I invite the reader to consider one of the most important ontological debates of our age; the issue of a human-centered ontology and how this idea is connected with the idea of the dis-connectedness of our age. Are we really disconnected? Or is the result of our own distorted fantasy where humankind is above nature? Enter the realm of ecological humanities and posthumanism, or let us at least agree on leaving behind anthropocentrism as the framework that will propel us to the next half of the current century as an organized society… Is there such a thing as “nature”? I invite the reader to think about the dialogue between this idea of living-with and ideas like dark ecology: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QwUlpBGN6hE
On March 31st, I was fortunate to attend one of three events that Donna Haraway held at the BOZAR in Brussels. The themes of the events covered varied ground but were held together by Haraway’s work and interest in exploring the potential of living-with others. The first two events focussed on film. The first was a series of videos that were the result of the joyful interactions between documentary filmmaker Fabrizio Terranova and Donna Haraway. It included “animation shorts of militant cows, anti-globalization preaches, GoPro cameras strapped to aquatic animals, anti-Trump folk songs… as rituals of resistance and dance against the horror and stagnation”. The second was the presentation of film Donna Haraway: Story Telling for Earthly Survival by Donna Haraway and Fabrizio Terranova. The film foregrounds Haraway’s unique intellect and warmth of character that has explored planetary life for over 40 years. The final event was Donna…
A driving question of city planning is how to design better cities. Social inequity is one of those issues that can be changed by city planning, not only in the future but in our current cities as well. Bronze Investments, a company that has the goal to eliminate social disparities, puts it this way:
“[t]he vast inequities between communities is unnatural and unnecessary. It’s an artifact of bad design and a false choice. Someone decided where transportation would flow and where it wouldn’t, where the garbage and toxins would be taken, where the homes, offices and grocery stores would be built, and where they wouldn’t. A thousand large and small decisions make up this imaginary place called the other side of the tracks.” – Bronze Investments website.
Let anthropologist and founder of Bronze Investments Stephen DeBerry tell you the story of how economic disparity got physically encoded in urban design and how east-side communities became associated with phrases like “the wrong side of town”.
If you want to learn more about Stephen DeBerry, check out his Ted Speaker profile here.
To learn more about Bronze Investments and how to help reduce social inequity, you can consult their website here.
As I was listening this morning to one of my favorite tech shows, ‘Smashing Security‘, I realized I didn’t quite cover an important aspect of ‘smart cities’ in my recent post “Smart Cities and the Fourth Industrial Revolution“. While in my previous post I briefly touch on issues like privacy and the dehumanization of data, I did not explore at the issue of security.
With the large quantity of data generated in (by?) smart cities and all the computer systems put in place to make city life more efficient, also comes vulnerability. Smart cities incorporate technology to solve many urban conundrums such as parking spaces, traffic management, and even affordable housing, but making them secure is a big issue that will need to be solved fast.
On episode 142 of Smashing Security (I know I’m a little behind, but as a graduate student I do my best to keep up), the hosts of the podcast talk about the several ransomware attacks that smart cities around the US have recently been subject to. Twenty-two of these attacks happened in Texas in 2019 only! The attacks cause more than just data breaches; attackers are able to ‘hold a city hostage’ by freezing its cyber-infrastructure and impair people’s access to online services or even to retrieve important online documents like digital birth certificates, among other things.
When I heard this news, I didn’t know that Texas had 22 smart cities, least that they had been attacked. However, Smashing Security’s co-host Carole Theriault said something key about smart cities during the show: how smart is a smart city is a matter of degree. So how much cyber-infrastructure is in place and how much of it can be targeted because of its vulnerabilities is also a matter of degree. The podcast mentions a few more attacks than the ones in Texas and goes on in detail about what the attackers ask for in return and how these cities have dealt in different ways with these problems.
