Recently I contributed a chapter to the book Sentient City
Ubiquitous Computing, Architecture, and the Future of Urban Space edited by Mark Shepard. On May 14 2011 I also took part in the book launch event in Rotterdam.
At certain points in the history of architecture and urban planning, the disciplinary debate on how to apply new technologies surpasses the boundaries of the professions involved. At those times, the hopes and fears found in the disputes between architects, policy makers, engineers and planners are extended to a broader discussion about urban and societal change. Then, the central issue is not merely how to solve a specific spatial problem or improve a construction method with the help of a new technology. Rather, the debate revolves around its possible impact on urban society at large. What does this new technology mean for urban culture, what impact does it have on how we shape our identities and live together in the city? When those questions surface, Dutch philosopher René Boomkens argues, the professional debate has turned ‘philosophical’. 
The discourse on ‘Sentient Cities’, that has arisen over the last few years can be understood as such a philosophical enterprise.  What is at stake in the debate is not so much the issue of how to engineer smarter buildings that sense — and adapt to — our daily routines or idiosyncratic preferences. Rather, our in-car navigators, friend finding ‘solutions’, location based information systems and other urban sensing technologies may very well force us to rethink some of the core concepts through which we understand and value urban life.
Here I will show that the debate about the Sentient City can be understood as a dispute concerning the urban public sphere. On the one hand, the rise of sentient technologies is said to contribute to the (already on-going) demise of urban public spaces such as town squares, multifunctional streets and public parks. On the other hand, there is a hope that those same sentient technologies could enable new forms of publicness and exchange. Continue Reading »
From january-march 2011 I am a coordinator and one of the lead researchers in “Mapping Digital Media: Journalism, Democracy and Values.”
Mapping Digital Media is a major new international research project into the global impact of new media technology on the production and consumption of news. This project is initiated by the Open Society Media Program.
This research project will take place in approxmiately 60 countries. I am proud to contribute to this project from The Netherlands, where together with co-researchers Thomas Poell, Andrea Leurdijk and Levien Nordeman we will conduct a study of:
the switchover from analogue broadcasting to digital broadcasting,
the emergence and growth of new media platforms, especially on the internet, as sources of news & information
the ever-closer convergence of traditional broadcasting with telecommunications.
For more information on the research program see the MediaPolicy website
Yesterday Virtueel Platform launched a new book on best practices in the field of e-culture in The Netherlands (download regular pdf / pdf for ipad). I was invited to contribute an essay for this book. In this article I described three (sometimes closely related) levels on which digital media plays a role in urban design.
The first one is the design process itself. Architects can make use of software to design in new ways (e.g. cad/cam and parametric design). They can also make use of new digital tools such as social networks to change their relationship with their prospective clients, and use these tools to gather data about or input from their target groups.
Second, digital media are changing spatial practices. Mobile phones, locative media and GPS-navigation have changed the ways people make use of urban spaces. Can (and should?) spaces be designed differently to accomodate these changes? And how can digital media be included in the design of physical spaces to actively change the way people experience that place?
Third, I looked at the field of urban experience. Urban design is not just a matter of shaping buildings and spaces, but perhaps increasingly also includes the design of apps and interfaces that allow people to personalize spaces, find people and places in the city, change their experience of a certain place, share those experiences, connect and collaborate with others etc. This is a domain that is beyond the scope of traditional visions on architecture, planning and urban design but is increasingly important for the experience of cities.
The full article is posted below, alas, it is written in Dutch. Continue Reading »
This year’s edition of the Sandberg@mediafonds masterclass has ‘Wireless Stories‘ as its theme. The masterclass is a collaboration between the Design Department of the Sandberg Institute and The Dutch Cultural Media Fund. The goal is to match television and film directors with (new media) designers to work together on new cultural media productions that explore digital boundaries. I contributed to this project as a programme-researchers, speaker at the conference and lecturer at one of the masterclass sessions. Below is my summary of the conference. Continue Reading »
In June 2010, the new issue of OPEN was launched at the Berlin Biennial. “Privacy” is the main theme, and the focus is “not so much on deploring the loss of privacy but on taking the present situation of ‘post-privacy’ for what it is and trying to gain insight into what is on the horizon in terms of new subjectivities and power constructions.” I contributed to this issue with the following article.
