Embedding an Ecology Notion in the Social Production of Urban Space

Embedding an Ecology Notion in the Social Production of Urban Space

Helen Klaebe (Queensland University of Technology, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-152-0.ch012
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This chapter defines, explores and Illustrates research at the intersection of people, place and technology in cities. First, we theorise the notion of ecology in the social production of space to continue our response to the quest of making sense of an environment characterised by different stakeholders and actors as well as technical, social and discursive elements that operate across dynamic time and space constraints. Second, we describe and rationalise our research approach, which is designed to illuminate the processes at play in the social production of space from three different perspectives. We illustrate the application of our model in a discussion of a case study of community networking and community engagement in an Australian urban renewal site. Three specific interventions that are loosely positioned at the exchange of each perspective are then discussed in detail, namely: Sharing Stories; Social Patchwork and History Lines; and City Flocks.
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The intersection of urban and new media studies is a dynamic field of practice and research. There are a number of reasons why this is so. Technically these are both highly innovative domains, and the rate of change is significant and challenging. Urban life and media platforms are both in the midst of paradigm shifts. Theoretically, both fields can be understood as sites of signification and structuration of the social field—and because they both evidence such change they are potent laboratories for advancing understanding. The pragmatic corollary is that policy makers and corporate investors are also highly engaged in the intersection.

Apart from the complexity of maneuvering through the often differing agendas of researchers and practitioners and of private and public sector agencies that operate at this intersection, the objective of advancing understanding is also challenged by a plethora of different and sometimes differing theories. Yet, universally useful contributions to knowledge can be achieved if urban cultural studies, urban sociology, urban technology and human-computer interaction, urban architecture and planning, etc., overcome language and conceptual barriers. A cross-disciplinary approach requires effort to create models which help to overcome phenomenologically isolated attempts at explaining the city. Such models would ideally be cross-fertilised by the findings and insights of each party in order to recognise and play tribute to the interdependencies of people, place and technology in urban environments. We propose the notion of ecology (Hearn & Foth, 2007) as a foundation to develop a model depicting the processes that occur at the intersection of the city and new media.

In the context of the field of urban planning and development, the promise of digital content and new media has been seen as potentially serving new urbanist visions of developing and supporting social relationships that contribute to the sustainability of communities. As Carroll et al. (2007) have argued, recent critiques of assumptions underpinning this vision have pointed to the following outcomes as ‘most in demand’, and simultaneously most difficult to deliver:

  • • Community (Anderson, 2006; DeFilippis, Fisher, & Shragge, 2006; Delanty, 2000; Gleeson, 2004; Willson, 2006);

  • • Diversity (Talen, 2006; Wood & Landry, 2007);

  • • Participation (Hanzl, 2007; Sanoff, 2005; Stern & Dillman, 2006);

  • • Sustainability (Gleeson, Darbas, & Lawson, 2004; Van den Dobbelsteen & de Wilde, 2004);

  • • Identity (Al-Hathloul & Aslam Mughal, 1999; Oktay, 2002; Teo & Huang, 1996);

  • • Culture and History (Antrop, 2004; Burgess, Foth, & Klaebe, 2006; Klaebe, Foth, Burgess, & Bilandzic, 2007).

It is critical that the emergence of urban informatics as a multidisciplinary research cluster is founded on a theoretical and methodological framework capable of interrogating all these relationships and the assumptions that currently underpin them. As Sterne has warned in relation to research pertaining to the field of technology more generally,

the force of the ‘preconstructed’—as Pierre Bourdieu has called it—weighs heavily upon anyone who chooses to study technology, since the choice of a technological object of study is already itself shaped by a socially organized field of choices. There are many forces in place that encourage us to ask certain questions of technologies, to define technology in certain ways to the exclusion of others, and to accept the terms of public debate as the basis for our research programs. (Sterne, 2003, p. 368)

Key Terms in this Chapter

Master-Planned Communities: are urban developments guided by a central planning document that outline strategic design principles and specifications pertaining to road infrastructure, building design, zoning, technology and social and community facilities. They are usually built on vacant land and thus in contrast with the type of ad-hoc organic growth of existing city settlements.

Collective Interaction: is characterised by a shared goal or common purpose, a focus on the community rather than the individual. The interaction is more public and formal than private and informal, and resembles many-to-many broadcasts. The mode of interaction is often asynchronous, permanent and hierarchically structured. Technology that supports collective interaction includes online discussion boards and mailing list.

Networked Interaction: is characterised by an interest in personal social networking and a focus on individual relationships. The interaction is more private and informal than public and formal, and resembles a peer-to-peer switchboard. The mode of interaction if often synchronous, transitory and appears chaotic from the outside. Technology that supports networked interaction includes instant messengers, email and SMS.

