Comments: (3)

Hybrid Cities and Networked Participatory Design Systems | Hybrid Space Lab

Category: ⚐ EN+architecture+open culture+urban social design+urbanism

Coinciding with the rise of digital tools that foster participatory systems, Hybrid Space Lab is an entity that exists in the realm between architect and client, the traditional shapers of space. In this article, originally published here, Elizabeth Sikiaridi and Frans Vogelaar of Hybrid Space Lab share three of their projects and their thoughts on networked participatory design systems today.

The CITY KIT hybrid game by Hybrid Space Lab

The CITY KIT hybrid game by Hybrid Space Lab


CITY KIT is a combined urban-computer game to upgrade your neighborhood. The CITY KIT project was developed for the Hong Kong Social Housing Authority with as a target group young people that are familiar with computer games but hardly play outside.

This hybrid game revolves around city planning and urban redevelopment. CITY KIT turns the residents into the “makers” of the city, providing thus a bridge between the users of the urban environment and the experts – the architects and the urban planners.

The CITY KIT hybrid game by Hybrid Space Lab

The CITY KIT hybrid game by Hybrid Space Lab

Playing the CITY KIT game, the residents can adapt and improve their local physical environment by building a digital version of their neighborhood. Using modular building components that can be moved around and fixed in certain places in the environment, users can build micro-stages, exhibition decks, floating bars and theatres, swimming pools and other recreational facilities that make living in the neighborhood more fun.

The CITY KIT hybrid game by Hybrid Space Lab

The CITY KIT hybrid game by Hybrid Space Lab

CITY_KIT is an open-source medium in which participants can add elements and share their designs. An online platform in the form of a website allows residents to actively take part in the game. All it takes is a simple click of the mouse to interactively test your own virtual version of CITY KIT.

Residents and game users can design their own objects and facilities and can realize their ideas: A ‘real’ object, an analog version of the proposed CITY KIT element, can be built at the chosen location.

On the website, the user can also pinpoint exactly where a digital object should be located in the analogue world. This can be done using a mobile phone.

The CITY KIT hybrid game by Hybrid Space Lab

The CITY KIT hybrid game by Hybrid Space Lab

The goal of CITY KIT is to help you revalue your local surroundings and incorporate the new, imaginative layers created in CITY KIT’s virtual world. Making small modifications to the personal, physical environment in digital space changes the experience of living in the real world.

DIY Pavilion by Hybrid Space Lab at the Hong Kong & Shenzhen Bi-city Biennial of Urbanism and Architecture 2009-2010 Photo by Andy Tam

DIY Pavilion at the Hong Kong & Shenzhen Bi-city Biennial of Urbanism and Architecture 2009-2010. Photo by Andy Tam

DIY Pavilion

Outcome of the CITY KIT project was the DIY Pavilion, first presented at the waterfront promenade of Hong Kong within the framework of the Hong Kong & Shenzhen Bi-city Biennial of Urbanism and Architecture 2009-2010 and later set up at the Hong Kong Jockey Club Creative Arts Centre and at the Kwai Tsing Theatre in Hong Kong.

DIY Pavilion by Hybrid Space Lab at the Hong Kong & Shenzhen Bi-city Biennial of Urbanism and Architecture 2009-2010; photo by Andy Tam

DIY Pavilion at the Hong Kong & Shenzhen Bi-city Biennial of Urbanism and Architecture 2009-2010. Photo by Andy Tam

Following the CITY KIT concept, users can co-create their design of the pavilion. The pavilion’s architecture is based on an architectural design principle with a flexible structure that can adapt to site and program requirements, to different content, context and spatial situations. The structure of the pavilion architectural design principle makes it possible to involve the users in the design, building and transformation of the pavilion.

‘Build Your Own Pavilion’ at the Hong Kong & Shenzhen Bi-city Biennial of Urbanism and Architecture 2009-2010

‘Build Your Own Pavilion’ at the Hong Kong & Shenzhen Bi-city Biennial of Urbanism and Architecture 2009-2010

The pavilion consists of triangular plywood plates sown together with the help of cable binders. It is a flexible mobile structure to be easily disassembled, transported, reassembled and sown together again, adjusting to the size of the site and the local requirements.

Detail of the DIY Pavilion by Hybrid Space Lab; photo by Andy Tam

Detail of the DIY Pavilion by Hybrid Space Lab; photo by Andy Tam

Videos on urban issues were projected on the triangular crystalline structure of the pavilion’s interior as the pavilion travelled to the different locations for community education.

Model of the DIY Pavilion by Hybrid Space Lab. Photo by Julian Roeder

Model of the DIY Pavilion by Hybrid Space Lab. Photo by Julian Roeder

Model of the DIY Pavilion by Hybrid Space Lab. Photo by Julian Roeder


Both projects, CITY KIT as well as the DIY Pavilion, were recently presented within the framework of the SIMPLE CITY installation by Hybrid Space Lab at the MAKK Museum of Applied Arts Cologne from May to August 2012 and at the first issue of plan – Architecture Biennial Cologne (plan – Architektur Biennale Köln in German) in September 2012.