As I hope that this trend of attacks gets stopped soon, one thing I think is clear to me: while we are living in this time where cities are not fully ‘smart’, we need to start integrating cybersecurity best practices into our culture on all levels…
The Journal of Urban Cultural
Studies (JUCS) is
pleased to announce its permanent call for papers for authors working on
cultural productions and urban studies. JUCS is a peer-refereed, international
journal that blends humanities and social science approaches to the culture(s)
of cities. The journal is open to studies that deal with culture, urban spaces,
and forms of urbanized consciousness from all over the world.
is particularly interested in submissions that give equal weight to: a) one or
more aspects of urban studies, and b) the analysis of one or more specific
forms of cultural/textual production in relation to a given urban space or
spaces. JUCS publishes both research articles and short-form articles. Research
articles (7,000 to 10,000 words, including references and notes) are the
hallmark of the journal and represent an original contribution to the field.
JUCS also publishes short-form articles of 2,500–4,000 words.
Short-form articles can take many forms: interviews, analyses of art installations, review essays (pitched globally and discussing at least three book titles) or discussions of theoretical debates and interdisciplinary issues relating to urban cultural studies. Please notice that the journal does not publish ‘book reviews.’ JUCS is also interested in receiving proposals for special issues by guest editors working individually or in teams of two, and original, unpublished artwork on the topic of cities. Journal contributors will receive a free PDF copy of their final work upon publication. Print copies of the journal may also be purchased by contributors at half price.
articles are subject to peer review, while short-form articles are subject to
editorial review. All articles submitted should be original work and must not
be under consideration by other publications. To learn more, please refer to
our journal website:
This blog, https://urbanculturalstudies.wordpress.com is another way to keep up with the Urban Cultural Studies community, find out about upcoming events, new books, and publishing opportunities, and listen to our series of Urban Cultural Studies Podcasts.
The Urban Cultural Studies session features innovative research that connects urban geography and cultural studies to improve our understanding of urban culture(s). The submissions will explore aspects of urban studies and its relationship with textual forms of culture such as literature, film, graphic novels, music, graffiti, videogames, etc. This session is linked to the Journal of Urban Cultural Studies (Intellect Books) and its accompanying blog and podcast series at urbanculturalstudies.wordpress.com.
Following the model of a ‘lightning round session,’ each of the 10-14 panelists in the Urban Cultural Studies session will present a 5-minute summary of research or studies in process. A 30 to 45-minute interactive roundtable discussion will follow the presentations. In order to submit an abstract, register for the conference here:
Once registered, proceed to the abstract and session submission console. Select the “New Abstract” button on the console page and follow the on-screen instructions to submit the appropriate abstract type. You will receive an email confirmation after your submission. Format guidelines for AAG can be found in our call for papers at:
The Fitzroy Diaries is an award-winning 8-chapter fictional podcast about the daily lives of the mid-class residents of Fitzroy, an inner-city suburb located in Melbourne. The podcast reflects the experiences, concerns, and lifestyle of its characters in this Australian suburb. Writer and narrator Lorin Clarke captures the essence of Fitzroy, which even after many waves of gentrification it still shows its past on both its landscape and its people. After listening to the full first season, I cannot wait until October this year when we get to listen to more of this podcast’s beautiful sound design and its unique approach to radio drama.
On this interview, Professor Benjamin Fraser from the University of Arizona explores along with scholar Matthew Lamb the spatial and cultural implications of Parkour in cities. Among other things, the “free-running” practice featured in several movies like The Bourne Legacy (2012) from the Bourne film franchise is contrasted against the lifestyle that parkour implies, “the parkour vision”, which is “to achieve a kind of perfect harmony in motion with your environment” (Matthew Lamb).
You can subscribe for free to our own podcast: UCS Podcasts – urbanculturalstudies on iTunes, Spotify, Himalaya, or wherever you listen to podcasts.
UCS 004 Lamb on Parkour, Architecture and the Body (12 August 2013) Conversational interview inspired by scholar Matthew Lamb’s article “Misuse of The Monument: The Art of Parkour and the Discursive Limits of a Disciplinary Architecture,” forthcoming in the Journal of Urban Cultural Studies (1.1, 2013). Pitched at a theoretical level (complementing the specific place-bound analysis of Monument Circle in Indianapolis found in the article) discussion centers on the origins (and varieties) of parkour–an athletic engagement with the built environment (misuse through climbing, dropping, vaulting, jumping…)–and the conditioning of the body in place and as subject to architectural and urban forces.