Local Knowledge: Knowledge, or even knowing, is the justified belief that something is true. Knowledge is thus different from opinion. Local knowledge refers to facts and information acquired by a person which are relevant to a specific locale or have been elicited from a place-based context. It can also include specific skills or experiences made in a particular location. In this regard, local knowledge can be tacitly held, that is, knowledge we draw upon to perform and act but we may not be able to easily and explicitly articulate it: “We can know things, and important things, that we cannot tell” (Polanyi, 1966).

Triple Play infrastructure: combines broadband Internet access, television reception and telephone communication over a single broadband connection, usually a fibre optic network. It is a marketing term which refers to a business model offering a bundle package of all three services accessible over the same network infrastructure.

Communicative Ecology: as defined by Hearn & Foth (2007), comprises a technological layer which consists of the devices and connecting media that enable communication and interaction. A social layer which consists of people and social modes of organising those people—which might include, for example, everything from friendship groups to more formal community organisations, as well as companies or legal entities. And a discursive layer which is the content of communication—that is, the ideas or themes that constitute the known social universe that the ecology operates in.

Digital Storytelling: refers to a specific tradition based around the production of digital stories in intensive collaborative workshops. The outcome is a short autobiographical narrative recorded as a voiceover, combined with photographic images (often sourced from the participants’ own photo albums) and sometimes music (or other sonic ambience). These textual elements are combined to produce a 2-3 minute video. This form of digital storytelling originated in the late 1990s at the University of California at Berkeley’s Center for Digital Storytelling (www.storycenter.org), headed by Dana Atchley and Joe Lambert.

