Inscribing a Square: Urban Data as Public Space

Dietmar Offenhuber & Katja Schechtner

In his 1965 movie Alphaville, Jean-Luc Godard takes us to a city regulated and controlled by the omniscient computer “Alpha 60” based on principles of logic and reason. Allegedly, Godard originally intended to name his movie Tarzan versus IBM (Darke, 2005). As of 2012, this working title seems more pertinent than ever. The past year was marked by two big themes for cities and technology: first, the ubiquitous arrival of “smart city” solutions, peddled by companies such as IBM and CISCO to municipal governments in order to upgrade and optimize their urban infrastructure through information technology. Second, the success of civic protests and disobedience, coordinated bottom-up through social media—the “Arab Spring,” Wikileaks, the Spanish May 15 or the American Occupy movements, just to name a few.

This is a book about how information shapes the city: its sensory experience, its infrastructures and its places. We are interested in the ways different groups use urban information to make sense of public spaces and change them. Therefore, two processes are of special interest:

  1. Sensing Place. The role of urban data as a public good in a context where cities are increasingly instrumented with real-time sensor networks.
  2. Placing Sense. Practices aimed at changing the urban environment by re-inscribing public spaces through location-based media.

Available from Springer and Amazon