The SIMPLE CITY is an interface for the participative development of urban projects by professionals and laymen. The design of this simulated urban environment can be broken down to simple elements that can be copied and modified by the users of the city.

SIMPLE CITY installation by Hybrid Space Lab at the MAKK Museum of Applied Arts Cologne from May to August 2012. Photo by Hybrid Space Lab

SIMPLE CITY installation by Hybrid Space Lab at the MAKK Museum of Applied Arts Cologne from May to August 2012. Photo by Hybrid Space Lab

Laymen and city-users by copying, pasting and modifying the basic elements can easily adapt the urban design in order to develop new urban settings.

With its modular setting SIMPLE CITY corresponds to the serially produced, global, generic city (with all the instabilities and breaks). SIMPLE CITY therefore refers to the city of the industrial age that was intrinsically related with the system of serial industrial mass production. The city of the industrial age was serially produced as the addition of generic urban elements. Therefore the model elements of the SIMPLE CITY installation were built with the help of modular building bricks that were sponsored by the Danish company Lego.

SIMPLE CITY installation by Hybrid Space Lab at the plan - Architecture Biennial Cologne, September 2012. Photo by Hybrid Space Lab

SIMPLE CITY installation by Hybrid Space Lab at the plan. Architecture Biennial Cologne, Sept. 2012. Photo by Hybrid Space Lab

SIMPLE CITY is an interface that enables the communication of dynamic and networked information on urban projects. It forms an environment for interactive collaboration and for communication of process-oriented urban and architectural projects. This includes projects on the energy and material cycles of the city, on urban conversion and on networked participatory urban and architectural design, such as the CITY KIT and the DIY Pavilion projects.

Networked Participatory Design Systems Today

The projects described above stand in the long tradition of participatory urban design, in the long tradition of the efforts of inserting the voice of the public into the process of shaping cities. Today these networked participatory design projects, such as CITY KIT, DIY Pavilion and SIMPLE CITY, are part of a general trend and of a paradigm shift.

Networked organizations and systems are today transforming our society in general. With new technologies and digital media currently transforming production and social communication, urban and architectural design is being redefined in a new context.

Participatory urban and architectural design systems are gaining –in the context of a networked society– in relevance. This is a general phenomenon as networked co-operation and open-source are to be found in many contemporary social and cultural expressions.

Current social-political are using social media tools and mobile media networks. Fluctuating networked political forces distrust established political parties and contest the concept of the ‘political expert’, creating independent self-publication channels and demanding ‘direct democracy’.

Networked systems are also transforming knowledge production; think of the Wikipedia, ‘the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit’. Co-operation, co-authorship and open-source are to be found in many contemporary cultural expressions and phenomena, such as, for example, Wikimedia Commons, the free media file repository making available public domain and freely licensed educational media content (images, sound and video clips) to everyone.

Users, aided by improvements in information-communication technology are increasingly developing their own new products and services, ‘democratising’ innovation. These innovating users often freely share their innovations with others, creating user-innovation communities and a rich intellectual commons.

The word “prosumer” is used in this context to describe the type of consumer who becomes involved in the design and manufacturing of products, so they can be made to his individual specification. The word “prosumer” blends the roles of producer and consumer and was first coined in 1980 by the futurist Alvin Toffler in his book “The Third Wave”.

Today the “prosumer” can be engaged in innovation and design as well as in the manufacturing of products that fit his individual specifications and needs. In the last years 3D printing has developed to a low cost technology that everyone can use to produce objects. 3D printing allows industrial production on a desktop scale enabling autonomous production for individuals and designers. This development of object production is enabled by the Internet and by the acceleration of technological developments and open source communities. The digital blue prints of objects are designed in 3D software and can be shared via digital networks. On special Internet platforms people share these open source 3D designs that can be produced via rapid prototyping with 3D printers.

Networked participatory design systems are replacing the logics of the industrial age, where the creative one designed for the non-creative masses. The architects and urban designers focus is shifting from designing objects and spaces to programming processes in interaction with users. The task of ‘designing’ processes for networks of people involved on the development of the urban environment is gaining in relevance. This means a shift from centralized to (distributed) participatory systems with ‘enabling solutions’ that involve users. This includes solutions and platforms that ‘enable’ users to interact, integrating users as participants into development processes of the urban environment – such as the CITY KIT, SIMPLE CITY and the DIY Pavilion.

Originally published at

Elizabeth Sikiaridi and Frans Vogelaar founded Hybrid Space Lab, a R&D and design practice focusing on the hybrid fields that are emerging through the combination and fusion of environments, objects and services in the information-communication age. The scope of our development and design projects ranges from those on urban games and planning to buildings, architectural interiors and industrial design applications and wearables.

Hybrid Space Lab is an interdisciplinary environment with an innovative and integrated approach to spatial issues. The focus of our work lies in fusing digital and analog environments, in embedding media networks in urban/architectural, social and cultural spaces. Hybrid Space Lab is a lab and a network in which architects, urbanists, landscape architects and environmental planners, designers, soft- and hardware engineers collaborate in the development of projects for combined analog and digital, urban, architectural, design and media spaces.

