Processing the unplannable



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

These image-campaigns of "place-marketing" are developed in strategic collaborations of private and public actors. These media campaigns are integral parts of the programs of the "hybrid" (media and urban) "economy of events" (see Event City). In partnerships with private companies and agencies, urban governance can therefore strengthen a more public dimension in the "hybrid" (media and urban) event-industry.



7. ICT/MEDIA AND THE TRANSFORMATIONS OF URBAN/REGIONAL PLANNING
7.1 Processing Information
ICT can help in the processing of the extremely complex and dynamic information related to the ongoing planning of our environment. Specialised planning "Expert Systems" with integrated planning regulations, for example, simulate and support the decision process of planning experts.
ICT is indispensable for the processing of the highly complex and dynamic data required for the sustainable planning of our environment.

7.2 Computing the Unpredictable?
Nevertheless ICT should not be mistaken for an instrument for prognosis, even if the fact that it is based on mathematical operations gives it a certain air of objectivity, a certain credibility. The "new" always includes the integration of unexpected factors and cannot be predicted just by extrapolating and combining existing data. Therefore today's ICT presents limitations as a tool for prognosis.

7.3 Visualising Complex Data
ICT can help grasp - and thus deal with - highly complex data. ICT can make the visualisation of abstract numeric information in diagrams, for instance, as easy as a mouse-click. It can support the visual organisation of complexes of interconnected (x-dimensional) information.
Virtual Reality (VR) is a technology that gives the user an immersive perception, enabling him to navigate and to interact in real time with a computer-generated spatial environment. Virtual Reality is developing into a very important tool for planners, providing simulations of urban projects, experienced, for example, in the special immersive environments, the so-called "CAVEs", and via Internet (networked VR).
Virtual Reality supports collaboration within teams of experts. Virtual Reality as a powerful visualisation tool also helps to communicate projects to laymen and can be used to involve the public in the planning process.

7.4 Making Information Accessible
Information/communication networks enable public information and open up communication, enhancing the trend towards a more transparent state. Through information/communication networks (World Wide Web) civilians can access "Expert Systems", for example, or view simulations of (projects on) the urban environment.
ICT not only establishes more open external communication to the public (Internet) but also supports more transparent internal communication within the framework of planning institutions (Intranets). This will reinforce the trend towards the flattening of institutional hierarchies. It will also strengthen the ties between the different state institutions on a national level and will support transnational collaboration (for planning border regions, for example). Planning institutions will have to adapt and restructure.

7.5 Exteriorising the Planning Process
Similar to the way that the consumer information available on the net is empowering consumer organisations (comparing prizes, controlling quality, etc.), easy access for civilians to information on planning issues will support the forming of urban interest and pressure groups. As visualisation techniques such as computer simulations support the communication of planning issues to laymen, citizens will get involved more easily in the planning process. Urban interest groups will exercise a stronger influence in the decision processes.
The planning process will be exteriorised. Planning institutions will open or even invert as planning increasingly develops into the steering of a public discussion process. Urban interest groups and initiatives will gain in influence. Urban/regional planning, as public communication about our environment, will become increasingly important within the socio-political process of developing communal visions.

7.6 Providing Communication Spaces and Involving the Public

The information/communication networks also provide platforms for discussion open to the public. A broad range of one-to-one and one-to-many mass media spaces, of digital platforms for public discussion on planning issues, will emerge. Urban interest groups and initiatives will experiment, using elements of the culture of the so-called "virtual communities".


Information/communication networks provide the opportunity to involve the public at an early stage in the planning process of big infrastructural works, for instance. Introducing public discussion at an early stage enables a more integrative process of public consensus. It also strengthens the public control of political will and drives the integrative processes of developing visions of the urban environment.

Media spaces, focused on the discussion of the future of our regional (thus transnational) environments will function as generators of local identity (and trust). These media spaces, specialised in the communication of (local/regional) planning issues will become increasingly significant. They will support and enhance the regionalisation of politics, a trend that is emerging as a counterbalance to the developments of economic globalisation.



7.7 Supporting a Public Event Industry

With the convergence of Internet and digital television (the 'media model'), we will witness a whole new range of media communication spaces dealing with issues of our environment. In these media spaces targeting urban issues, rational discussion will mix with the seductive elements of pop-culture. This (infotainment) trend, making these specialised communication spaces more attractive to the public, is embedded in the general development of politics into a media event and in the merging of political culture with popular culture.


One-to-one and one-to-many mass media events, communicating urban (planning) issues or promoting local image policies, will be developed by independent interest groups and by public agencies (including the state planning institutions). These will introduce a more public dimension in the urban event economy, in co-operation with the symbolic economies of tourism, entertainment, culture and sports, in strategic collaborations with selected private actors.