“Our society routinely makes decisions without consulting a quarter of the population. […] We are making choices about land use, energy production, and natural resources without the ideas and the experiences of the full community.” – Mara Mintzer, Program Director at Growing Up Boulder
Looking around the internet I came across this great TED Talk from TEDx about how cities are designed by adults and for adults. What do you think would happen if we let children plan our cities? Sure, there’d be candy parks and water cannons (no, really) but, as it turns out, there would also be a genuine concern for the environment, inclusiveness and mobility.
In the words of Mara Mintzer, “… all of this has revealed something important, an important blind spot. If we aren’t including children in our planning, who also aren’t we including?” If you want to find out, watch this video conference from TEDx below:
If you want to learn more about Mara Mintzer or about Growing Up Boulder, you can follow this link and this link respectively.
Check out Boulder’s first ever child-friendly city map here (link to pdf). Do you want to know what’s also great about it? It’s bilingual to Spanish!
With the introduction of Big Data, supercomputing and artificial intelligence, not only have technology and industry-related fields changed in a major way but indeed many other aspects of how we approach the world as a society. One of these aspects is the conceptualization and creation of cities and urban spaces.
What is a smart city?
The automation and enhancement of urban services and spaces happen when groundbreaking technologies and instantaneous data collection are incorporated in the processes of (re)creation and (re)envision of cities. In this process, the city gets infused with the so-called “intelligent design.” Smart cities are a consequence of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
For a discussion about smart cities, you can watch the following Ted Talk by Professor Saskia Sassen, who is a Robert S. Lynd Professor at Columbia.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution (check out the book by Professor Klaus Schwab in the links below), also called the Digital Revolution, is a seismic change in all human endeavor. This change is mainly originated in relation to data; how data gets collected, processed, analyzed, and used is bringing an exponential shift in industry, science, art, and it is all converging in urbanization in a mass scale; within thirty years, 68% of the world population is expected to live in urban areas (you can read the UN report here).
According to urban-hub.com, there are three main components of smart cities: “… sensors, networks, and mobile-based engagement. This trio, enabled by the Internet of Things (IoT), forms the backbone of any smart city concept and gives rise to the myriad of initiatives that can boost efficiency and improve lives”. According to the blog, “The technology disrupting urban living today undoubtedly has the potential to improve quality of life”. The blog makes reference to Barcelona and Montreal as two cities that are incorporating Data Science to solve urban challenges.
Similarly, techrepublic.com mentions how “Rapid urbanization is leading to smarter cities that improve the lives of citizens through technology.” To read both blogs you can follow the links below:
A Word on Big Data for the Interdisciplinary field of Urban Cultural Studies
More and more geographers, anthropologists, linguists, historians, sociologists, political scientists, and other fields of human and behavioral sciences make use of massive amounts of data to gain new insights into their own field. This has been in part motivated by the large amount of computational power available to researchers, but mainly it has been the data itself that has allowed for this revolution. The four ‘Vs’, or the characteristics of the data in the field of Big Data: volume, variety, velocity, and veracity, are the guiding principles for data collection that are already impacting our very lives.
This is only possible because the field of Big Data has pushed the boundaries of privacy, confidentiality, and ownership of information. With these new ways of collecting data, a caveat must be mentioned: large amounts of data may be de-humanizing in several ways, and the researcher must always keep in mind that behind the sets of numbers and information there are always human beings on the line. Hence, I believe that there are also new opportunities of re-defining research in this new era and humanizing it in a way that it is respectful of the lives of the people behind it and that is useful for the common good.
How will smart cities and the fourth industrial revolution carry on our cultural legacies and mold and shape our very own identities? The answer to these questions will soon be knocking at our door.
If you are interested in smart cities, consider looking at the following resources:
“Do restaurants make neighborhoods, or is it the other way around?” – Patrick Fort
Dish City is a new podcast from the producers of The Kojo NnamdiShow featuring stories of urban food culture. The podcast will dive into the world of Washington D.C.’s local food scene through the eyes, ears, and palates of Ruth Tam (The Washington Post, WAMU) and Patrick Fort (WAMU).
Announced at the end of August, Dish City will bring to our ears not only the intertwined stories of iconic D.C. dishes and city change but also high-quality soundscapes of the places where those dishes are served and the voices of those who enjoy them. The podcast will air on Thursdays, starting September 12, 2019.