New Use of Cellular Networks
The Necessity of Recognizing the Nuances of Privacy
According to media researcher Martijn de Waal, it is time to rethink our ideas of privacy. The growing use of cellular networks is generating data that plays an important role in civil society projects. To be able to continue using such data in a meaningful and fair way, people must become aware of the fact that privacy is not only a question of either private or public, but includes many gradations in between.
During the Notte Bianca 2007 (an event in Rome comparable with the Museum Night in the Netherlands), researchers from MIT’s SENSEable City Lab set up at different urban locations a number of big screens upon which they projected dynamic maps of the city. Light blue spots indicated large numbers of people, thus enabling visitors to the event to immediately see which museum was crowded and plan their route accordingly. Making the task even easier, yellow stripes representing Rome’s municipal buses could be followed live on the same map. This project – ‘WikiCity Rome’ – sounds like a nice gimmick. The researchers gained access to the location data of mobile phone users through a telecom company. The anonymized coordinates of individual phones were combined to compile an algorithm of a – handsomely designed – real-time map of nighttime Rome.1
But ‘WikiCity Rome’ was more than just a gimmick. The project Continue Reading »
What, where and when
On August 16-17 2010 The Mobile City and Virtueel Platform organized ‘Designing the Hybrid City’. This event explored the role of digital technologies in urban design. It took place in the Dutch Culture Centre in Shanghai.
Our event was part of a cluster of events called Adaptation: Designing the Future City that took place August 14-17 in the context of the World Expo 2010 in Shanghai.
Main theme: how do digital technologies alter urban culture and change urban design?
Mobile and wireless technologies increasingly shape our urban environment and turn our cities into ‘hybrid cities’. What does this mean for urban design? How should we deal with this emerging relation between digital technologies and the city? Which approaches have already proven successful? Which experiments have the most promise? What can different disciplines involved in urban technology and interface design learn from each other? And how is the process of urban design itself changing?
We investigated 6 different themes:
- Designing the Hybrid City
- Everyday life in the Hybrid City
- Engaging Hybrid Citizens
- Identity and self-expression in the Hybrid City
- Working in the Hybrid City
- Art in the Hybrid City
See MainTheme for information about the program. See Program Overview for more details about the 6 themes.
I am one of the organizers of the Mediafonds@Sandberg Masterclass that couples new media designers with traditional media directors to experiment with innovative ways of storytelling. For the 2010 edition we are focussing on ‘Datavisualization’, and Database Culture in a more general way and what this might mean for the documentary format. The Program consists of a Conference open to the general public and a Masterclass for invited participants.
Follow The Money
The database as a narrative form
At the beginning of the twenty-first century, our lives play out in a succession of databases and spreadsheets. Continue Reading »
Press Now invited me again to host a Masterclass Digital Media and Journalism at the Caucasus Institute in Yerevan, Armenia.
Goal of the workshop: to share with CI students and staff knowledge and visions on developments in New Media and Journalism.
The workshop will address three important themes.
• Distribution and context of journalistic ‘content’ in the digital world /Journalism in a new media ‘ecology’
• Audience: Rethinking the relation between journalists and their audiences
• Form: New media and new journalistic formats
The workshops focused on conceptual issues. It is the goal to inspire students with many examples and international best practices on new media journalism and to provoke them into a new way of thinking about their profession, its role in society and their relation to the audience.
At the International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam (IABR) The Mobile City (an organization I co-founded with Michiel de Lange) organized a number of events between November 5th and 12th 2009, including a keynote, workshop and exhibition with the American artist, architect and researcher Mark Shepard. The events are part of the ‘Connectivity’ theme of the IABR and are organized in cooperation with the IABR, the Netherlands Architecture Institute and the Royal Institute of Dutch Architects.
Continue Reading »
Mark Shepard, curator of the Toward the Sentient City Exhibition held at the Architectural League in New York invited me to write a ‘reponse’ to the exhibition. Here is the full text:
At certain points in the history of architecture and urban planning, the internal debate on how to apply new technologies surpasses the boundaries of the discipline.
