Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Street Talk: Urban Computing - Part III

Continuing my selective blogging of Intel's Street Talk event, I find myself dwelling on spatial practices.

Anthony Townsend stated that urban-tech-types don't understand cities. I tend to agree and would add that this problem is compounded by a simultaneous lack of understanding what it means to be urban. The difference between cities and being urban is subtle but important: cities comprise relatively stable places and events, whereas being urban involves relatively mobile practices (rhythms) of everyday life. And since ubicomp seeks to embed itself in everyday life, I think it's pretty important to understand what's already going on there.

Anthony Burke gave an excellent presentation on the practice of urbanism - drawing on De Certeau, Lefebvre and Superstudio, as well as The Simple Life 2: Road Trip and rather parasitic RV caravans. But I think my favourite part of his talk was the notion of urban cooling or making perfectly good leisure space into workspace through mobile computing. It's long been a pet peeve of mine that we seem to ignore that being able to work anywhere, anytime often enough means working everywhere, all-the-time. And who the hell wants to do that?!

Paul Dourish also focussed on how people experience the city, or how the city comprises more than three dimensions, including imaginary places and cartographies. And Peter Lunenfeld closed the day by reminding us that cities have always been about migration (think bridges and tunnels) and that we need to think about our personal engagements with complexity. Interested in play as production rather than consumption (back to performativity), he suggested the concept of mobile cosmopolitanism (as opposed to patriotism) - but I would have liked to hear more on Simmel's notion of cosmopolitanism, as cross-cultural interaction is intimately connected to global politics and economics.

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