Remember, remember, the sixth of November: AG talk/book launch at the New Museum
It’s been a good long while since I’ve given a proper hometown talk, and there really is very little in life I like better than matching wits with a proper hometown crowd. So why not come help me celebrate the launch of “Against the smart city” at the New Museum, November 6th at 7:00 pm?
UPDATE: A few folks have written in to mention they can’t really tell from the New Museum site what the talk is all about, and I think that’s fair comment. Here’s what I’m planning to speak about:
I believe that we have the good fortune, you and I, of living in flat-out astonishing times. From 15-M and the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street and beyond, the wave of actions that began in 2011 (and has continued into this year’s occupation of Istanbul’s Taksim Square) represents nothing less than a global assertion of the will to self-determination, comparable in its magnitude to the events of 1968 or 1989. A critical subtext that emerged during these struggles concerned the very ground they were enacted on, engaging the kind of questions more usually debated by specialists in urban planning, land use and law: for whose benefit are the city’s policies designed, enacted and enforced? Who controls its spaces? Who is the city for?
During the very same period, though, that people all over the world were answering these questions by putting their own bodies on the line — and (arguably/partially/in some places) prevailing — the terms of their struggle began to migrate onto a new and far less hospitable terrain. This terrain was technical in nature, or technological. Global enterprises like IBM, Cisco, Siemens, LG and Microsoft, having identified an attractive market opportunity in the urban deployment of certain networked, digital information technologies, fused these technologies into a single proposition and offered it to municipalities worldwide under the rubric of the “smart city.”
Their offerings are generally justified with claims of enhanced efficiency, security, convenience and sustainability. But for reasons that I’ve detailed on this site and in the pamphlet (and will speak to in the New Museum talk), I just don’t believe these organizations are capable of delivering on their promises. Even if they were capable of doing so, I don’t think the ends they aspire to have very much to do with the ways cities actually work to generate value for the people that live, work and dream in them. And I definitely don’t believe that much of anyone at all would retain any enthusiasm for this notion of the smart city if they understood just how closely its development was informed by neoliberal values, or the requirements of authoritarian administration.
Most bizarrely of all, the stream of activity taking place under this banner barely acknowledges the one networked information technology that actually has colonized urban space and experience over the same interval, in just about every city on Earth: the smartphone.
So we’ll dispense with the smart city, and end the talk by looking at some practical, concrete ways in which we might use the networked information technologies we already have to advance our desire for individual and collective self-determination, uphold the right of all to use all the spaces of the city, and support ways of being urban that produce genuine meaning and value for all of us.
Like I said: it’ll be a good time — and all the gods of discourse willing, we ought to have actual books for sale. See you then and there.
UPDATE AG’IN: Here’s the talk as described on the Architectural League’s great Urban Omnibus site, complete with Nurri’s illustration!