At those times, the hopes and fears found in the disputes between architects, policy makers, engineers and planners are extended to a broader discussion about urban and societal change. Then, the central issue is not merely how to solve a specific spatial problem with the help of new technology. Rather, the debate starts to revolve around its possible impact on urban society at large. What does this new technology mean for urban culture, what impact does it have on how we shape our identities and live together in the city?
When those questions emerge, Dutch philosopher René Boomkens argues, the professional debate has turned ‘philosophical’.
The exhibition ‘Toward the Sentient City’ – running at the Architectural League NY until November 7 2009 – can be understood as such a philosophical enterprise. On display are Continue Reading »
It is a great honor for me to spend a few months (March – until the end of June 2009) as a ‘visiting scholar’ at MITs Comparative Media Studies and the Center for Future Civic Media.
During my stay in Cambridge I would like to spend my time on the following projects:
• First, I will be working on my New Media and Urban Culture research project. I am working on a study that addresses the concept of ‘urban culture’ in relation to new media technologies. To put it roughly, the concept of Urban Culture deals with the issue of how people with different interests, background, goals, etc live together in the city. It touches upon discussions on local community, identity and the idea of the city as an ‘interface’ or a stage for social processes. Most theories on Urban Culture employ concepts that are still based on the spatial structure of the industrial modern metropolis. I would like to investigate how digital media (varying from GPS-navigation and the Mobile Phone to Twitter) can be incorporated in a contemporary theory of Urban Culture
• Parallel to this academic research project, I am also involved in organizing a conference and weblog on New Media and Urban Culture aimed at professional disciplines (media design, architecture, urban planning): www.themobilecity.nl. Here I am working together with Michiel de Lange and the Netherlands Architecture Institute. We are researching a new edition of the conference, planned for 2010 and while in Cambridge I would be interested in meeting both academic researchers and professionals who are involved in projects that deal with the experience of the city through the use of digital media.
• A second domain of interest for me is Digital Media Storytelling and New Media Journalism, and especially the idea of ‘Convergence Culture’. In the Netherlands I have co-founded the professional weblog DeNieuweReporter.nl, which has grown into the main discussion platform in The Netherlands on the future of journalism. I am also a member of the board of the Netherlands Fund for Cultural Media Productions, a national endowment that funds both traditional drama series and documentaries as well as experiments in new media storytelling. Here I am also involved in organizing and mentoring a yearly master class that couples traditional media makers with new media designers in order to explore new media formats. Again, I hope to meet people involved in exciting projects in this area.
Sitfo@Sandberg is a yearly Masterclass in which traditional media makers (film, drama, documentary) are coupled with new media designers to experiment with new media formats. The Masterclass starts of with a large public seminar (this year we had a.o. Bruce Sterling and Julian Bleecker as speakers). In the following 3 months, participants follow a series of lectures while developing a format, ranging from digital storytelling and new media art to a user generated content project or locative media installation. The Masterclass ends with a public presentation of all formats developed.
In 2008-2010 Annet Dekker and I were the mentors that coached the participants during the three month period of the workshop. If you read Dutch, here is an overview of projects that have come out of the masterclass in previous years.
As part of my current research project into New Media, Urban Culture and the Public Sphere I have published two articles in which I – somewhat playfully – investigate some concepts to theorize the experience of the current day media metropolis.
The term Myspace urbanism refers both to social networking sites, as to the idea coined in the 1930s that the city is intricately linked to a special way of life. This idea was explored in Chicago School Scholar Louis Wirth’s 1938 essay ‘Urbanism as a way of Life’.
According to Wirth, the modern metropolises that had emerged in the preceding half-century or so, weren’t only striking for their until then unparalleled sizes and shapes. The social and economic clusterings of the industrial city had also brought about a completely new way of life. This he had called ‘urbanism’, or ‘that complex of traits which makes up the characteristic mode of life in cities’.
In two recent articles I have taken on this idea of urbanism as a special way of life. I have tried to update the concept for our current age, in which cities can no longer be conceived of as the high density physical aggregation of all those different people with different identities, backgrounds, roles and goals that Wirth discerned.
That is: all those differences are still there in the city. Yet, there are so much more means of organizing and connecting than through the means of the physical spaces of the city that the Chicago school saw as its business to map and demarcate. City space, after all, is by now a hybrid space, and this is the era of The Mobile City. So the urbanism of today is one of Boulevards as well as of MySpace, of the ghetto and of MSN, of city streets and mobile phones.
