands the freedom of choice of location for individuals and enterprises, there is also the counteracting movement of spatial dispersal (see "Transformations of Suburbia").
Next to the degree of connection to global networks (media networks, air transport, high-speed trains, etc.), "soft" aspects such as special fiscal conditions, quality of the environment, (cultural) quality of life, identity of a place gain importance for the choice of location and become decisive factors for development and economic differentiation. As good transportation infrastructure and broad-band communication networks increasingly become available everywhere (in Holland), we will experience the emergence of "Electronic Cottages" and "Televillages" with ecological qualities and the unique identity of a special cultural-historical "plek".


2.5 Smart Cities
As innovation "requires intense face-to-face contact and ongoing trust-based relationships", innovative firms and laboratories tend to cluster in campus-like settlements, with an introvert atmosphere and a high density of specialised communication. "Smart Cities", "technopoles", create in the peripheries of existing cities specialised network-nodes with the specialised identity of technological innovators (Silicon Valley, Route 128, the "technopole" of Montpellier, München-Martinsried, Freiburg, the Flanders Language Valley in Western Belgium, Eindhoven etc.).

2.6 The City of Events
Media spaces (Internet, television) are increasingly absorbing functions (for example, teleworking, teleshopping) and power (for example, economic transactions, politics) from urban organisms: the distribution and discussion of news, the display and selling of goods, space for play and celebration were formerly embedded in urban public space; today these activities are increasingly being performed by radio, TV, telephone or Internet. This process of the withdrawal of activities from urban/suburban space and the loss of function of urban public space connected to it are nothing new. All that is new will be the dramatic acceleration of this development the moment, for example, that e-commerce will really break through and threaten its "real" competitors, the urban retail industry, the shop next door.
ICT rationalises these socio-economic activities. This mediatisation of social interaction will demand compensation, by spaces for physical encounter and (new) social rituals. E-commerce (electronic commerce) will find its counterbalance in an analog-atmospheric commerce (we propose the concept of 'a-commerce'). The traditional shop will not disappear. It will transform and merge with its electronic competitor ('hybrid retailing'). The traditional shop will specialise and mutate into an event and celebration space, with a strongly symbolic value. The visit to your grocer, to your bookshop will have the quality of an event.
Future 'a-commerce' will enhance the already ongoing development of the urban into an event and entertainment zone. Already today, we can observe the transformation of parts of the traditional inner city into open-air museums, "embodiments of a collective memory and fantasy and simulacra or mere reflections of themselves and their pasts". We can also see mega shopping malls developing into amusement parks, comprising popular media events, leisure facilities and tourist attractions (so-called "retail-tainments").
Regular visits to these urban theme parks and event cites will compensate for the cyber-lifestyle of teleconsumers in the same way as the dropping-in of the teleworkers at the office headquarters for group meetings and corporate events will function as rituals of belonging. Pilgrimage to these nodes with a high level of density of social contacts and strong symbolic identities will be an integrated part of the programs of the "hybrid" (media and urban) event industries.
A whole industry for the consumption of the "urban theme park" is emerging, with its city trips and "urban safaris", supporting a "hybrid" (media and urban) symbolic economy comprising tourism, entertainment, culture and sports. Competition between urban localities to position themselves in the markets of mass tourism and the "economy of events" of the cultural/media industries is fostering a strong interest in the production of urban images, urban identities and "urban brands".

2.7 Dual City
Cities, or certain parts of these cities, gain in symbolic centrality, thus in importance, while other, sometimes neighbouring (parts of) cities lose in relevance and disappear from mental maps. Territories closely surrounding symbolically and functionally important nodes of the network city play an increasingly subordinate function, sometimes becoming even dysfunctional (for example "problem areas" and housing estates of marginalised social groups with a low degree of connection to the urban surroundings and to the information/communication networks).
In the discontinuous landscape of the "carpet metropolis" (of the Randstad), spatial fragmentation is a mirror and generator of social segregation. The residential areas ("ghettos"?) of the excluded coexist in stark social contrast and threaten the neighbouring "gated communities", the residential areas with restricted access for the upper and middle classes protected by private security services and "live cams".
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