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ASCA Cities Seminar: (Post)Pandemic Urbanism #2: Unfolding the Socially-Distanced City

Dates: 18 February (online), 11 March (online), 8 April (online), 13 May (tbc), 10 June 2022 (tbc) (all 3pm-5pm) | Co-organized by Carolyn Birdsall, Jelke Bosma and Tânia Cardoso. For more information and registration, please contact Jelke Bosma (j.r.bosma@uva.nl).| In this seminar we will discuss recent developments in urban life with the current and ongoing global pandemic.

In taking up the theme of “(Post)Pandemic Urbanism #2: Unfolding the Socially-Distanced City,” we are particularly interested in examining the intersections between digital technologies and contemporary urban environments, from the vantage point of creative, cultural, aesthetic and political practices.

This year’s seminar will focus in particular on discussing the socially-distanced city as a developing process that encompasses issues of cross-disciplinary, experimental and technological initiatives, while questioning its concerns, possibilities and limitations. Born from the necessity of limiting physical human contact, restricting movement, and staying home in hopes to contain and reduce the rate of infections (Byrne 2020; Rogan 2020), the socially-distanced city brought forward reflections regarding our understandings of proximity, embodiment, freedom, nature, city, state and levels of tolerance (Moyer 2020). Under “unprecedented conditions of virality” (Leszczynski & Zook 2020), related to not only the pandemic but also, for example, the spread of misinformation, global protest movements, and other urban crises, we find that new socio-political arrangements in urban governance (McGuirk et al 2020) and commercial opportunism masked as “platform philanthropy” (Cinnamon 2020) have emerged. Focussing on unfolding, we want to draw attention to how the socially-distanced city may seem to be partly returning to a pre-pandemic state, while in that process certain aspects of a pandemic urbanism remain. How are the roles of digital technologies, platforms and data reconfigured in post-pandemic cities? How does this affect “everyday contingencies of the comings-together of platforms, cities, and urban residents” (Leszczynski 2019: 14)? In what ways does the socially-distanced city shift urban dwellers’ agency to surveillance technology and city platforming? How are urban political and legal infrastructures affecting representation and meaning in these unfolding processes?

Engaging with and expanding on such questions, the seminar seeks to analyse contemporary cities by exploring a diverse set of topics, case studies and geographical locations. We will consider, for instance, recent work on “disrupted” urban experiences (Kaufmann et al 2020; Pinkster 2020), “pandemic geographies” (Andrews et al 2020) and “invisible urban data” (Verhoeff 2020), and the role of digital “urban interfaces” in new participatory engagements and cross-disciplinary creative practices (Merx 2017). In doing so, we are not only responding to issues of digital urbanism in the (post)pandemic situation, but also investing in a critical re-assessment of our chosen approaches for the cultural study of cities today.

Friday 18 February, 2022, 3pm-5pm seminar, online

Introductory reading/discussion session, led by the organizers

Reading preparation:

-Gandy, Matthew. “The Zoonotic City: Urban Political Ecology and the Pandemic Imaginary.” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research (2021).  https://doi.org/10.1111/1468-2427.13080.

-Kent, Alexander J. “Mapping and Counter-Mapping COVID-19: From Crisis to Cartocracy.” The Cartographic Journal 57.3 (2020): 187-195. https://doi.org/10.1080/00087041.2020.1855001.  

-Please also take a look at the maps at: Bliss, Laura, and Jessica Lee Martin, “How 2020 Remapped Your Worlds.” Bloomberg CityLab (2020). www.bloomberg.com/features/2020-coronavirus-lockdown-neighborhood-maps/.

Friday 11 March, 2022; 3-5pm, online

Guest lecture by María Mazzanti / Ameneh Solati (Failed Architecture), “Control and Resistance in Public Space”

The built environment dictates social norms in the fundamental distinction between public and private space. This division embodies the fact that certain behaviours can (or must) be performed in front of people while others must remain hidden. These days, amid intense real estate speculation, creeping marketisation of the commons, rise of right-wing nationalism, and a global pandemic, control, access, and surveillance of public space have only become more acute. For this seminar, Ameneh Solati and María Mazzanti (Failed Architecture) will problematise the idealised concept of the public as a space of equality and interrogate the justification of excluding certain bodies in the name of the "public good". A situation that became even more evident during the COVID-19 pandemic when the same excluded bodies are also sacrificed to sustain a smooth flow of capitalist systems. The talk will delve into these issues by examining the role of public space from the Netherlands and France to Colombia and the Arab world in both consolidating and challenging the status quo.

Ameneh Solati is a researcher and architectural designer. Her practice investigates overlooked spaces and devices as means of unpacking entangled power relations and forms of resistance. Solati is a graduate of the MA Architecture program at the Royal College of Art, London. She is an editor and organizer at Failed Architecture and teaches at Gerrit Rietveld Academie and Design Academy Eindhoven. Most recently, she was awarded the 2021 Talent Development Grant by Creative Industries NL (Stimuleringfonds).

María Mazzanti works between architecture, artistic research and publishing. She is an editor and organizer in Failed Architecture, tutor and research fellow in The Sandberg Instituut. Her current research considers the entanglements of bodies of water, infrastructures and narratives of climate catastrophe. For more information about Failed Architecture, see www.failedarchitecture.com.

 

Reading preparation:

-Belina, Bernd. “Ending Public Space as We Know It.” Social Justice 38.1/2 (2011): 13–27. http://www.jstor.org/stable/23345522.

-Hou, Jeffrey. Insurgent Public Space: Guerrilla Urbanism and the Remaking of the Contemporary Cities. London: Routledge, 2010.

-Weizman, Eyal. The Roundabout Revolutions. Berlin: Sternberg, 2015.

 

Friday 8 April, 2022; 3-5pm, online

Guest lecture by Valentina Carraro (UvA): “Jerusalem Online: Critical Cartography for the Digital Age” 
In this seminar, I present some reflections on my past research into the politics of web-maps in/of Jerusalem, and on a more recent project looking at platform-mediated tourism in the West Bank. An important theme to these investigations is that geospatial technologies are part of the apparatus that enables Israel’s colonial control over Palestine. From this perspective, there exist striking parallels between traditional cartographic representations and new forms of digital mappings. On this basis, I argue that critical cartography can make an important contribution to the scholarship on digital geography and, in particular, platform urbanism. In a context of rapid technological change, a critical cartography perspective foregrounds the continuities between historical maps and smart technologies and platforms, notably their material and discursive role in supporting colonialism. In concluding, I draw out the research’s relevance to other cities and localities, during and beyond the pandemic.

 

Valentina Carraro is an assistant professor at the Department of Human Geography, Planning and International Development of the University of Amsterdam. Her research explores how digital technologies intervene on the built environment and on socio-political relations. Her book, Jerusalem Online: Critical Cartography for the Digital Age, was published in 2021 by Palgrave Macmillan. For more information see https://vcarraro.com/

 

Reading preparation:

-Carraro, Valentina. “A Critical Cartography of Sensors and Algorithms.” Jerusalem Online: Critical Cartography for the Digital Age. Singapore: Palgrave Macmillan, 2021. 23-41.

-Sadowski, Jathan. “Cyberspace and Cityscapes: On the Emergence of Platform Urbanism.” Urban Geography 41.3 (2020): 448–452. https://doi.org/10.1080/02723638.2020.1721055.

-Tawil-Souri, Helga, and Miriyam Aouragh. “Intifada 3.0? Cyber Colonialism and Palestinian Resistance.” The Arab Studies Journal 22.1 (2014): 102–133. www.jstor.org/stable/24877901.