7.8 Generating Public "Hybrid" Spaces
These media events should be integral parts of the programs of the "hybrid" (media and urban) event industry. Next to solemnly digital discussion platforms, public communication spaces on planning issues should be designed as "hybrid" spaces: public digital/media communication spaces combined with public urban/architectural spaces, accessible also to the "unplugged".
Local urban "hybrid" centres (as accelerated combinations of the networked environments of clubs, the stock exchange and Parliament…) should be developed. Such public media urban interfaces could serve as special public infrastructure for the planning of big infrastructural works, for example. Of course as a first step, such urban experimental zones for planning could be tested in a simple virtual version (meaning without the urban/architectural infrastructural equivalents).

7.9 Public Media Interfaces for Urban Planning
Bridging the gap and connecting the media spheres (Internet, digital television) with local urban content and place, a new, public, combined analog-digital infrastructure is introduced. Public media urban interfaces, publicly accessible interfaces between the media space and the urban place.
Exploiting the potential of media and fusing the media concepts of the telephone

(with its one-to-one communication) and the television (one-to-all broadcasting) makes it possible to create a many-to-many broad- and narrow-casting and -catching system (Internet). Local broadcasts can be reinforced to temporarily invade media space to a greater or lesser extent, creating a locally-based dynamic media network from the bottom up.


A locally-based public interface forms the primary unit of the network of public media urban interfaces. These public neighbourhood 'feeder houses', distributed evenly within an urban zone, are "hybrid" (combined media and "real") environments. At these networked neighbourhood facilities (situated, for example, at your local launderette), the public can view the narrow/broadcasting activities of other 'feeder houses'. Interactive technology enables the public to intervene in those narrow/broadcasts but also creates the possibility to establish direct contacts, thus forming endless smaller networks within the larger framework of public media urban interfaces.
As sophisticated, larger versions of the neighbourhood 'feeder houses', special clubs provide the space for "hybrid" (combined media and "real") public events on a larger urban scale. In these "hybrid" clubs, programs that deserve a larger audience get selected (from the ones that are just meant for local distribution). Using the more sophisticated broadcast facilities available to the club, the selected programs are experienced and transformed to suit a mass audience.
A publicly distributed 'Air Time for All' Smart Card allows you to produce and narrow/broadcast and also gives you the opportunity to adopt a message (not your own) by giving it extra Air Time. At the neighbourhood 'feeder house', you will find the necessary programming facilities to make your program and the means to monitor it as it goes on the air. You can also accelerate messages (not your own) by giving them extra broadcasting time with the help of the special Smart-Card. And as a message gains strength, its chances of reaching a much larger audience increase, reaching more 'feeder houses', a Club, the city or even the whole country, Europe and the rest of the world.
As politics moves into the space of mass media, the right to direct public media access, the right to broadcast, is becoming increasingly important.


7.10 Urban/Regional Planning and the Politics of the Future
With the strengthening of (urban/local) interest groups, the processing of urban transformations (what we today call "urban/regional planning") will become more and more a public affair. The processing of urban transformations, the processing of the unplannable, will develop into an increasingly central element of future politics, of the future locally-networked state.
We can already observe that citizens are more interested and get more easily involved in the development of their direct localities than in the abstract "state". Public involvement in the decision-making process concerning urban localities will support this trend of the regionalisation of politics (as part of and as a counterbalancement to globalisation).
The processing of urban transformations will become more and more instrumental in the socio-political process of developing communal visions. Urban/regional 'un-planning', transformed into an event-communication (space) and entertainment zone, will become an important element in the increasingly mediatised politics of the future.

8. CONCLUSION
Information/communication networks and media spaces do influence "real" place. ICT contributes to the transformation of the urban into a more heterarchical network structure ("network city") and supports the specialisation of "real" space as a space for physical encounter and experience.
Information/communication networks and media spaces also interact and fuse with "real" space, generating series of new "hybrid" (media and "real") networked environments, ranging, for example, from the networked home to the stock exchange, etc..
In this "dark age" of the information/communication era, we have limited experience and understanding of (the far-reaching consequences of) these phenomena. However, at this early stage, the situation is open for a "social shaping of the telematics", for the strengthening of the public dimension of these media communication spaces.
Public actors (including the state planning institutions) should therefore influence these developments. They should support research within this new field dealing with the interaction between urban/regional planning and architecture, not only with information/communication networks (a technology-based approach) but also with the media (a content-based approach, also considering spatial, communicational aspects). Experimental virtual planning zones should be investigated. "Hybrid" (urban and media) networks and "hybrid" spaces (architectural and media) spaces should be designed.
In addition to scientific research and higher education (combining scientific with artistic fields), ideas and proposals should be tested in project-based experiments. As for the development of such a new, dynamic field, the methods of scientific research and experimental testing do present limitations (of following on developments); these should be supported and complemented by speculative, artistic research, being an innovative, creative method to process and generate the 'new'.
Holland could be an excellent experimental environment. It combines a tradition of social tolerance, a high level of education, a cultural atmosphere that has a positive attitude towards modernisation, a (European) creative approach with experimental architectural/urbanistic practice. Holland has the potential to develop into such a laboratory "for the unplannable" (for the generating of the 'new').
Within the context of the "network"-paradigm, the potential of information/communication networks as tools for urban/regional planning should be considered. By facilitating public involvement, ICT is supporting transformations in the process of urban/regional planning itself. Thus, with the influence of ICT and media, planning will change and 'exteriorise', being transformed into a public debate for obtaining consensus and developing visions on our environment.