The first article is called Locative media and the city: from BLVD-urbanism towards MySpace urbanism recently appeared in Vodafone Receiver interesting themed issue Space is the Place. The second one appeared in the recently published volume Media Cities. Situations, Practices and Encounters, edited by a.o. Frank Eckardt, Jens Geelhaar, Ralf Hennih and Katherine Willis from the Bauhaus University Mediacity Project. This article is called From BLVD Urbanism towards MSN Urbanism. Locative media and urban culture.
Continue Reading »
After years of research, The Chinese Dream – a society under construction edited by Neville Mars and Adrian Hornsby is finally published!
In the summer of 2004 I took part in a field trip with the research team of the DCF, and that resulted in a chapter titled Too much joy and Pleasure in this book, and in a series of photo collages. In this story I describe my encounter with young Chinese people and discuss their dreams and ambitions, against the setting of the fast changing Chinese cityscapes of Shenzhen, Chongqing, Suining and Beijing. This is the blurb:
In China, a new myth – the myth of The Chinese Dream*— is fast amassing dreamers. It’s is not unlike the American Dream — the core component is still the promise of a wealthy middle-class lifestyle: a family, a privately owned car, and a house with your name on the lintel. However, where the American Dream is anti-urban* and rooted in the suburbs and edge-cities, The Chinese Dream* is essentially connected to the city. The city is where The Chinese Dream* can come true. And its architecture is the ultimate vehicle to promote this myth. All these newly constructed cities tell a story of modernization and progress. The message is simple; This is a modern place for modern people in a new era of Chinese modernity!
The online version of this article can be found here,
the serie photocollages – titled Imagined Cities – here as well as after the ‘continue reading’-link below, and there is also a pdf-download of the story with the pictures.
Continue Reading »
The Dutch NGO Press Now asked me to set up a two day masterclass on New Media and Journalism for the students and staff at the Caucasus Media Institute in Yerevan, Armenia. The goal was to introduce the students of the journalism program with the most important themes in journalism and new media, and to discuss with the staff the possibilities to implement these themes in the curriculum. For the set up of the masterclass, see below the fold.
Continue Reading »
The Mobile City is a conference on Urban Culture, Locative and Mobile Media. I am co-organizing this conference with Michiel de Lange and the Netherlands Architecture Institute in Rotterdam. Keynote speakers are Stephen Graham, Tim Cresswell, Christian Nold and Malcolm McCullough.
The conference brings together academics, urban professionals and media designers to answer the question: what happens to urban culture when physical and digital spaces merge?
Continue Reading »
For the second Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism in Shenzhen and Hong Kong I worked together with Dutch graphic Designers Leon & Loes on a project called ‘Greetings from Pendrecht – The City as Interface’ The exhibit is the result of a research project on the process of ‘space-making’ in the Rotterdam Neighborhood Pendrecht.
Virtual Platform published an English language article about the installation.
After the fold you will find the Dutch press release and pictures from the exhibition. Continue Reading »
For Open #13 The rise of the Informal Media I wrote a contribution about some of the cultural implications of web 2.0. I am mainly interested in processes of ‘validation’ – in a networked media culture, who or what decides what is important? Are the hierarchic authority structures of the cultural elite being replaced by processes of collective and collaborative intelligence? I included the full text after the fold. You can also read it at the website of SKOR in English or Dutch. Continue Reading »
In the summer of 2007 I visited Tokyo and did a short photo research project on urban typologies. I was particularly interested in the contrasts between the contained atrium spaces of new developments like Roppongi Hills and Shiodome on the one hand and the still vey contingent feel of Tokyo’s street – or better: crossings – life on the other. What was the feel of these spaces? How where they appropriated? What was the overall balance between private and public culture? Don’t expect all the definite answers, this was after all a first impression.
Download the PDF for a full report.
Continue Reading »
Together with Femke Wolting, who is a director at Submarine, I was invited to curate and host a session on Virtual Worlds, for the HotSpot network of mediaprofessionals working at or with Public Broadcasting in The Netherlands. We invited three very interesting speakers: Tim Guest, the author of Second Lives; Chris Carella, who works as a creative director at Electric Sheep Company, and director Douglas Gayeton who made a machinima-documentary in and about Second Life. Two local guests completed the line-up: Frank Husman from Lost in the Magic Forest and Danielle Jansen from Amazingg. Frank wrote a report on his blog (in Dutch). Chris also put up his slides. The show was organized as part of the Shortride-festival in the Stadsschouwburg Amsterdam.