Hybrid Space Lab recently developed visions for the program of the new institute that will be formed by the merger of the Netherlands Architecture Institute (Nederlands Architectuurinstituut), the Netherlands Institute for Design and Fashion (Premsela) and the institute responsible for digital culture (Virtueel Platform). For an English text see here.

Comments: (0)

La cuarta dimensión

Category: ⚐ ES+arquitectura+LCV+tecnologías+urbanismo

Retomamos otro artículo publicado previamente en La Ciudad Viva que, al hilo del anterior, reflexiona sobre el concepto de vecindad en un mundo glocal, con una relación en tiempo real entre lo digital y lo presencial que forma lo que Domenico llama “la cuarta dimensión”.

Todos nos hemos pasado una noche entera en Facebook o en Twitter hablando con amigos y conocidos, muchas veces gente que vive a miles de kilómetros. Sabemos lo que pasa en China y hasta el detalle más nimio de la ceremonia de los Oscars. ¿Por qué no nos pasamos la noche charlando con nuestros vecinos? ¿Por qué mi identidad ya no tiene relación con el barrio en el que vivo, ni me entero ya de lo que ocurre en la calle de al lado? El progreso nos ha cambiado el barrio por la aldea global pero la llegada de Internet nos ofrece lo mejor de los dos mundos gracias a la cuarta dimensión.

yo cojo lo de los demás, los demás cogen lo mío

La palabra globalización es una farsa. No hay globalización, sólo hay virtualización. Lo que está siendo efectivamente globalizado es el tiempo. Ahora todo sucede dentro de la perspectiva del tiempo real: de hoy en adelante estamos pensados para vivir en un sistema de tiempo único.
Por primera vez la historia va a revelarse dentro de un sistema de tiempo único: el tiempo global. Hasta ahora la historia ha tenido lugar dentro de tiempos locales, estructuras locales, regiones y naciones. Pero ahora, en cierto modo, la globalización y la virtualización están inaugurando un tiempo universal que prefigura una nueva forma de tiranía.
De este modo vemos por un lado al tiempo real sustituyendo al espacio real. Por otro lado tenemos el tiempo global, perteneciente al multimedia, al ciberespacio, increíblemente dominando la estructura del tiempo local de nuestras ciudades, nuestras vecindades.

Paul Virilio planteaba en 1995 los efectos del progreso, concretamente del ciberespacio, en la sociedad. Reflexionaba sobre el concepto de tiempo real y tiempo único, entendiéndolo como la destrucción definitiva del espacio real. Debo decir que estoy fascinado con esta reflexión de Virilio, que se define a sí mismo como filósofo y urbanista autodidacta (¡Gracias Manon por descubrírmelo!).

No obstante, estoy totalmente en desacuerdo con él porque no tiene en cuenta algo que hoy se da por sentado: la hibridación físico-digital. Afortunadamente, hace ya años que se dejó de hablar de ciberespacio y se empezó a hablar de una sola realidad con diferentes facetas, entre ellas la digital y la presencial. Segundo, porque lo que dice Virilio se parece más a lo que han generado los medios de comunicación de masas y la primera etapa de Internet. En realidad, este momento es el comienzo de un proceso que va en sentido opuesto.

Cuando Virilio habla del concepto glocal da a entender que en esta nueva relación entre local y global, lo local sale perdiendo y, por consiguiente, aparecen ciudades sin interés, que dependen de lo que él denomina “tiempo global” o “tiempo único”. Me acuerdo ahora precisamente de Virilio porque expone el problema y el peligro y justo es hoy, en estos momentos, cuando se está produciendo un cambio histórico.

En una entrevista dice “si el tiempo es dinero, entonces la velocidad es poder”. Ahí ha dado en el clavo. Es más, añadiría que el poderoso es aquel que puede permitirse perder el tiempo.

Estoy convencido de que el “tiempo real” puede ser la herramienta más poderosa que los ciudadanos hayan tenido. Lo es por dos simples razones. La primera, porque les permite organizar, plantear, crear y formar parte de procesos distribuidos de creación, transformación y gestión urbana. Me refiero a procesos que sólo son posibles cuando el retorno de la información sobre los resultados de las acciones de cada uno permite reaccionar y redirigir el proceso hacia lo que desea cada individuo. La segunda razón es que el tiempo real es la base de lo que podríamos llamar ambient intelligence, un “lugar” en el que personas, proyectos y objetos que configuran un entorno pueden interactuar para fomentar la serendipia, el conocimiento y la creación colectiva.

Hablamos, claro está, de procesos claramente locales, horizontales y distribuidos. Procesos que devuelven a la ciudad su carácter de espacio de aprendizaje, como bien nos recuerdan Paco González y Enric Senabre.

La cuestión es, ¿cómo lo conseguimos?

Casi todos tenemos un smartphone, o por lo menos un ordenador con acceso a Internet. Estos dispositivos nos dan acceso a la cuarta dimensión (SentientID).

La cuarta dimensión nace cuando nos encontramos en un ambient intelligence. Se trata de la conexión definitiva entre el espacio, el tiempo y la capa de información. Virilio temía que esa capa de información se comería las demás de facetas de la realidad, sin embargo ese peligro ya no existe gracias a la hibridación.

