Digital Urbanism

Sky is the limit in the planet of digital city tools, while it is citizens, companies and governments who will decide to use, adapt or just abandon them.

Database Majority Report by Play the City

Play the City launches Digital Urbanism research to contribute to the growing knowledge for evaluating high-impact tools that process city data. Today, it is not revolutionary to state that data is the oil of the 21st century. Just like crude oil, data needs to be processed and refined. We are increasingly able to generate meaning from this data mining. Information and stories are extracted from refined data, creating value just as refined oil does. Meaningful data is what makes it possible for governments, companies and citizens to create new forms of interaction.

What Digital Urbanism means to governments, companies and citizens?

Governments are getting used to the idea of sharing traditionally protected data to connect with their citizens, while citizens create increasingly more user-generated data that can be traced. Companies, on the other hand, develop models to better understand individuals and process their data for their businesses. Moreover, citizens are searching for forms of self-governance to replace existing institutions, as in people's co-operative movements, or companies that build and manage cities (replacing the government's role) as in the smart city of Songdo, South Korea. Governments, such as that of Finland, are turning back to their citizens, basing their decision making on user-generated data. The conventional roles of the government, company and citizen are blurring. Rules for communication, connectivity and collaboration between these parties are continually reset.

What Digital Urbanism means to planners and architects?

For urban planners and architects, this means that the new client might be a people’s co-operative instead of a government or commercial housing agency, or that the program for an entire city is defined by a company instead of a state.

It also means that the way urban designers communicate, connect and collaborate with unconventional new clients will not be by conventional means. Just as governments feel the need to open up their power schemes more, urban planners and architects will feel the need to redefine their decision-making processes. They will need to invest more in finding ways to understand behaviors of their unconventional clients, just as companies invest in understanding what people consume and produce.

For urban planners and architects this means that beyond creating knowledge and stories out of data, they will create, and reply to, interactive city tools that respond to the changing needs and expectations of their unconventional clients. They will feel the need to analyze real-time activity patterns of citizens in foursquare datasets (a game app on the smart phone), in addition to the maps from the city’s planning office. While creating interactive city tools, architects and urban planners will feel the need to understand and evaluate which tools most effectively communicate, connect and form partnerships between citizens, companies and governments.

What Digital Urbanism means to Play the City?

Play the City believes that we need the right knowledge to evaluate apps, websites and censored–or is it sensored?– installations in cities. From the overwhelming amount of these interactive tools created and applied daily, we believe it is an appropriate moment to distill knowledge concerning the right interface for such tools in relation to a given city question.

We believe that not only the design but also the decision making processes carry significance in the success of a city tool. How can we detect the right form of such a tool for a given governance system?

We believe that unpredictability instead of control prevails in the success of such tools. How do people adapt the digital tools in unexpected ways, and how can designers work with this?
Play the City believes that urban planners and architects need to embrace interactive city tools as new territory in which to act.