I was invited by the editorial team of the 3rd International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam to write a contribution to the catalogue of the Visionary Power Exhibition, published by NAI Publishers. In particular, I was asked to write an essay in the format of a glossary that would bring the main themes and insights of the exhibition together. To give you an idea I included some terms of the glossary after the continue-reading-link. Continue Reading »
In february 2007 Het Spinhuis published De Nieuwe Reporter – Jaarboek 2007, a review of the discussions we hosted on De Nieuwe Reporter, a professional weblog on journalism and technology that I have set up with Theo van Stegeren en Frank van Vree. This book features a number of analytic chapters in which we explain the shift from a hierarchic medialandscape to a more open structured media-ecosystem and what this could mean for professional journalism, the relations between journalists and their audience and the public sphere in general. I worked as one of the editors of this book and wrote three chapters.
The book is in Dutch and for sale at any bookstore in the Netherlands or online. A free pdf with the contents of the book can be downloaded here.
Hot Spot is an informal network of staff members and free lancers connected to Dutch Public Broadcasting. The goal of this network is to exchange ideas, get inspiration and stay up to date with the latest developments in the media landscape. Hot Spot regularly organizes get togethers based on a particular theme. The project was initiated by Bregtje van der Haak, and she asked me to research two themes that would be interesting themes, so I wrote a small report on recent developments in Virtual Worlds and on Web Video.
The first Hot Spot event is planned for April 12th, and is called The Art Show
If you are interested in joining hotspot, mail us at hotspot [AT] omroep [DOT] nl
Together with V2 and the International Institute for Asian Studies I organized a symposium on media culture in China.
Whereas many discussions on media in China focus on censorship, we wanted to address developments in new media from the other side: what can be and is done in China? What new possibilities do digital media like weblogs and podcast open up? Do they play a role in an emerging civil society?
Speakers included Isaac Mao, Karsten Giese and Guobin Yang
There is a registration of the symposium on Archive.org
If you can read Dutch, you can read my research report for which I interviewed a small number of Chinese webloggers.
Continue Reading »
De Nieuwe Reporter is a professional group weblog on journalism, technology, and the public sphere. I started this weblog in mid 2006 together with Frank van Vree and Theo van Stegeren, two colleagues at the department of Mediastudies at the University of Amsterdam. Since then it has grown into one of the top journalism blogs in the Netherlands with over one hundred contributors. In the spring of 2007 we won De Tegel, the most prestigious Dutch prize for journalistic productions.
For the French filmmagazine Tausend Augen I wrote this article on the representation of the Chinese city in the cinema of the directors of the so-called 6th generation.
In the past decade, China, a country of farmers, has become a nation dominated by megacities. Rural villages have turned into regional city centres. Where once farmers ploughed the yellow earth, mirror-glassed high rises now reflect the sun. In the large coastal cities, century old hutongs have been demolished to make way for yet another prestigious office tower or luxurious shopping mall. In the past ten years 40 percent of Beijing and 60 percent of Shanghai has been wiped out and rebuild with a Chinese version of modernist architecture. What is left of the countryside is increasingly depopulated. More than one hundred million farmers have already deserted their remote villages, in search for a better life in the city. Even conservative estimations point out that at least another 400 million will follow them in the next two decades.
The Chinese cinema has seen a similar change of scenes. The postcard aesthetics of rural China pictured by the 5th generation, has given way to the urban landscapes of the sixth generation. But while official state sponsored eulogies celebrate the modern cities as places of joy, as sites where one can get rich and achieve the newly minted Chinese Dream of middle class life, these young filmmakers turn a critical eye on the new urban society that is emerging under their eyes.
Continue Reading »
In the spring of 2004, TimeZone8 published this book on Factory 798, an artist enclave in an old Bauhaus-industrial complex near Beijings 4th ringroad. I contributed an article about the symbolic status of the Chinese Cities and its art districts.