El disponer de información en tiempo real de todo lo que nos rodea aumenta las posibilidades de crear espacios comunes de interacción. Internet nos permite relacionar la información digital de todos los agentes “sensibles” que configuran un mismo entorno físico y que podamos acceder a ella en tiempo real, por eso es en Internet donde se dan con más facilidad la construcción de este tipo de espacios.

Ahora tenemos la capacidad de trasladar todo ese potencial que se genera en Internet al espacio físico. Tenemos la capacidad de conocer los proyectos, las pasiones, las ideas y los deseos que laten en las calles y en los hogares de nuestro barrio. No se trata de conocer la vida íntima de cada vecino sino de tener una idea general sobre lo que ocurre a nuestro alrededor, como cuando salimos a la calle un día soleado tras varios días de lluvia y notamos que todo el mundo parece feliz. Esta sensibilidad al entorno (ambient awareness, en inglés) es algo que está en peligro de extinción.

mi identidad la busco en los demas

Si nos paramos a pensar, sabemos qué ocurre al otro lado del Atlántico pero si alguien nos preguntara qué pasa en el barrio, posiblemente contestaríamos que en nuestro barrio nunca pasa nada.

El progreso nos ha quitado la ambient awareness y el progreso nos la devuelve a través del uso de dispositivos con acceso a Internet. La sensibilidad al entorno no puede existir si no disponemos de información en tiempo real y contextualizada. Mediante el intercambio de esta información recuperamos ambient awareness, la base para sobre la que construir ese lugar de creación que hemos llamado ambient intelligence.

Dicho de otra manera: la interacción que podemos tener con nuestros vecinos y la cantidad de información digital relacionada con nuestro entorno físico no pasa por un modelo automático que define a los ciudadanos como autómatas guiados por máquinas. Los dispositivos en este caso son un mero instrumento y nos sirven para seleccionar la información necesaria para crear ambient awareness y, cuando nosotros lo deseamos, dar un paso más y conectar con aquello que nos llama más la atención.

Peuplade, por ejemplo es una red social hiper-local nacida en París en 2003 y que ya funciona en 16 ciudades francesas. Conecta a los vecinos de calles y barrios y facilita que se organicen iniciativas como establecer turnos para acompañar a los niños al colegio, celebrar fiestas, etc. También permite crear bancos de tiempo e intercambiar objetos y servicios.

En la misma línea, Voisin-age permite a los vecinos de un barrio conocerse y organizarse para ayudar a personas mayores que viven solas.

Lo más interesante de Peuplade y de Voisin-age son los efectos indirectos: dan la oportunidad a la gente de conocerse y establecer relaciones. Es decir, crean ambient awareness y fomentan ambient intelligence, ingredientes indispensables para la solidaridad social.

También han surgido herramientas más flexibles y adaptadas a dispositivos móviles. Por ejemplo, Whatif (de Ecosistema Urbano) y Neighborland. Esta última conecta a personas con ideas afines, iniciativas y recursos. Permite evaluar qué quieren los residentes de las diferentes áreas y espacios públicos del barrio. Además, al poner sobre la mesa las demandas vecinales y demostrar que hay una base de clientes viables, promueve el espíritu empresarial en el barrio.

Son prototipos, pioneros en el acercamiento a la ambient intelligence y a la cuarta dimensión. Les falta mejorar en su conexión con lo más cercano y con el tiempo real.

la democratización de la tecnología

Las inquietudes de Paul Virilio derivan de un uso de la tecnología de la información que hasta hace muy poco nada tenía de horizontal ni de distribuido, incluso en Internet. Ahora que los ciudadanos tenemos las manos en la masa es imperativo que adquiramos la capacidad, sobre todo cultural, de entender la tecnología como un medio y que lo aprovechemos para experimentar nuevos modelos de relación con el entorno físico y las personas que nos rodean. Nos tenemos que adueñar de la tecnología, humanizarla y dejar de pensar en ella como una novedad.

Pensad en ello: la clave para una ciudad realmente atractiva es pasar del paradigma del consumo de espacios y experiencias a la creación de espacios y plataformas para el aprendizaje colectivo.


Artículo previamente publicado en La Ciudad Viva, desarrollado por Domenico Di Siena (@urbanohumano), con la colaboración de Manon Bublot (@heterotopie) y Marisa Rodríguez (@la_madalena) para Ecosistema Urbano (@ecosistema).

Imágenes por @lacasinegra, una selección a partir de la presentación: “40 frames de termitas, ¿existe un cine sin cine?”

Comments: (0)

Ideas urbanas 2.0 | Concurso

Category: ⚐ ES+arquitectura+concursos+noticias

El concurso “Ideas urbanas 2.0” pretende fomentar la aplicación de las nuevas tecnologías urbanas, acompañadas del sentido común, buscando proyectos preocupados por la cotidianidad de los espacios de nuestras ciudades, y la interacción de ecosistemas ambientales y urbanos a través de nuevos dispositivos tecnológicos, mixtura de usos y las dinámicas del mundo 2.0 que transforman nuestras ciudades.

