Friday, January 28, 2011

Urbane-ing The City: Examining and Refining The Assumptions Behind Urban Informatics

by Amanda Williams, Erica Robles, and Paul Dourish

This chapter critically examines the notion of “the city” within urban informatics. Arguing that there is an overarching tendency to construe the city as an economically and spatially distinct social form, we review a series of system designs manifesting this assumption. Systematically characterizing the city as a dense ecology of impersonal social interactions occurring within recognizably public places, this construction can be traced to turn-of-thecentury scholarship about the metropolis. The idealized dweller of these spaces, the flâneur, functions as the prototypical user for urban computing technologies. This assumption constrains the domain of application for emergent technologies by narrowing our conception of the urban experience. Drawing on contemporary urban scholarship, we advocate an alternative perspective which foregrounds the experience rather than the form of the metropolis. Users become actors embedded in global networks of mobile people, goods, and information, positioned in a fundamentally heterogeneous and splintered milieu. Grounding this approach in a preliminary study of mobility practices in Bangkok, Thailand, we illustrate how urban informatics might refine its subject, accounting for local particularities between cities as well as the broader global networks of connection between these sites.

traffic congestion in Bangkok, Thailand, photo by Gary Wong Photography

more articles about Bangkok, Thailand:

Great distance between Bangkok and Thailand's second largest city, Nonthaburi

Despite planning MRT, BRT and SRT lines, Bangkok still suffers from traffic congestion

Urbanization and Urbanism in Thailand

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