Four Questions

1) How should arts and culture being recognized, in the discourse on cities of the future (smart or otherwise)? Why is it necessary to have a cultural perspective in the global smart city discourse?

Cities cater to their citizen. The discourse around smart cities always returns to the inhabitants of cities – humans and the biosphere – and their needs. Culture, in its most fundamental aspect, is the expression of human activities. A human-centric approach to smart cities has to encompass, integrate, and cater to urban culture(s).  Arts and culture also evolve in parallel to technological developments. This is evident with the advent of photography, film, video, and computers. The current development of information technologies entered a hybrid ‘cyber-physical’ format where online and offline spaces merge.

2) How should/can we talk about smart city and urban transformation beyond technology and infrastructure?

This is an exciting moment to re-negotiate the underlying social contracts that determine what we define as city, art, and culture. On one hand, many cities are rapidly changing by either growing or transforming themselves for a post-fossil future, on the other digital technologies and data are being deployed by mobile devices in the same spaces where most people congregate: cities.  Technology and infrastructure are necessities of cities and other artefacts. We should discuss them in relationship with social, ecological and climatic challenges that emerge. Many of these challenges manifest in cities and cities are still drivers of innovation and invention and will thus shape the coming urban transformation.

3) What is the connection of arts and cultural practice and technology in (future) urban societies?

A creative discourse around arts and culture vis-à-vis society is urgently needed. This includes practices as ways to demonstrate and do. The optimistic promise of the transition from an industrial, to a service, to a leisure society – in which much tedious and repetitive work can be automated – lies in the assumption that mankind can dedicate its intellect and time to a higher purpose. Arts and cultural practices are fundamental fields for experimentation to turn naïveté into knowledge for future urban societies.   

4) Please share your expert prediction or utopian view of the city of the future.

An Open Urban World: I wish that we can use the current moment of unprecedented access to information, computational power, and resources to shape an open urban world. This world should not be ‘path-dependent’ on decision of the current generation, for instance depleting resources and reversing the atmospheric composition or by creating cities that no one needs in the near post-fossil future. It would offer the maximum degrees of freedom and opportunities, while preserving the same privileges for the generations to come. In order to accommodate all present and future options it would be highly dynamic and require a constant re-invention, to an extent that permanent structures that define cities today would gradually dissolve.