2.8 The Importance of Location
Within the network city, we can observe today the two parallel contradictory urban trends of concentration and deconcentration of functions. ICT expands the freedom in the choice of location; but this does not mean that location is becoming unimportant. Traditional urban centralities and infrastructural nodes do gain in attraction, thus enhancing the importance and strengthening the very specific differentiations and profiles of locations. While distance counted in kilometres loses its relevance, distance counted in hours still is an important factor for the choice of location for enterprises and individuals. And next to the quality of infrastructure (transport, communication) this freedom of choice of location makes the (partly symbolic) quality of a place gain in importance.
2.9 Planning and building the Network City
2.9.1 The Dynamics of the Network City
In the previous passages, we briefly described the transformations of the urban into a network structure, the so-called "network city". The heterarchical structure of the network city is inherently more flexible than the traditional urban pattern with its hierarchy of centre and periphery and its radiant connections.
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. The network pattern can adapt and react to the ongoing structural changes caused by the dynamics of a global market economy. The network city is in a constant state of flux.
2.9.2 Planning Constant Change
The planning of the network city has to deal with constant change. Planning is the (sustainable) management of the asynchronous growth and recycling of the elements of the urban network.
Planning has therefore to research and to develop strategies and instruments for supporting change, for encouraging, facilitating and connecting the ongoing processes of urban growth and transformation.
2.9.3 Flexibility and Quality in Building
A whole range of flexible building solutions, such as adapting existing buildings, developing flexible building types, building with light prefabricated adaptable building systems, recycling of building materials etc. should be considered.
However, as quality of environment is becoming an important argument for the choice of location (see above), flexibility should be weighed and counterbalanced with the need for quality. This applies especially to Holland where a tradition of low-budget building techniques has not only had very positive social effects (social housing) but has also led to a lack of high-quality real estate.
3. @ HOME
3.1 The Networked House
The house is becoming increasingly a "smart" space (with sophisticated energy management and security control), a networked place (your fridge controlling the reserves of milk, your TV set ordering new movies, the teleworking-unit being an integrated part of your flat) and a monitoring unit (telecare and telemedicine for the elderly).
3.2 New Housing Types
The fact that the house is increasingly becoming the base for non-private activities, such as teleworking or video conferencing, requires adaptations to the organisation of its spaces.
Housing types (for the teleworker or the self-employed) are already being developed, partly modelled on the traditional craftsman's and merchant's house with its combination and internal zoning of workplace and private quarters. These new housing types respond to the new graduations of privacy between the work-space and the private retreat that are required (with for example level splitting between private and semi-public spaces). They also have differentiated connections to the public street, as for example two different entries, one for the family (private) and one for clients (semi-public).
3.3 New Facilities Connected to the House
New facilities, such as conference rooms, spaces with specialised ICT-equipment or small-scale, decentral teleshopping distribution centres, will either be integrated in the new "woon-werk" complexes and apartment buildings or will be part of a new neighbourhood infrastructure (networked neighbourhood centres; see below).
3.4 More Space for Living
We will be able to stay at home longer. ICT applications, such as telemonitoring of patients, telemedicine or specialised care-robots will enable the elderly to continue living independently in their own houses.
And as the house becomes increasingly the centre for a wide range of very different activities, as we spent more time at home, we will need (especially in Holland) bigger houses. The existing trend for more space per person will become stronger. This trend will of course be counterbalanced by the already visible decrease of space needed for other functions such as for example, offices or shops, as these "go virtual" (teleworking, e-commerce).
3.5 @ Home on my Portable PDA
However, the real "home" of the flexi-worker is mobile. It is his personal portable information/communication system ("personal digital assistant" or PDA) through which he can get the messages the refrigerator sends and communicate with his tele-clients. This portable device is the key to the (virtual) reference space of the information-worker, bringing continuity into his life. The house is just a remote-controlled unit.
3.6 'High-speed' Living for Modern Nomads
This might have the increase of spatial mobility as a consequence. New housing facilities, like 'high-speed' living for the modern nomad in the global cities or fully equipped "woon-werk" bungalows for the 'holiday worker' will be developed. A trend of 'flex-woonen' will require a more dynamic and flexible housing market.
3.7 Spreading Roots
And of course the general acceleration will demand compensation by strengthening the opposite trend as well. As social mobility and job flexibility do not have spatial mobility as a consequence, since a career-move does not require moving, the house could become the very private retreat, the haven of continuity in the very unstable life of the "flexi-worker". A strong need for privacy and enclosure could be (at least for a transition time until our perception capabilities adapt) a reaction to the increasing information every one of us has to process.