Ideas urbanas - ver web

El objeto del concurso es dar una mirada abierta sobre la ciudad sostenible, no como una imagen precisa y definitiva sino reflexionando sobre “lo sostenible” como la capacidad de transformación “in progres” de nuestros espacios urbanos. Se buscan propuestas que exploren la evolución de nuestros ecosistemas del habitar más allá de la arquitectura y la tecnología, para diversificar, flexibilizar y evolucionar en consonancia e interacción con el ciclo ambiental.

El potente despliegue de sistemas, servicios y utilidades implantados en las ciudades bajo el término de “ciudad inteligente” ha llevado al nacimiento de unos nuevos espacios colectivos, como producto de los cambios que afectan sobre nuestras ciudades, y que a la vez se encuentran llenos de nuevas oportunidades para el desarrollo urbano. Los espacios de centralidad ahora, vienen acompañados de unos nuevos espacios urbanos llamados “los terceros espacios de la ciudad”, como espacios de mixtura de actividades, y nuevas formas urbanas que influidas positivamente por la implantación tecnológica dan lugar a  espacios cotidianos de la ciudad. Una cotidianidad, cada vez más influida por la presencia del mundo 2.0 y de temporalidades muy distintas a las existentes en la ciudad trandicional.

La reflexión sobre el impacto de las nuevas tecnologías sobre el diseño y los usos de los espacios de la ciudad, y la preocupación sobre los  espacios del habitar, del trabajar y del ocio, ahora emergen dinámicamente como  espacios de diferentes  formas. La dependencia de la energía en la implantación de estas nuevas tecnologías, y el uso indiscriminado de las TIC, puede llevar a ocultar la verdadera esencia de los espacios de la cotidianidad colectiva, para la ciudad del ciudadano.

A los espacios “inteligentes” y eficientes, se les suma los espacios evolutivos, flexibles, durables, llenos de urbanidad, de interacción, de mixtura de actividades, de intensidades y materialidades distintas. Una estancia urbana diferenciada, como evolución de los espacios de centralidad y del proyecto urbano.

Este concurso propone de manera abierta, propuestas sobre las estancias urbanas, como los nuevos espacios de urbanidad. Una doble exploración; la optimización de los espacios urbanos mediante las nuevas tecnologías, y a su vez,  aprovechar las oportunidades que brindan estos sistemas en el diseño de nuevas formas urbanas y usos atemporales para los espacios de la ciudad sostenible. Para ello se propone explorar el nuevo proyecto urbano mediante propuestas de espacios colectivos y nuevas arquitecturas diseñadas desde esta nueva mentalidad urbana. La urbanidad de los espacios, la mixtura de actividades, las formas urbanas, los tiempos, las distancias, las databases urbanas;  todos ellos son factores determinantes para explorar nuevas propuestas para los espacios de la ciudad sostenible.

El concurso está abierto a estudiantes de arquitectura, urbanismo e ingenieria, y jóvenes profesionales de menos de 40 años, y la elaboración de las propuestas se irá publicando en las redes sociales con una campaña de comunicación llevada a cabo por cada equipo.

Más información y bases:

Página web:

Comment: (1)

Open Source Urbanism | Open Source City

Category: ⚐ EN+open culture+urbanism

Image by Joshua Gajownik modified by Francesco Cingolani.

Today I want to share an article that was previously published in Studio Magazine. On this occasion, I would like to thank their coordination team for inviting me to join their first release.

Summary /Overview

Traditional media don’t broadcast what the citizens are debating or organizing on a daily basis. Nevertheless, thanks to Social Networks, people can receive information and interact in real time with others, taking part in debates and social movements; and the 15th of May in Spain is an example of this.

This new information ecosystem reduces the influence of the mass media and slowly forces local authorities to relate to citizens in a more direct and horizontal way.

This is a great opportunity to generate a new “social control” model, pushing local authorities to take public opinion into account.

The digital media offers a broad environment for communication so that the organisation of any given action is greatly improved; everything becomes decentralized while simultaneously connected and synchronized.

On the urban scale, we speak of the “Sentient City”, a model based on a technological/social ecosystem, where knowledge, collective actions, and interactions between individuals and groups are encouraged, taking advantage of the new possibilities offered by hybridizing physical and digital layers.

In reversing the supremacy of centralisation over individual actions, citizens can become aware of their power and organize themselves on the web.
We have the necessary technology, knowledge and dynamics to put in place more open processes of urban administration and management. Citizens have already started to move; and although public administration could take advantage of such independent and autonomous processes to deal with complex situations, it appears that a clear political will is still lacking.

The fragmented city

Today, the dimensions of time and space, which were historically strongly linked in a space-time continuum, are increasingly growing apart and becoming independent, in a fragmented spatial perception. Nowadays a large number of people are moving from one point to another of the city to reach their workplace, and go back home. The distance between these two points (spatial dimension) and what happens between them does not affect or interest these people in any way. Indeed, the only thing people are concerned with is the duration of the trip (time dimension).
The city is no longer a continuous place, but a structure of nodes connected in a network (network city). These nodes become increasingly more defined, organised and efficient and, the journeys between them shorter and faster thanks to technical progress. The spaces of a city that have no particular characteristics and a unique function, that is to say everything that is not a node, loose significance, including public spaces.

