Infrastructural Urbanism

The question of the future of urban landscapes with regard to their transformation as the physical basis of sociability is currently frequently illustrated as declining in favour of dematerialized, delocalised, ever-present digital systems and networks is timely. However, this may not actually be as recent a phenomenon as it may first seem, as Melvin Webber described in his highly influential article. ‘The Urban Place and the Nonplace Urban Realm’ of 1964, urban life and urban experience were always synonymous with a partial dissociation from the constraints of reality. This forms the basis for the recent research paper the authors presented at Spaces and Flows: An International Conference on Urban and ExtraUrban Studies, held  at the University of California, Los Angeles, 4-5 December. The paper, ‘Infrastructural Urbanism: Ecologies and Technologies of Multi-layered Landscapes’ proposed the development of ‘digital ecologies’ through their use of digital infrastructures to afford meaningful relationships with respect to urban transformation. A key aspect of the position presented was in the use of such technology to develop instrumentality with which to facilitate ‘thick’ descriptions of digital networks and communities and contribute to our understanding of their spatiality. This research therefore sought to describe and explain this transformation and propose theoretical material to address some of the attendant issues.

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