The educational activities in the Digital Cities and Urban Planning class aim at introducing students to basic understanding of urban innovation and the use of new technologies not only in narrow technical terms, but also in terms of their impacts onto urban policy and social organization at large. Deepening the topic of how complex partnerships and interest groups conceive, develop and deal with digital innovation in a globalized environment implies the investigation of the inter-urban mobility and local adaptations of “successful” policies or “”best practices”. For this reason, the Digital Cities and Urban Planning class will provide a theoretical frame of reference for digital technologies, urban innovation and its socio-political implications drawing on planning, urban studies and geography literatures.
In order to foster an in-depth and critical understanding of urban innovation and multiple planning responses, the class will, on the one hand, present to and involve students in investigating a set of policies such as the smart city, sustainable city, creative city, culture-led regeneration and branded urban projects. On the other hand, the class will develop hands-on activities and exercises referred to spatial planning for urban smartness and community driven innovation in the digital age. The program will consider several case studies in European, North American and Asian cities, analyze most recent European and national strategies with reference to the Digital Agenda and other policies. The program will involve invited speakers on different subjects.
The course is structured on two distinct yet strictly intertwined modules: “Urban Innovation” module under the responsibility of Professor Ponzini and the “Smart City” module under the responsibility of Professor Concilio.
The mix of theoretical and practical issues discussed and handled by this course will require strong students’ involvement both individually (e.g. readings and short essays) and in teams.
Urban Innovation and Planning (Professor Davide Ponzini)
In the last decades, cities have been growing with unprecedented interconnectedness. Architects, planners, policy makers, technology providers and developers are ever more linked one to another, thanks to hypermobility and new communication technologies. Similar policy solutions and even development schemes today circulate among different cities on the basis of catch words (e.g. smart city, eco-city), formats (e.g. Expo, Olympic Games, World Cup and others) or of a “best-practice” rationale (e.g. Bilbao’s regeneration, Vancouver’s sustainability). Local decision-makers often assume that these sorts of urban innovations are problem-free and always positive for cities and their growth.
However, the underestimated problems of the “landing” of such innovations have recently been investigated and critically analyzed. Scholars in different fields (such as urban planning, architecture, political science and urban studies) have shown the economic interests behind transnational networks of firms and experts, traveling policy solutions and technologies, globally circulating urban policies and architectural projects.
In particular, the module “Urban Innovation and Planning” held by Professor Ponzini critically considers the global mobility dynamics of such planning innovations, their implications and actual effects at the urban level, which are sometimes problematic.
The lectures will cover different kinds of innovations (from the smart city to the creative city policy, from urban mega-events to digital design technologies, from master plans to architectural projects). They aim at involving students and sparking debate about ostensibly neutral planning, design and technological solutions for contemporary cities.
Smart Cities (Professor Grazia Concilio)
Many cities are now re-imagining themselves in terms of smartness and are developing relevant urban agendas often driven by a number of funding opportunities made available by national and international programs in the recent years. Even when they are developed within strategic visions, these agendas are often the result of a selection of ICT solutions offered and made available by the ICT market and/or identified by emulating and copying other cities. Within these dynamics, some issues emerge as relevant: is ICT infrastructure the (only) key towards smart innovation? Are heavy ICT infrastructures and solutions able to meet people’s needs in urban environments? Are heavy ICT based innovation strategies able to achieve any form of urban intelligence?
Also inspired by the Territorial Living Lab concept, a different perspective of urban smartness is emerging more focused on citizens’ needs (experienced in the urban daily life) and roles (they play in city making). This emerging perspective considers citizens as the engine of an urban intelligence which is enabled, facilitated, empowered by technologies. Investing on its human capital, such a city is able to experiment, is able to activate and take care of relevant learning processes situated in the urban environment and guaranteed by a continuous exchange of resources between the cyber and the urban space. How do cities learn? How can cities foster and guarantee learning process towards durable and continuous innovation?
The “Smart City” module, will cover the broader issues of “urban smartness” and drive the students through the questions and issues presented above. It will explore recent concepts of urban smartness, and open up critical discussions around them by organizing the contents around 4 thematic axes: