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February 20, 2005

digital cities project


urban database as feedback loop

The Digital Cities Project is a collaboration between several Canadian research insititutions exploring digital technologies inthe urban environment. As part of the Mobile Digital Commons Network they presented at the Pervasive and Locative Arts Network [PLAN] workshop at the ICA in London on February 01-02.

The project research basis: Over the past two decades, several nations have embarked on a “digital” strategy to become key players in the new information economy. Interestingly, despite the heralded innovations these technologies promise, most nations have pursued a similar use of space and place to build isolated multimedia cities. Our research project investigates and analyzes four such multimedia initiatives beginning with the Cité Multimédia and Technoparc in Montreal. This project investigates traces of the “digital city” and its networks, from multimedia districts to virtual environments and mobile devices. The role of technology in the city has been an important focus of cultural research.

While earlier studies have concentrated on urban infrastructure such as electrification and transportation routes, new communications media have given rise to technological systems and networks that re-order the city. Through the workings of new communications media, the social and technological apparatus of cities is transformed, altering the terms of urban theory and representation.

This type of feedback loop not only expands the site of the "interface" from computer terminal to the city, but also multiplies types of input to encompass both physical and virtual data. Our research asks what would happen if the feedback loop were inverted, such that the city controlled the data, and the data's performance were always measured against the changing tides of urban life. Such a circular interplay challenges the discrete status of data, and instead requires a process of continual re-situating and adjustment within urban context. In this sense, we are reversing the logic of the feedback loop, which attempts to maintain system equilibrium in the face of disturbance. By privileging urban dynamics as the "command signal" that guides the data, the database becomes doubly urban, both documenting and being shaped by activities in the urban environment to form an expanded feedback loop.

Posted by michelle at February 20, 2005 11:56 PM