In such city – the “fragmented city” – we use low cost technologies (internet, telephone and transport) to move, to manage our social relationships, and to communicate with people with whom we don’t necesarilly share a common physical space like a neighbourhood.

Very often the complexity of one point exclusively consists in giving access to other points, hence the importance that movement has acquired today. Instead of living in a continuous space, we continuously move between discontinuous spaces (points or nodes).

This networked structure, unlike a continuous structure, reduces diversity and complexity. The less diversity and complexity, the greater the need to move. Every point has its function and identity. Everything seems more organised and easier to find. However, to find what we are looking for, we are compelled to move constantly to other nodes.

The majority of these journeys are done by means of transport, at a speed that does not allow any relationship with the surroundings. There is a starting point and a finishing point, with little opportunity for a surprise or a change. All this implies an impoverishment of the intermediate spaces, spaces that link different points: places are consequently public spaces.

In order to transform these kinds of cities, it is essential to intervene in everyday aspects of life which might appear to have no relationship with the design of public spaces in urban areas.

Our lifestyles are two dimensional: in situ and virtual. Now we are able to intervene in the new dimension, what we commonly call “virtual” or “digital”, . As the sociologist Manuel Castells says “Everything we do, from when the day begins until it is over, we do it with internet […] the connexion between in-situ (not real because reality is virtual and in situ at the same time) and virtual is established by us. There are not two different societies, there are two kinds of social activities and relations within ourselves. We are the ones that have to search the best way to arrange and adapt them.

fragmented cityImage by Francesco Cingolani |

Public Space, Sentient Space

According to Daniel Innerarty, in the city the homogeneous and non changing area is nothing more than an extreme case within a global area of connected local multiplicities. Instead of neighbourhoods, local networks are developed, and public debate takes place in a virtual area. In this scenario, streets and squares have ceased to be the main meeting areas.

Internet seems to offer an alternative “space” for social relationships as compared to “traditional” spaces. This can be seen as a problem leading to empty public spaces; or on the contrary, it can be considered an extraordinary opportunity to strengthen social relationships by creating the necessary budgets to improve the vitality of public spaces. Today the Internet is the “place” where community models of management are being experimented.

I believe it is important to reconsider the city as something built by everyone, and to see public areas as the ground where this process can take place. Today we have tools available that are able to act as a catalyst for participatory dynamics that were previously impossible to coordinate. There are increasing examples of processes of creation by citizens, linked to the use of new technologies. It is undeniable that Internet is a key factor contributing to changing the society. That being said I believe it is obvious that we cannot think of public space without taking into consideration the potentialities of these technologies, how they are used and how they can be an added value.

We should begin to talk about a new type of public space, a hybrid space, where technology could become a catalyst for hybridising dynamics between activities that are not traditionally connected or that are located in other (private) spaces.

Juan Freire explains this clearly: “The differentiation between spaces and physical and virtual communities is outdated. We are witnessing a hybridising process which modifies our individual identities, communitarian and territorial. Internet has contributed to the development of global networks, but paradoxically it has had a less noticeable influence in local spheres. However, digital technologies modify radically the way in which we are organised and we relate to our environment so we are already living in territories where the digital realm is as important as the physical. The hyper-local networks and hybrid public spaces are the new realities which we confront with the advent of Internet and digital culture in our local environment”.

According to Juan Freire the crisis of public (physical) spaces in urban areas is also due to the lack of (open) design, giving the citizens, once more, the opportunity to take a real interest in its use. It has also brought into debate concepts such as “hybrid spaces”, to refer to the opportunities that the hybridising of the physical with the digital sphere offers in public spaces.
We can grant the assumption of the existence of a digital skin that characterizes public spaces and devote ourselves to defining its qualities and characteristics. Instead of “hybrid” I like to use the concept of “sensitive”. “Sensitive space” refers to the “living” character of these spaces; to their capacity to promote a two-way relationship with its users, to catalyse hyper-local social networks and to visualise information related to the environment in a transparent manner.

prosumerImage by Francesco Cingolani |

Social networks and Self-organization

If we analyze the increase in the use of social networks on the Internet we realize that we are witnessing a process of change that will lead to the disappearance of the current dissociation between digital and in-situ identity.
Most people can continue living in complete normality without having to take care of their digital (identity) presence in social networks. Nevertheless, it is highly probable that in a few years time the concept of identity will inevitably integrate both the digital and the physical dimension. Consequently, each person will be forced to take as much care of their digital identity as of their physical identity, something that many people have been doing for some time already.

We must take several specific factors of this new kind of identity into consideration such as its peculiar time dimension. The building process of the digital identity over time leaves a footprint on the web, a visible footprint that is accessible to any user. The end result is an identity that is perceived as a sum of the past (footprint) and present identity.

Generally we control our public image by showing at each time only what we wish. However, when our identity leaves a footprint on the internet, we no longer have exclusive control over it but it is shared amongst friends and acquaintances (namely the peer group).

Each person that knows me can publish information (photographs, texts, etc…) that are directly or indirectly related to my identity without the need of my approval. This is what happens in most of the social networks.

