Saskia Sassen [brief video]– the gap between data and urban knowledge

“If knowledge is about the city … then you are beginning to tell an urban story”

Great short video on how data is different from knowledge (“knowledge is not simply a data set”); getting knowledge from data requires an interpretation, an experience in a way that data does not. The video comes from the Picnic festival: Life in Readable Cities hosted by the European Journalism Center.

Here’s also her piece on “Why Cities Matter”.

Toward an Urban Cultural Studies [video posted online]

For anyone interested in watching it here is a link to the lecture–or rather to the exercise in organized rambling–I gave at the University of Kentucky, now on UK vimeo:

“Toward an Urban Cultural Studies: Henri Lefebvre, Space and the Culture(s) of Cities”

To watch video, click above or go here:

Thanks again to the Department of Hispanic Studies there. The prezi itself can be seen in the background on the screen, but as announced before can also be viewed here. See also this previous post for more general information about the talk.

Distressed Cities – Conference, Videos & Edited Volume (forthcoming)

 [This just in from Beth Offenbacker at Virginia Tech]

A progressive, generative, interdisciplinary exchange

SPIA initiates Ridenour Faculty Fellowship conference & research series.

A different conference format generating new approaches to the pressing problems of our time.

Virginia Tech’s School of Public and International Affairs initiates a conference and research series promoting interdisciplinary discussion.

The purpose is to push through disciplinary limitations in understanding social phenomena and to suggest solutions to problems.

 The first conference took place in April 2012 and focused on distressed cities.

Our approach is twofold.  First we advance a progressive, interdisciplinary exchange during each Ridenour Faculty Fellowship conference.  Second, we build a research network between scholars, artists, and practitioners aimed at generating insights for practice and publications from research inspired by the conferences.

Click here to watch brief videos highlighting our Distressed Cities conference speakers.

Robert Beauregard, Columbia University, Talks About Depopulation and the Promise of Growth

John Provo, Virginia Tech, Talks About Development and Density

Margaret Cowell, Virginia Tech, Talks About Resilience

Derek Hyra, Virginia Tech, Talks About Displacement, Development and Extrapolation

Yang Zhang, Virginia Tech, Talks About Urban Planning Solutions and Culture

…and others.

Visit our website to subscribe to updates,

including news about our forthcoming edited volume on Distressed Cities and also our next Ridenour conference in 2013.

La ciudad no es para mí [The City Isn’t for Me] (Spain 1965; dir. Pedro Lazaga)

Directed by Pedro Lazaga and released in 1965, La ciudad no es para mí is a light-hearted melodrama that, not unlike other films of the mid-dictatorship, continues an existing cinematic tradition of using ‘the generic confines of a popular comedy’ to explore more serious aspects of urban life in the Spanish capital (Larson 2012: 123). Heralded as the ‘most commercially successful Spanish film of the 1960s’ (Richardson 2002: 72), it features noted actor Paco Martínez Soria in the role of a rural-dwelling Spaniard who, unannounced, comes to live with his successful and modern son and the latter’s family in Madrid. The first five minutes of the black-and-white film – while they do not even introduce the central paleto character – thrust the spectator into quite a dynamic representation of the nature of urban life (see also Richardson 2002: 76-77). The two buildings clustered around Madrid’s Plaza de España that can be seen in the clip are the Torre de Madrid (when it was built the highest building in Europe?) and Edificio España.

The script reads Continue reading

The Spanish urban film El inquilino [The Tenant] (1957) on vimeo [no subtitles]

Scholar Susan Larson has written that:

“José Antonio Nieves Conde’s film El inquilino (1957)–much like his earlier film Surcos–stages the frustration and despair felt by many madrileños over the lack of substantive improvements in the living conditions of the majority of the inhabitants of the nation’s capital after the end of the Civil War. Within the generic confines of a popular comedy, the film uncovers the cruel, everyday realities of a family looking for affordable housing behind a paternalistic Nationalist facade–a false image whose values are seen as having more to do with the privatization of capital and attracting foreign investment than the preservation of the traditional Catholic Spanish family” (Larson 2012: 123).

(The film is available in its entirety on vimeo, and you can download as an .mp4 it using the website

Review of 2 Books on Urban Culture in China

In volume 3 issue 1 of Reviews in Cultural Theory, Joshua Neves has reviewed these two books:

Yomi Braester. Painting the City Red: Chinese Cinema and the Urban Contract. Duke University Press, 2010. 405 pp.

Robin Visser. Cities Surround the Countryside: Urban Aesthetics in Postsocialist China. Duke University Press, 2010. 362 pp.

Read the review in the original context here

and click here for youtube discussion by the authors of those books.



Urbanized – view entire documentary online here

I’m currently about 30 minutes (out of approx. 86 minutes) through Urbanized which I am watching here, I see it is the third documentary in a series by Gary Hustwit who also did Helvetica (a documentary on what is aptly called there something along the lines of the ‘font of gentrification’ – watch it when you get a chance).

The images and composition are incredible, and I can imagine using this as a first assignment in an Introduction to Urban Studies course or equivalent…

Many basics and themes that could be expanded upon in subsequent discussions – Haussmann, Garden Cities, public transportation and democracy Robert Moses vs. Jane Jacobs – specific locations featured so far include Santiago Chile, Mumbai, Bogota, Brasilia, Copenhagen, un-cumbersome interviews with a variety of architects, nyc city planner, etc. so far seeming to be very inclusive geographically.

Angela McRobbie Feb. 2012 Lecture

Angela McRobbie starts this city-centered lecture with a bang, discussing what are in my mind two interconnected problems 1) how researchers have been relatively unconcerned with the thing/object and 2) how in researching her 1998 book on fashion those interviewed were relatively uninterested in the fact that creative producers are also workers…. Still watching…

Code/Space by Rob Kitchin & Martin Dodge

I’ve been reading Rob Kitchin and Martin Dodge’s excellent book Code/Space: Software and Everyday life. The book is all about software and digital infrastructures. The book is a culmination of co- authored work by Kitchin & Dodge. They have written some really influential articles over the last few years. The book builds on this earlier work but contains lots of fresh insights. The argument is essentially that software is central in the operation of social space. They demonstrate this through a range of detailed examples ranging from the home to air travel. Below are some of the images from their exploration of music as code/space.


There are some crucial and illuminating observations here that break new ground in the social and spatial understanding of the embedding of software in everyday life. On occasion there is a bit of a tendency in the book to layer a few too many concepts or for the detail of the case studies. But this is to be understood and encouraged in an exploratory book like this. The concepts in particular are really useful in supplying a framework for studying these issues in other social settings (see my use of their concept of logjects in music here for example). The value of the book is also in its drawing to attention how powerful software has become in making and shaping the contemporary social world. This is a foundational text on the new materialities of space that needs to be acknowledged and explored.

Here are some reviews of the book in the Annals of the Association of American Geographers, at the Open Anthropology Cooperative, and at Computational Culture.