3.8 The Revitalisation of the Neighbourhood
The bonds with the immediate local community could be strengthened. As people will not be obliged to move because of new jobs, they will develop more permanent ties, strong identification with their local communities. As they will have to commute less and less on a daily basis, we will experience a revitalisation of local life, especially for families with children.
Next to their "virtual communities" on the Internet, people might choose to experience community in their local neighbourhoods. This use of public space in the surroundings of the home will not be indispensable; it will be a choice. People will voluntarily situate activities in their local surroundings if the neighbourhood is attractive. And the neighbourhood is more attractive if it is lively. Therefore activity will attract activity.
3.9 Quality as an Important Factor in the Choice of Place of Residence
As the freedom of choice of location increases, the advantages and disadvantages of a particular neighbourhood will gain in importance. The quality of an environment is increasingly becoming an important factor for the choice of location for individuals. Quality includes the quality (and size) of the house itself, environmental qualities, quality of public space as well as the quality of social life of the neighbourhood.
4. PUBLIC SPACE TODAY
4.1 Privatisation of Media and Urban Space
We are witnessing today a crisis of the public space. We are witness to the privatisation of the spaces for social interaction. The emerging mass media spaces and urban space are increasingly being privatised and becoming more and more exclusory.
Urban public space is imploding into privately controlled and commercially exploited interiors such as shopping malls and atriums. And all these developments have their counterparts in cyberspace: here you need a passport to enter protected residential areas or clubs, there you need a password to access communication.
4.2 Segregation in Media and in Urban Space
The media networks are segregative spaces: Internet and digital television exclude those unable to pay for the necessary hard- and software infrastructure and the monthly connection fees, not to mention the access-control mechanisms or the required technical skills. The social gap between these non-tactile exclusory media spheres and the imploding urban sprawls is widening.
The segregation processes in media environments are nothing but the enhancement of tendencies manifesting themselves in "real" space with the creation of access-controlled residential areas for the upper and middle classes and their counterparts, the areas housing the "excluded", the marginalised social groups.
4.3 Loss of Function of Urban Public Space
This loss of function of urban public space due to privatisation is exacerbated by the withdrawal of activities from (semi-) public spheres to private interiors: with the help of modern technology, work can be done in the comfort of your private living room (teleworking) and retailing does not depend on your visit and chat with your local grocer (teleshopping). With the rationalisation of these activities, social interaction is being reduced to its functional components.
4.4 The Market is the Driving Force for ICT
ICT is driven by the market. Not only the hardware and the software but also the networks themselves are developed and run by private companies. The state institutions are too late. In any case, there would be the danger of the national state developing a dysfunctional role by trying to control these highly dynamic innovative fields (think of "Minitel", developed and launched by the French state).
It is also difficult for the national state to set standards in this very dynamic and flexible market, especially with the expected proliferation and diversification of products, enabled by manufacturing on demand which will increase by leaps and bounds.
4.5 The Need for Publicly Driven Media Spaces
The information/communication networks, in contrast for example to the network of roads, are privately controlled. But still there is the need to provide public facilities too, as public access to information and non-privately controlled communication environments.
At this turning point, with increased world market domination by information/communication giants, there is a need for public influence on media space, for "a social shaping of the telematics". It is crucial to establish a more public dimension in these communication environments.
There is a necessity to develop independent public information/communication networks, supporting public, more pluralistic ("bottom-up" instead of "top-down") communication.
4.6 The Need for Public "Hybrid" Spaces
These digital information/communication spaces should be combined with public urban/architectural spaces, public interfaces accessible also to the "unplugged", creating "hybrid" (digital and "real") spaces for social interaction.
We should develop public "hybrid" (media and urban) interfaces, enabling everyone to access and influence media environments (to broadcast) from the urban local neighbourhood. These public media urban interfaces would plug the body into the "virtual" media worlds. This link between global media space and local place having its interfaces in the public urban space would counteract the development of privatisation in urban as well as in media space.
5. CATEGORIES TO PROCESS THE URBAN
5.1 Urban Idensities™
In the contradictory dynamics of the network city with its antithetical tendencies of concentration and decentralisation, of functional mix and segregation, traditional terms of spatial distinction are losing validity. In this fragmented urban landscape, categories like "centre" versus "periphery", "landscape" versus "city", "functional zoning" such as living, working and recreation, are becoming obsolete.