Certainly, my digital identity will be entirely integrated in the learning process and will be increasingly associated to a physical space; that is, the idea we had about a parallel digital identity that is detached from reality does not, I think, interest anyone: in fact we do not even have time to create parallel identities.

Our identity is not only formed by way of the information that my friends and I have published, but also through the information that my devices publish. An example could be the use of services like Foursquare that allows me to upload posts in my social networks about my location at any time, taking advantage of the internet connection of our mobile phones.

To explain this phenomenon Tim Berners-Lee mentions Giant Global Graph, this means, the future Semantic Web with which we shall go from gathering the relationship between people to focus on the relationship between people and their interests (documents). Thus, if the “Internet” has allowed us to connect computers and the “Web” has allowed us to connect documents, then the “Graph” will allow us to link the documents (places, objects, etc.) and the people. So we could define the Graph as the third level of abstraction, taking into account that in each layer (Internet, Web, or Graph) we have handed over some control only in order to reach bigger benefits. A direct consequence of these dynamics is the definite statement of a (unique) identity on the web that can be recognized by any agent, person or application.

This unmistakable digital identity facilitates the development of innovative social hardware projects based on participation of a non-collective nature, where the dynamics of collaboration are the result of individual action and interaction. We are progressively discovering the self-organisation of informed societies that are capable of revolutionizing their own structures taking advantage of the virtual mirror phenomenon that enables the association of information on a given situation with individual decisions.

open source urbanismImage by Francesco Cingolani | based on flickr images by & See-ming Lee

Control and decentralization

Social networks reinforce a new type of control: a decentralized control operated by a diversity of independent individuals that collaborate, using shared and mobile capacities of calculation and communication. Information and Communication Technologies do not present a solution, but an opportunity to improve our ability to manage territories. ICT’s can be used for many different purposes. On the one hand their enormous capacity for processing data can be used to centralize all the information and try to “solve” urban complexity; but they can also be used to open and decentralize decision-making.

The aim is to research on how ICT’s allow us to define an urban administration structure where discontinued points of control exist in an environment of self-determination (appropriation) and liberty. This is an idea that is close to the definition of tensegrity that Buckminster Fuller mentions: “islands in compression inside a tense ocean“.

The introduction of digital technologies within the physical space enables the development of new communication dynamics and relations between neighbours that improves the cohesion of local communities and their quality of life, offering a feeling of greater security.

Thanks to new technologies and to some cultural “mutations”, systems and worlds that were previously closed and not very transparent, are now open to the participation of agents (and people) who are external to their organisational structures. Citizens become more available to participate and collaborate because they are better informed and they are finally considered as useful partners for the urban administration. Architects and urban planners can reasonably begin to work keeping in touch constantly with citizens, “sharing” their decision-making “powers”.

To explain this phenomenon we can refer to the concept of “long tail” coined by Cris Anderson. The Internet and the digital environment have changed the (power) distribution laws and the market rules. The present political and economic system is based on a pyramid structure where the power (or the economic or creative potential) of many is considered inferior to the power of those that stand on the highest part of the pyramid. There is a new system based on the addition or accumulation of all the small potentials (or powers) of the mass of citizens that, thanks to the systems of communication on the internet, can equal or exceed the power (or potential) of those who are in a privileged position today. These are the old markets of masses and the new niche of markets that are pictured at the top and the bottom of the well known graph of statistical distribution.

The presence of a centralized identity is not needed when the control and feedback devices allow the actors to visualize or to become aware of the consequence of their actions. The unconscious self-organisation phenomenon becomes conscious and intended control when the individuals are allowed to understand the effects of their actions. The concept of tensegrity comes in here when it refers to an administration model where decentralized and centralized decisions are joined, avoiding the appearance of any closed and omnipresent control dynamics.

Reversing the supremacy of centralization over individual decisions, citizens can become aware of their actions and intentionally coordinate them. This process may help to restore the necessary legitimacy and credibility to the interventions that take place in degraded urban areas.

control y descentralizacion Image by Francesco Cingolani |

Towards participation: Accountability and open data

“Participation demands an information system, an observatory and indicators that will regularly reflect the situation of what we consider as key variables to establish our evolution, that should be accessible and comprehensible for citizens” (Agustín Hernández Aja, 2002)

In 2002, Hernández Aja, Urban planning professor at the Universidad Politécnica in Madrid, describes the essential assumptions for citizen participation. A decade later, communication models and administration dynamics that bring us close to these assumptions start to become popular.

I would like to highlight (point out) accountability and the Open Data movement.

Approaching the term accountability we can create an ecosystem of communication and transparency that can enable citizens to demand responsibilities from governing bodies. This would help us to reach the objective of decentralizing control, which is necessary for a true democracy.

Open Parlamento ( is a great example of how to work to achieve accountability. It is a web-based tool that enables distributed monitoring of the work of the members of parliament in the Italian parliament.

The web page offers lots of information on draft legislation, and in general, about all the activities in the Parliament. Most interesting of all is the distributed monitoring system that allows for control of every Member of Parliament’s political activities. Every citizen can “adopt” a member and publish all their declarations and confront them with their parliamentary activity.