Complete Chapter List

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List of Reviewers
Table of Contents
Anthony Townsend
Marcus Foth
Marcus Foth
Chapter 1
Amanda Williams, Erica Robles, Paul Dourish
This chapter critically examines the notion of “the city” within urban informatics. Arguing that there is an overarching tendency to construe the... Sample PDF
Urbane-ing the City: Examining and Refining the Assumptions Behind Urban Informatics
Chapter 2
Jaz Hee-Jeong Choi, Adam Greenfield
Once a city shaped by the boundary conditions of heavy industrialisation and cheap labour, within a few years Seoul has transformed itself to one of... Sample PDF
To Connect and Flow in Seoul: Ubiquitous Technologies, Urban Infrastructure and Everyday Life in the Contemporary Korean City
Chapter 3
Nancy Odendaal
Recent literature on African cities examines the way in which social networks function as critical livelihood arteries in the ongoing survival... Sample PDF
Creating an Analytical Lens for Understanding Digital Networks in Urban South Africa
Chapter 4
Wayne Beyea
Community planning is facing many challenges around the world, such as the rapid growth of megacities as well as urban sprawl. The State of Michigan... Sample PDF
Place Making Through Participatory Planning
Chapter 5
Mike Ananny, Carol Strohecker
In this paper, we describe the design and installation of a new kind of public opinion forum—TexTales, a public, large-scale interactive projection... Sample PDF
TexTales: Creating Interactive Forums with Urban Publics
Chapter 6
Jenny Preece
This chapter describes a small networked community in which residents of an apartment building in Washington, D.C., USA supplement their... Sample PDF
An Event-Driven Community in Washington, DC: Forces That Influence Participation
Chapter 7
Fiorella De Cindio
After more than a decade of e-participation initiatives at the urban level, what remains obscure is the alchemy—i.e., the “arcane” combination of... Sample PDF
Moments and Modes for Triggering Civic Participation at the Urban Level
Chapter 8
Michael Veith
Societies face serious challenges when trying to integrate migrant communities. One-sided solutions do not pay tribute to the complexity of this... Sample PDF
Fostering Communities in Urban Multi-Cultural Neighbourhoods: Some Methodological Reflections
Chapter 9
Victor M. Gonzalez, Kenneth L. Kraemer, Luis A. Castro
The practical use of information technology devices in domestic and residential contexts often results in radical changes from their envisioned... Sample PDF
Beyond Safety Concerns: On the Practical Applications of Urban Neighbourhood Video Cameras
Chapter 10
Colleen Morgan
This chapter explores how we may design located information and communication technologies (ICTs) to foster community sentiment. It focuses... Sample PDF
The Figmentum Project: Appropriating Information and Communication Technologies to Animate Our Urban Fabric
Chapter 11
Barbara Crow, Michael Longford, Kim Sawchuk, Andrea Zeffiro
The Mobile Media Lab (MML) is a Canadian interdisciplinary research team exploring wireless communications, mobile technologies and locative media... Sample PDF
Voices from Beyond: Ephemeral Histories, Locative Media and the Volatile Interface
Chapter 12
Helen Klaebe
This chapter defines, explores and Illustrates research at the intersection of people, place and technology in cities. First, we theorise the notion... Sample PDF
Embedding an Ecology Notion in the Social Production of Urban Space
Chapter 13
Vassilis Kostakos, Eamonn O’Neill
In this paper, we describe a platform that enables us to systematically study online social networks alongside their real-world counterparts. Our... Sample PDF
Cityware: Urban Computing to Bridge Online and Real-World Social Networks
Chapter 14
Katharine S. Willis
In our everyday lives, we are surrounded by information which weaves itself silently into the very fabric of our existence. Much of the time we act... Sample PDF
Information Places: Navigating Interfaces between Physical and Digital Space
Chapter 15
Viktor Bedö
This chapter contributes to the ongoing effort to understand the nature of locative urban information by proposing that locative urban information... Sample PDF
A Visual Approach to Locative Urban Information
Chapter 16
Tristan Thielmann
Car navigation systems, based on “augmented reality,” no longer direct the driver through traffic by simply using arrows, but represent the... Sample PDF
Navigation Becomes Travel Scouting: The Augmented Spaces of Car Navigation Systems
Chapter 17
Daisuke Tamada
A lot of street view services, which present views of urban landscapes, have recently appeared. The conventional method for making street views... Sample PDF
QyoroView: Creating a Large-Scale Street View as User-Generated Content
Chapter 18
Hideyuki Nakanishi, Toru Ishida, Satoshi Koizumi
Many research projects have studied various aspects of smart environments including smart rooms, home, and offices. Few projects, however, have... Sample PDF
Virtual Cities for Simulating Smart Urban Public Spaces
Chapter 19
Andrew Hudson-Smith
Digital cities are moving well beyond their original conceptions as entities representing the way computers and communications are hard wired into... Sample PDF
The Neogeography of Virtual Cities: Digital Mirrors into a Recursive World
Chapter 20
Laura Forlano
This chapter introduces the role of community wireless networks (CWNs) in reconfiguring people, places and information in cities. CWNs are important... Sample PDF
Codespaces: Community Wireless Networks and the Reconfiguration of Cities
Chapter 21
Katrina Jungnickel, Genevieve Bell
From WiFi (802.11b) with its fixed and mobile high-speed wireless broadband Internet connectivity to WiMAX (802.16e), the newest wireless protocol... Sample PDF
Home is Where the Hub Is? Wireless Infrastructures and the Nature of Domestic Culture in Australia
Chapter 22
Andres Sevtsuk
This chapter presents the iSPOTS project, which collects and maps data of WiFi usage on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus in... Sample PDF
Mapping the MIT Campus in Real Time Using WiFi
Chapter 23
John M. Carroll
We discuss the vision, plan, and status of a research project investigating community-oriented services and applications, comprising a wireless... Sample PDF
Supporting Community with Location-Sensitive Mobile Applications
Chapter 24
Christine Satchell
Early 21st century societies are evolving into a hybrid of real and synthetic worlds where everyday activities are mediated by technology. The... Sample PDF
From Social Butterfly to Urban Citizen: The Evolution of Mobile Phone Practice
Chapter 25
Jong-Sung Hwang
u-City is South Korea’s answer to urban community challenges leveraging ubiquitous computing technology to deliver state-of-the-art urban services.... Sample PDF
u-City: The Next Paradigm of Urban Development
Chapter 26
Dan Shang, Jean-François Doulet, Michael Keane
This chapter examines the development of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in urban China, focusing mainly on their impact on social... Sample PDF
Urban Informatics in China: Exploring the Emergence of the Chinese City 2.0
Chapter 27
Francesco Calabrese
The real-time city is now real! The increasing deployment of sensors and handheld electronic devices in recent years allows for a new approach to... Sample PDF
WikiCity: Real-Time Location-Sensitive Tools for the City
Chapter 28
Eric Paulos, RJ Honicky, Ben Hooker
In this chapter, we present an important new shift in mobile phone usage—from communication tool to “networked mobile personal measurement... Sample PDF
Citizen Science: Enabling Participatory Urbanism
Chapter 29
Mark Shepard
What happens to urban space given a hypothetical future where all information loses its body, that is, when it is offloaded from the material... Sample PDF
Extreme Informatics: Toward the De-Saturated City
Chapter 30
Roger J. Burrows
Is it still the case that one can symptomatically read the early work of the cyberpunk author William Gibson as a form of prefigurative urban theory... Sample PDF
Urban Informatics and Social Ontology
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