Not long after the revolution of 1949, partyleader Mao and then mayor of Beijing Peng Zhen climbed the rostrum of Tiananmen square and gazed at the horizon of the city that now was theirs to transform. Imagine, the chairman had pronounced with great enthusiasm. ‘We’ll see a forest of chimneys from here!’ The city, in the eyes of the communists was an ugly place. A capitalist stronghold, whose inhabitants pursued decadent bourgeois lifestyles. That, they decided had to change. Cities would no longer be places of consumption. They would be turned into places for the new working class. As cathedrals for the new era, factories with their tall chimneys would be erected all over the city. As a matter of fact, they would hardly remain cities at all. The society would be organized in small autarkic units. Each factory would be its own microcosmos, a place – usually a walled compound – where the proletarians worked, lived, ate, recreated, loved, and participated in party activities . In theory there hardly was any need to leave one’s own danwei (work unit). Thus the city, that ugly site of consumerism, would dissolve in a fragmented pattern of very loosely connected places of production.
Now the tide has turned once again. Continue Reading »
In the fall of 2003, Chris Bajema and I travelled along the big cities of china’s east coast, reporting weekly for the Dutch Daily NPR-program De Ochtenden, and daily on our weblog. We made radio documentaries about free speech and talk radio in Hong Kong, migrants in Shenzhen, Chinese style tourism in Xiamen, we visited the birth place of the then new space hero Yang Liwei, and ended with a feature on the Beijing Art Scene in the then new Factory 798 – and old military supply factory turned into an art loft district. You can still listen to these reportages, the ones I probably like best is this one on the Beijing art scene and this one on the mythmaking of China’s first astronaut.
The project was set up in cooperation with the VPRO, the channel /Geschiedenis and produced by our friends from Submarine.
Our website was nominated for the ‘Golden Pixel’ a Dutch price for online journalism.
In this edited volume on the impact of the digitalization of the medialandscape, I wrote an article about the media use, production of meaning and construction of identity by young Moroccans who are growing up in Holland. Their identity, I suggest, is not a question of either-or (to be either Dutch or Moroccan), but a constant negotiating practice. They use self-created sites like Maroc.nl and fora to negotiate their identity: what does it mean to be moroccan in a dutch context?
SOMS OP DE KAASMANIER,
SOMS OP ONZE MANIER
De emanciperende werking van allochtonenportals op internet
Allochtonen vinden zichzelf te weinig terug in de Nederlandse media. En als ze al aan bod komen, dan steevast als ‘probleem’. ‘Realiseert u zich dat duizenden Marokkaanse Nederlanders de krant openen in de hoop dat er nu eens één dag geen nieuws is over Marokkanen, moslims of allochtonen?’ Over het publieke domein van de media, de poreuze randen en de keuze tussen overlappende of parallelle domeinen. Op zoek naar een nieuwe collectieve identiteit. Continue Reading »
In the yearly review of the Netherlands Institute for War Documentation I wrote a chapter on utopian planning in Arizona. I compared two geographically close but ideologically very different interpretations of utopian city building. The first is Arcosanti, set up decades ago by the Italian architect Paolo Soleri. An old student of Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin West, he revolted against his master and presented his own ideal city as the answer to the polluting and enstranging suburban lifestyle that had become current in the US. In the middle of the desert he was to build a new city with towering skyscrapers, high density, all ecologically sound. The project never really took off, while the burbs of Phoenix – of which I visited DC Ranch – became more popular then ever. Building for men – at least for the moment – seemed to have surpassed building for mankind.
You can read the full article (in Dutch) in an early, unedited version after the fold.
Continue Reading »
In the spring of 2002 Podium published my travelogue Amerika: toets 1 voor het paradijs. (English translation: America: Dial P for Paradise). This book describes the year that I was working in Silicon Valley as a journalist covering the Dotcomboom of these days for the Dutch media. During the year I make a small number of trips to cities like Las Vegas and Phoenix to visit old friends whom I had met during a High School Exchange program, ten years earlier, during which I spent my junior year in High School in the small town of Ignacio, Colorado – culturally the opposite of my correspondent post in liberal San Francisco. I also go back to visit Ignacio itself, to attend my ten year high school reunion.
For me, the book deals with the fascinating relation (better: paradox) between individuality and community that seems to be at the heart of the myth of the American Dream. Continue Reading »