Leuphana Digital 3rd Assignment: Develop your vision

This is a start on the third stage of a MOOC on cities. A later version will include other views and could be longer. Not sure where this will go but i am beginning to get an outline. This may continue on this blog, the MOOC has its own timetable and team requirements.

also a Google doc

Third Assignment: Develop your vision

This is more like a blog post for me. Towards the end is more on my situation.

I am finding the various forms of “ideal” city quite hard to follow. Most of these ideas are open to abuse as they are interpreted or realised. There is a constant struggle in society that is more of a context than anything abstract. So I am interested in slight shifts rather than anything grand. The main thing is to look at the internet and online worlds that can complement buildings as they currently exist. There is still a role for actual places. In learning the favoured term is “blended” and this can relate to other scenes as well. It worries me that visions about the city are likely to result in expense to either redevelop existing places or to extend the city into the country.

The functions of the city can be the same as for a set of web sites. Cultural exchange, spiritual sites, education, research / science / technology , shopping both for essentials and entertainment / experiences.

The web has always had an element of idealised vision. Recently the “social media” phase seems to include massive online Public Relations so the original community is often crowded out. But it still has potential to offer the same functions as real space with lower costs and a global reach. The City is associated with finance, much of the gloss is covering financial structures. The web is also based on strong central nodes for a network but there is still some possibility to contest this.

Saskia Sassen "The Future of Smart Cities"

This talk is out of balance I think. It concentrates on the limitations of computer systems on offer from companies. There could be more attention for the networks based in communities. I will come back to this during the next week or so. By the way I find the half hour YouTube clip ok to relate to. The ones on the course are mostly so short I get confused as to which bit follows on.

The main advantage of the web over cities is that space can be more distributed. Some so called cities are really county towns ( Exeter for example where I live ) In theory there could be similar bandwidth throughout the region. Time travel is also possible online. Special environments in time can be as creative as spaces.

Fourth principle. Heterotopias are most often linked to slices in time — which is to say that they open onto what might be termed, for the sake of symmetry, heterochronies.


from previous document on Significant Detail

Assuming connectivity through the web, it is possible for creative work in smaller towns, possibly in villages. People sometimes talk about a village as part of a larger site. This may be a sub group, such as pubs with an open mic. One research aim is to explore the minimum requirement to be a base for relating to the web. Exeter may have enough - several mobile phone shops, computer stores, a library with web access. Also cafes with wifi. There needs to be the basics for real existence also, food and transport.

In the UK there is a term “non-viable community”, not official but used by telecoms companies to describe a village or area that they see no need to connect. I’m not sure what is supposed to happen in such places. But there must be something a bit larger that can be sustained.


More about Exeter, Lancaster, London

I notice more investment in buildings than web sites when I visit the university campus, both in Lancaster and Exeter. The university campus seems now to be comparable to a city centre. However the function is not always improved. In Exeter the new Forum development has resulted in the loss of a bookshop. Apparently a bookshop no longer fits with the design values for the retail space. This may turn out to be very sensible as bookshops face more problems in the high street. But if there is no need for a bookshop, what is the case for a library or lecture seats. It may be possible for the university to return to the city centre. Another loss has been parking spaces for visitors. There are not enough buses to replace this so there are problems in attending the theatre or concerts. In Lancaster there are new buildings for an arts department but a gallery in the centre has recently closed. I get the impression that universities have accepted the idea that new buildings are part of a process in establishing a global brand. They become the local economy rather than part of it. The economics seem to depend on future income from student fees so it is not clear this trend will continue indefinitely. One problem is that a new building is an event, so in a few years they may need another one.

London is still pleased with the Olympics but on a recent visit to ExCel I discovered that the walking route from the Olympic site along the river Lea is unlikely to be completed. There were inspiring plans at the time of the bid but now there is no budget. There is very little attention for the locality around the Olympic site. There has always been a walking route along the canal from Victoria Park to Hackney Marshes. Most of the river has a foot path. The walking connection between the Olympics and Excel will have to be in the imagination or a virtual world. there is a rail link but I don’t think places relate together unless there is a walk so that the surroundings can be seen.


I have spent some time in Twinity, starting with Berlin. There used to be maps and streets but this has now gone as the costs are too high. I don’t understand why cities do not find ways to cover this as they benefit from the interest online. Maybe there will be other virtual worlds that relate to actual space. I don’t mind fantasy cities as well as smaller spaces that are easy to live in.