Altered States: Social Networks, Digital Ecologies and Affecting Change in the Urban Landscape

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

Network structures have rapidly evolved to form the organizational model of socio-cultural exchange and technological development in the digital age. Indeed, such transformation has radically altered the way in which we connect and relate to each other through mobile technologies and social interfaces. Surrounding this transition, in both temporal and spatial terms, is the shift in our understanding of both the composition and content of what we might call ‘the city.’ The omnipresent, seemingly boundless influence of ‘network culture’ has led to a transfer in our attitude and position to them; as van’t Hof et al. (2011) have suggested “we go from being on the net to being in the net.” What does this mean for the city? There has been an inclination within contemporary critical theory and literature on the subject to assume that such technologies have surpassed the capability of the urban realm and that architecture is unable to sustain its position in this regard. It is perhaps, therefore, useful to consider two variant models of engaging with the city: the ‘physical experience of urban space’ and ‘digital social connectivity.’ These integrative elements of our relationship with urban conditions are not, however, fully combinative or inclusive in a manner with which they can coalesce and involve people across a significant and representative section of society. This directs us towards an important set of agents within the city—the urban collective, i.e. the citizens and their numerous communities, groups and shared resources, ideals and features. This paper, therefore, proposes a framework for affecting change in the urban landscape through notions of spatial justice, governance, and communities in relation to physical place and digital identity.

Keywords: Governance, Policy, Spatial Justice, Social Networks, Communities, Spatiality of the Internet

Spaces and Flows: An International Journal of Urban and ExtraUrban Studies, Volume 2, Issue 1, pp.151-160. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 718.074KB).

Prof. Nick Dunn

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

Nick Dunn is an Author, Principal Lecturer and Director of Studies for the MArch Master of Architecture programme at the Manchester School of Architecture. He is co-director of the [Re_Map] unit, whose research is concerned with the mapping and representation of urban networks, data and conditions. His books include, The Ecology of the Architectural Model (Peter Lang, 2007) and the co-authored Urban Maps: Instruments of Narrative and Interpretation in the City (Ashgate, 2011). His primary research interests are in the fields of visualization, modelling, mapping, representation in architecture, infrastructure, post-industrial landscapes and urbanism. His work responds to the contemporary city as a series of systems, flows and processes, and is explored through experimentation and discourse addressing the nature of urban space: its perception, demarcation and appropriation.