The polarity of private (domestic) versus public space is disintegrating. Public and private (domestic) environments are becoming intermingled and blurring in the fusions of media and "real" space: for example in the "hybrid" spaces of the publicly broadcasted privacies of "reality TV" and the "Big Brothers" or in the media presence of war intruding on the peacefulness of our private living rooms.
To understand these fusions, this superimposition and the interactions of media and "real" urban spaces, the new term 'idensity™' is introduced, replacing the obsolete conventional terms of spatial distinction. 'Idensity™' does not differentiate between information/communication networks and urban/architectural environments and it offers an integrated model for dealing with "hybrid" (media and "real") space in the information/communication age.
The 'idensity™'-model can incorporate the widest range of future (communication) spaces:
- from the 'tele-feeder unit at your neighbourhood's laundrette', a public infrastructure for teleshopping, telelearning or teledemocracy (see below),
- to new "club" facilities, providing the space for "hybrid" (media and "real" space) events on a larger urban scale (see below),
- or the combined media and "real" space of your bank, presenting itself in its telebanking application with the corporate identity of its "real" architectural building while fusing in the representational entry of its headquarters a high-touch architectural space with the media spaces of its net presence, in the form of monitors, projections, etc. (just visit your bank).
This new term 'idensity™' is implemented to describe and analyse the communication spaces of the coming "network society", a society not so much based on the traditional, relatively static structures of belonging in the family, the corporation or the state, but on flexible, dynamic, ever-changing networks of exchange and communication. It carries the discussion on the urban from the morphological level of a formal description of the network patterns of the "network city" to a more integrated structural understanding of the networks of spaces for social communication.
'Idensity™' is a composite term consisting of the combination of the word "density" of real (urban) and "virtual" (media) communication spaces (density of connections) and of the word "identity". But it is not a mere summation of these two terms; it is rather a fusion, as it inverts "identity", linking it to communication: "identity" being defined by connectivity.
'Idensity™' does not just address the "clear-cut identity, the particularity, the individuality of the traditional places or cites (like centres and monuments)" but also the layered 'idensity™' of the "non-lieux" ("non-places") which are to be found especially in the realms of mobility and consumption (airports, hotels, shopping malls, motorway rest areas, etc.). Thus 'idensity™' can deal with today's "generic cities", where these same (chain-)shops, cafés etc. pop up, levelling local differences and rendering places around the globe interchangeable. 'Idensity™' does not refer to object-qualities but describes a field of superimposed communication spaces: the branded space of the chain-shop, the symbolic space of the traditional building the shop is housed in, the media space of teleshopping, the communication space of the GSM…
5.2 Idensities™ of the Urbanite
In the last year of the 20th century, a big campaign was launched in Holland: on most billboards in major or minor cities, men and women, youngsters and the elderly - the average Dutch person - were declaring "ik ben Ben". This was not the mass expression of an identity crisis, but an advertising campaign for the introduction of the new GSM company called "Ben", targeting the public at large. The advertising slogan was based on a simple play on words, "ben" meaning in Dutch "I am" and "Ben" being a common male name as well as the name of the mobile phone company. But what makes this slogan such an interesting expression of our times is its definition of identity (I am: Ik ben) as connectivity ("Ben" being the network provider). The 'idensity™' of the urbanite being defined as the density of the (superimposed media/"real") communication spaces.
In February 2000 it was announced: "Ik Ben een jaar".
"The new image of Man looks roughly like this: we have to imagine a network of interhuman relations, a 'field of intersubjective relations'. The threads of this web must be conceived as channels through which information (ideas, feelings, intentions and knowledges, etc.) flows. These threads get temporarily knotted and form what we call 'human subjects'. The totality of the threads constitutes the concrete sphere of life and the knots are abstract extrapolations. […] The density of the webs of interhuman relations differs from place to place within the network. The greater the density the more 'concrete' the relations. These dense points form wave troughs in the field […] The wave troughs exert an 'attractive' force on the surrounding field (pulling it into their gravitational field) so that more and more interhuman relations are drawn in from the periphery. […] These wave troughs shall be called 'cities'." (V. Flusser, "Die Stadt als Wellental in der Bilderflut", 1990.)
The term 'idensity™' is a conceptual tool for researching and developing space in the information/communication age.
