Infrastructural Urbanism: Ecologies and Technologies of Multi-layered Landscapes

By Nick Dunn.

Published by Spaces and Flows: An International Journal of Urban and ExtraUrban Studies

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

A number of current hypotheses concern the effect of new means of communication particularly Internet-hosted networks and digital spaces on the experience of urban place, often referred to as the ‘network city’. Via the digital networking of spatially distant people, the new urban society is frequently illustrated as one where the physical basis of sociability is declining in favour of dematerialized, delocalized, far-ranging systems and networks. However, this may not actually be as recent a phenomenon as it first appears, as Melvin Webber described in his highly influential article “The Urban Place and the Nonplace Urban Realm” of 1964, urban life and urban experience were always synonymous with a partial dissociation from the constraints of locality. The prevalence of technology in daily transactions and relationships leads to a rich geography, yet inequalities continue to prevail in the ‘space of flows’ as coined by Manuel Castells. The mobility and connectivity of communities with niche interests may now be seen to have evolved ‘digital ecologies’ through their use of digital infrastructures that afford meaningful relationships. A key aspect of the position presented here is the use of such technology to develop instrumentality with which to facilitate ‘thick’ descriptions of digital networks and communities and contribute to our understanding of their spatiality. This paper therefore attempts to describe and explain this transformation and propose theoretical material to address some of the attendant issues.

Keywords: Urbanism, Infrastructure, Networks, Spatiality, Social Relations, Cultural Assemblages

Spaces and Flows: An International Journal of Urban and ExtraUrban Studies, Volume 1, Issue 1, pp.87-96. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 630.847KB).

Prof. Nick Dunn

Principal Lecturer, Architecture, Manchester School of Architecture, Manchester, Lancashire, UK

Principal Lecturer, Author and Director of Studies for the BArch Bachelor of Architecture program at the Manchester School of Architecture. He is Studio Unit Leader of [Re_Map], whose research is concerned with the mapping and representation of urban networks, data and conditions. He also supervises postgraduate research at MA by Research and PhD level. He is a founding member of ‘team-bau’, an architectural think-tank and research unit. His doctorate thesis, ‘The Ecology of the Architectural Model’ was concerned with developing a new methodology and system of diagrams with which to study and map the design behaviour of architecture students and contribute to the understanding of the complex process of design. It has since been published as a book. He has recently contributed to a major international research project funded by the European Union and led by Bruno Latour. His involvement in the project was as part of an investigation into the representation and mapping of space, both real and digital, as places for public engagement with a variety of different communities and ‘architectures’ and an analysis of the potential controversies. His primary research interests are in the fields of visualization, modelling, mapping, pedagogy, representation in architecture, and urbanism.