We can imagine this same system applied on a local scale, where citizens have greater organization capacities and power to exert pressure. The control to which all the local administrators would be subject to, would be so intense that they would nearly be obliged to start up a transformation of the administrative structures towards a more open and participatory model.

The Open Data movement is an important drive towards achieving transparency over public administration. Open Data consists of making Public Administration data available for the public, such as data related to projects that are financed with public money or managed by public institutions.

The aim is to take advantage of the data that the public administrations do not want or do not have the capacity to analyze. Releasing this data enables any person or organization to build new consultation and visualization formulas, to simplify, diversify and even to enrich the initial information.

In Spain, within this new tendency, the Open Data Euskadi project should be highlighted. It is part of the Open Government initiative of the Bask Government: a website dedicated to the exhibition of public data in a re-usable format, under open licenses. On an urban scale, two projects stand out that have been activated by two Spanish cities; Zaragoza and Córdoba. They are beginning to take their first steps in the world of Open Data.

I am convinced that citizen pressure will force all the big cities to join this process of openness and transparency.

sentient cityImage by Francesco Cingolani | REAL-TIME CITY | a proposal for Smart Turin by HDA | Hugh Dutton Associés.

Open source and Network Awareness

As we mentioned previously, reversing the supremacy of centralization over individual actions, citizens can become aware of their “power” and begin to organize in networks.
We have the technology the knowledge and the dynamics available to introduce more open urban administration processes. Citizens have begun to move; the administrations could take advantage of these autonomous and independent processes, to manage very complex situations. However, a clear political will is still lacking.

Probably the administrators have managed to delay the transition towards a new participatory administration model, thanks to the indirect or even direct support of what is known as the “fourth power”: the media. The current information system still offers the administrators and the “powerful” a wide opportunity to manipulate and control certain processes.
The emergence of a more distributed information model is beginning to offer to any citizen the possibility to produce relevant local information. A communication ecosystem based on social media is born.
This new information ecosystem can reduce the influence of the mass media and therefore force the local administrators to enforce accountability regarding the decisions that are taken. The administrators will be compelled to relate to this new, more horizontal and distributed form of communication: an opportunity to generate “social control” that can improve transparency and force the local administrators to take the public opinion into account.

A clear example of what is being presented here, are the latest citizen mobilizations that are happening in Spain. After the 15M demonstration, an organized and authorized event, many occupations took place in numerous squares in the whole of Spain. These camps were organized in a matter of hours using Twitter and Facebook. It is impossible to exert control over these information flows and action catalysts like the occupations. Steps have been taken towards a model in which governors and administrators are going to have to understand that they cannot continue to ignore the citizens while they defend the interests of others.

We are witnessing an innovative construction process of a new communal and public sphere; the development of a new model of public space that we have called “sensitive space”. Traditional media don’t communicate what we the people are debating on a daily basis, nonetheless, thanks to Social Networks, people can receive information and interact in real time with others taking part in debates and social movements, the example of the occupation of public squares is an example of this.

It is interesting to note that the in-situ (on-site) realm is absolutely essential and how the digital media is simply offering a wider environment for communication so that the organisation of any given action is greatly improved; everything becomes decentralized while at the same time connected and synchronized.

These processes seem to be nearly inevitable. Once they are established as natural local administration processes then we will be speaking about a more favorable environment, for an Open Source City, that is, a city open to everyone’s participation.

Flickr image by Julio Albarrán

This article was originally published in and Studio Magazine.

Comment: (1)

sentientID | La evolución natural de lo digital

Category: ⚐ ES+espacios sensibles | sentient city+tecnologías

Ha llegado la hora de presentaros SentientID. Un proyecto de investigación y desarrollo que pretende definir los procesos y las herramientas que nos permitan contextualizar en el espacio físico y  gestionar en tiempo real la Identidad Digital.

SentientID es un proyecto iniciado y coordinado por Domenico Di Siena (@urbanohumano). Su punto de partida es el concepto de Sentient Identity,  es decir  la conexión definitiva entre la información que circula en la capa digital y lo que ocurre en tiempo real en el espacio físico;  el uso del móvil como dispositivo de conexión entre las personas, los dispositivos y los sensores activos en un entorno especifico (Internet of things).

El proyecto  promueve un modelo integrado de gestión y control de la Identidad Digital en el ámbito de la denominada Sociedad Híbrida. continue reading

Comments: (2)

Urban Ambient Awareness

Category: ⚐ ES+espacios sensibles | sentient city+tecnologías

En España y en general en los sistemas políticos occidentales la administración pública se basa en el principio de la representatividad: los ciudadanos elegimos a nuestros representantes para que asuman cargos políticos y administrativos.

Los elegidos administran. Nosotros juzgamos como lo hacen y en los siguientes comicios puede que votemos a otros.

¿es esto realmente interesante?

Probablemente ya es un sistema que debería pertenecer al pasado. Estamos viviendo cambios que nos deberían llevar a modelos totalmente diferentes, mucho más avanzados.

Los cambios que están afectando al mundo editorial y de la comunicación nos pueden conducir hacia un escenario mucho más interesante. continue reading