Urban/regional 'un-planning', transformed into an event-communication (space), could develop into a central element of the increasingly mediatised, regionalised and globalised politics of the future.


© Sikiaridi / Vogelaar, Amsterdam March 2000.

HYPOTHESES
1. Significance of Location

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.


2. "Real" Space

ICT supports the specialisation of "real" space: "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.


3. "Hybrid" Space

A whole new series of so-called "hybrid" (combined analog-digital, combined urban and media) networks and spaces will emerge.


4. 'Soft Urbanism' / 'Networked Architecture'

A new field of planning and design that combines urbanism and architecture with information/communication networks and media spaces is emerging.


5. 'Idensityü'

'Idensityü' is proposed as a new category for researching and developing the new "hybrid" network city, as a conceptual tool for researching and developing space in the information/communication age.


6. Housing

The existing trend for more housing space per person will become stronger. This trend will be counterbalanced by the already visible decrease of space needed for other functions such as for example, offices or shops.


7. Public Space

At this early stage, the situation is still open for the strengthening of the public dimension of media communication spaces, for the development of public "hybrid" ("real" and media) networks and spaces.


8. Processing Change

As the network city, with its heterarchical network pattern, will be in a constant state of flux, the planning of the network city has to develop strategies and instruments dealing with constant change.


9. Exteriorising Planning

ICT and media will strongly affect the planning process by enabling and supporting public involvement. Planning will be exteriorised. Urban interest groups and initiatives will gain in influence. Planning institutions will open or even invert as planning increasingly develops into the steering of a public discussion process.


10. Planning as an Event

Media and urban ("hybrid") events, communicating urban (planning) issues or promoting local image policies, will be developed by independent interest groups and by public agencies (including the state planning institutions).


11. Future Politics

Urban/regional planning, as public communication about our environment, will become increasingly important within the socio-political process of developing communal visions. Urban/regional 'un-planning', transformed into an event-communication (space), will develop into a central element of the increasingly mediatised, regionalised and globalised politics of the future.



¬ Sikiaridi / Vogelaar, Amsterdam March 2000.

BRIEF READING LIST
For a concise description of contemporary urban tendencies and policies see:
Eeckhout, Bart and Steven Jacobs (1999) 'Space', pp. 15-55 and 'Community', pp. 57-104 in D. De Meyer and K. Versluys (eds.) The Urban Condition: Space, Community and Self in the Contemporary Metropolis, Rotterdam: 010 Publishers.
For a thorough analysis of the influences of ICT on society, economy and culture see:
Castells, Manuel (1996) The Rise of the Network Society, Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishers.
For an analysis of the interaction of telecommunications and the urban see:
Graham, Stephen and Simon Marvin (1996) Telecommunications and the City: Electronic Spaces, Urban Places, London: Routledge.
For a description of contemporary (and future) influences of ICT on the urban see:
Mitchell, William J. (1999) E-topia: "Urban life, Jim - but not as we know it", Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press.
On the contemporary challenges of urbanism (from a German perspective) see:
Sieverts, Thomas (1999) 'Die Stadt der Zweiten Moderne. Eine europäische Perspektive', pp. 16-25 in P. Neitzke, C. Steckeweh and R. Wustlich (eds.) CENTRUM 1999-2000. Jahrbuch Architektur und Stadt, Basel: Birkhäuser Verlag für Architektur and Gütersloh: Bertelsman Fachzeitschriften.
On the crisis of public space see:
Sorkin, Michael (ed.) (1990) Variations on a Theme Park: the New American City and the End of Public Space, New York: Hill and Wang.
For Dutch publications of projects on 'Networked Architecture' and 'Soft Urbanism' that we have been developing since 1989, see for example:
Hinte, Ed van (1995) 'Media Babies - een digitale infrastructuur voor Londen', items 14, 6: 22-23,

Sikiaridi, Elizabeth and Frans Vogelaar (1997) 'Soft Urbanism - Grensvlakken van publiek, media en stad', de Architect 28, 6: 42-47.
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