Accepted Paper:

Invisible cities: dynamic adaptations in digital urban environments - new forms of social organisation through adaptive agency  


Michael Fischer (University of Kent)
Maria Kokolaki (University of Kent at Canterbury)

Paper short abstract:

Cityscapes are emergent narratives connecting physical and constructed 'virtual' facets of cities. Information technology makes new narratives possible. This has consequences for individuals developing new adaptive strategies for transitions between culturally recognised phases of their life.

Paper long abstract:

Taking cityscapes as emergent narrative drivers for overcoming the limitations of space, time and physical senses, we seek to identify possible connections between cities and their physical and constructed, 'virtual', facets. Following Italo Calvino's view of invisible cities, we consider the volatile and transforming aspects of modern global cities as instantiated within the present environment of multiple crises and incessant transformation. Transformation of cities attributed to the enhanced role of information technology may be perceived negatively as a crisis in the public realm or positively as a strengthening of a new profile. New technologies and ubiquitous computing could be crucial in achieving integration and conviviality, especially for mega-cities in crisis.

Drivers of change include physical changes in locales and in the roles of locales within the city together with changes in the overall infrastructure and economic circumstances that emerge from urban formations. This has consequences for individuals who, in the course of 'normal' life, must develop new adaptive strategies as they enter and leave different culturally recognised phases of their life. Much of this will come through learning, either intergenerational or intragenerational learning as they incorporate adaptive strategies from others around them in similar circumstances. So, people try to make most of circumstances, through adaptive agency, a capacity to change the options available and to transform these to viable choices. Conceptualising the information or network society as a new social structure requires new theory for the adaptation of spatial forms and processes in the new situation.

Panel P121
Global cities: digital urbanisation in the 21st century (Commission on Urban Anthropology)