Thursday, 13 October 2011

Second International Conference Young Urban Researchers - SiCyUrB

Today is the second day of the Second International Conference of Young Urban Researchers in Lisbon at ISCTE-IUL.

The conference aims to share recent researches on urban contexts from many different areas of social sciences, to discuss current theoretical and methodological issues and to promote interdisciplinary and international networking. It is intended that the meeting should be boosted by young researchers who work in urban studies and develop research in the cities - especially those who are studying in post-graduate programs but also those carrying out technical and intervention activities.

SicyURB Lisbon coference poster
Image taken from SicyURB / conference poster.

My contribution with the title Location Based Social Networks and the Emerging Sense of Place will be focusing ont he emerging potential of social media data to chalenge and redefine the established cartesian cartographies of cities by generating its own detailed descriptions of spaces. These spaces are temporal, ephemeral in nature making them hard to grasp and categories in a conventional way.

The conception of identity in this case is less the idea of the individual perception of spaces and the creation of a personal tie than it is a collective description of an emerging spatial identity as a description of spatial activity defining the urban space. Identity would here be the spatial description as such, making use of different aspects, including time, space and social connections.

The talk will be based on the assumption of a departure from the static urban conception as a given framework towards a much mor specific, individual and timed conception of city in the context of the now widely available tools and data sources. This includes a number of urban sensors providing real time and very contextual data. This can be local sensors but also includes the citizens themselves as sensors through mobile technology and social network media. With this information that is no longer gathered under the objectivity dogma, no longer serves to support the city as an institution but is highly situative and subjective to the degree that it is potentially not repeatable definitely not in a different context.

At the same time these new datasets also chalenge the established data sources on the level of quantity. So far research into the field of spatial description challenging the established objectivity were doomed due to their qualitative nature based on small 'none' representative samples and methods of data collection. However, the emerging data sets, provided by urban sensors, are available in numbers outshining many of the conventional quantitative sources. Therefor the argument of representativity does not bite no longer and visualisations and research is fast tracked into the interest focus.

This is not without problems of course and the description and relations of the available data sets is still vague and laks clear handles and definitions. Similar it is the case with ethical and regulative questions especially regarding responsibility and accountability. So far the institutions have not picked up on the problem and existing ethical protocols do not yet include the new questions of ownership, security and management.

Using the social networking data it might become possible to depart from the starting point of time geography by implementing the described dynamics on the level of data and start stitching together a picture of the urban environment more in the sense of Guy Debord's naked city proposition that proposed a mapping based on experience.

However, the use of these new data sources is still at the very beginning and specific strands of interest are only beginning to emerge. The New City Landscapes are a start trying to visualise the different characteristics on a city level.

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