The City of Flows is connected to global networks. What does this mean for today’s cities? How do global networks manifest themselves in everyday life? And how are limited analog spaces reflected in the potentially unlimited realm of the virtual?

Just as industrial society demolished medieval city walls, the information society is transcending geographical limitations. Binary code can create virtual realities, and with them free spaces which stand in contrast to the socio-spatial limits of physical locations. Fewer and fewer specific places are required to fulfil specific functions or provide services. At the same time, life for most city dwellers remains determined by infrastructure and the qualities and barriers of the physical.

“With its global economy, the information society will encroach deep into our cities” (Manuel Castells)

How can this encroachment be (co-)influenced – among other by the shapers of the analog city? And during this process, how can different professional practice and perceptions – on the one hand the digital bohemians with their global conferences and publications, on the other hand the municipal experts from city institutions – take a step closer together and become connected?

A mixture of virtual and real combinations will react to increasingly flexible and dynamic modes of living. The nature of this mixture is dependent on the positions and standpoints regarding the city that today are diverse in their contradictions. What can be done to counteract a polarisation of digital and analog living environments? How can digital globetrotters be motivated to relocate their projects, free floating in network environments, in the “flesh and stone” (Sennett) of the cities? What spaces of possibility (linked to the concept of the European city) can be created for the newly emerging modes of living? And by whom?

These questions and more are the focus of the conference “The City of Flows – Interdisciplinary perspectives on the digital city in analog spaces”. International speakers from academia and practice have been invited to speak on the following topic clusters:

I.      Data flows “Mapping the City”: How digital technologies are changing the perception of the city

Initially, today’s conceptualisations, technologies and visualisations of a modern “mapping of the city” will be presented. The conceptualisations include web-based mapping projects (e.g. Google Mashups), projects centring on resident participation and agitation with the help of location-based services and interventionist artwork. The (continual) mapping combined with aesthetic, interactive-dynamic visualisation and the provision of urban data (flows) represents an important basis for discussion and decision-making processes in the city.

II.     Lifeworlds: How living environments and participation in public life affairs are changing

On-going issues of climate change and ecological urban restructuring are also bringing urban living environments into question. Behavioural changes are necessary and are being tested through neighbourhood projects, integrated mobility concepts and connections between living, work and leisure. New communities of responsibility are emerging which are supported, facilitated and inspired by information and communication technologies. This process is redefining the relationship (which characterises European cities) between public and private life.

III.   Institutions “The Informational City”: How municipal institutions and their functions are changing

Until very recently, urban culture has been determined by buildings and institutions: museums, theatres, concert halls, libraries, academies/universities and socio-cultural centres as well as palaces, parks and churches: all are witnesses to our cultural heritage. Set in stone, the representation as well as the functional responsibility of these outdated institutions are mixed up by the information and network society, then either rejected or re-evaluated. In the informational city, “old” education and cultural institutions such as libraries reflect with particular clarity the structural changes of the digital society.

IV.   Res Publica: How the conceptualisation of public affairs is changing

A city can no longer be governed “from the top down”. Municipal policy is now far more characterised by a complex mesh of compromise and cooperation between politics/administration, business and civil society groups. Orderly civic participation and processes suffer repeated “disturbance” due to unpredicted protests, civil initiatives and spontaneous outbursts of indignation. This both confuses procedures and brings into question formalised participation. In either case, information and communication technologies act as important agencies and amplifiers for developments. But do they also contribute something to those intersections that exist between outrage and participation?

V.    Interventions in city space: How social sculptures are changing the city

Artists (or at least some of them) are leaving the realm of autonomous art where they may be able to achieve radical self-expression, but cannot engage directly with reality in its extremes. For the interventionists, this isn’t enough. They are out to improve the world: accomplices of the good life orchestrating unbidden moments in urban spaces.

 

The conference is organised and conceptualised by the »City-Climate Potsdam« Innovation Institute of the Potsdam University of Applied Sciences in cooperation with Potsdam City Council. The Innovation Institute is an initiative from the Potsdam University of Applied Sciences on the topic of behavioural changes in the time of climate change.

The conference’s location is Potsdam’s cultural and creative quarter at Schiffbauergasse.

The conference is orientated toward participants with backgrounds in the sciences, culture, administration, local urban develop, business and politics who deal with digital-analog interfaces in our cities.