6.1 Planning from Prognosis to the Processing of Change
6.1.1 The Limitations of Prognosis
The acceleration of technological innovation, abrupt changes within the global economic and political order, individualistic lifestyles and a succession of very different types of accommodation/premises make urban/regional developments highly unpredictable.
The modernist belief in (scientific) methods of prognosis of urban phenomena have too often proved to be misleading. With regard to ICT developments, the limitations of prognosis become even more apparent: the dramatic breakthrough of the PC and the Internet were not predicted.
6.1.2 Supporting Change and Processing the Unplannable
As the instruments of prognosis are failing us, we need to rethink the possibilities and the mechanisms of urban/regional planning as well as the role of the state as "actor", "infrastructural agent" or "quality controller" within the planning process.
We need to develop long-term instruments (sustainability) as well as short-term, flexible tools (for example special experimental zones, etc.) for dealing with the dynamisms of growth.
Planning has therefore to research and to develop strategies and instruments for processing change, for encouraging, facilitating and connecting the ongoing processes of urban growth and transformation, for supporting the plural forces shaping our environment.
Planning has to invert, to change into the processing of the unplannable. Still, for reasons of clarity, this text will continue using the term "planning" (instead of the perhaps more appropriate term 'un-planning').
6.1.3 Developing Visions of our Environment
The processing of change is not just the management of ongoing changes, following and reacting to market forces. By providing public communication spaces for the processing of the "new", planning can develop "market-forcing" strategies.
6.2 Planning between Laissez-faire and Control
Urbanism is caught up in the dilemma of either trying to realise the dream of the omnipotence of planning or accepting being powerless in the face of the forces of the market: on the one hand, the modernist belief in scientific methods of determination and control of the urban phenomena violating entire cities, on the other hand, the neoliberal positions giving in to the interests of privatisation and declaring the dynamics of the market to be the only legitimate determinants of urban developments.
Facing the consequences of both positions today, new strategies for public interventions in the urban have to be developed.
6.3 Providing Infrastructures
The "planning" interventions (we might have to invent a more appropriate word) will not be about the control and the determination of space, but about providing infrastructures, expanding the fields of interaction of plural forces, the reservoir for the selection processes needed for the urban socio-economic transformations.
Based on the model of 'idensity™', instruments have to be developed to manage the densities (of connections) of urban and media communication spaces (infrastucture and interfaces), to enhance the differences between the nodes of the "network city" and strengthen the coherence of the "dual city".
6.4 The Infrastructural Paradigm in Urban/Regional Planning
By intervening in the realm of infrastructures, planning can also adopt their concept and follow their paradigm. Planning would incorporate an inherently flexible approach, expanding the field of possibilities of social interaction and opening new paths of urban development. Urbanism would therefore not be about shaping, inscribing or determining places, but about creating spatial frameworks which would allow and enhance a variety of unpredictable developments.
6.5 "Bottom-up" Strategies as Strategies for Defending Plurality
"Bottom-up" strategies can be implemented to enhance the innovative powers of urban environments. Rather than defining first the global result of the interaction and then determining the necessary relation between the elements in order to produce that interaction (which would be a "top-down" approach), simple rules for a set of independent elements should be developed: that which would emerge from the interaction of these elements is open. According to biological models, these fields of interaction of plural forces can serve as a reservoir for the selection processes needed for urban transformations.
6.6 "Quality Control"
As the freedom in the choice of location increases, the advantages or disadvantages of a special locality gain in importance. Next to good ICT and transportation infrastructure, the quality of an environment is a crucial factor for the choice of location for individuals and enterprises.
Quality of the built environment, quality of public space, environmental qualities, but also the innovative power of an environment (see above) and the identity of a place (see below) should be recognised as important factors in the choice of location and should thus be raised. Holland, with its tradition of low-budget building and its continuous urban landscape, should develop a "policy of quality" (and not only of equality).
6.7 Enhancing Identities
By strengthening the identities of the locale, cities position themselves and compete in the global market. The support and the protection of the identity of place (protection of cultural landscapes, for example) are therefore important issues for planning.
The model of 'idensity™' can be implemented to deal not only with the clear-cut identity of historical sites but also with the layered identities of the contemporary "generic" city.
6.8 Image Policies
Localities enhance their images by emphasising and marketing their identities. Cities develop image policies and communicate "urban brands". Planning will thus also be about the marketing of places, about the development and the communication of urban images.
Media space (television, Internet) is an important communication tool for these urban image campaigns. Media space is forming the perception of "real" urban space and thus influencing strongly the "reality" of (urban) place.