The death and life of the real-time city : re-imagining the city of digital urbanism

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NO FULL TEXT AVAILABLE. Access is restricted indefinitely. The full text of this thesis can be viewed on the author’s website ----- Information and communications technologies are becoming increasingly diffused within the material spaces of the city, generating novel ways of representing complex, hitherto ‘invisible’ urban behaviours in real-time. Many digital urbanists are inspired by the capacity of these network technologies to radically transform our perceptions and experiences of urban space. But how ‘new’, really, is this emergent vision of the city? This is a thesis about the potentials of the real-time city. However, unlike many existing studies, the focus is less on the technologies of urban computing and the new modes of interactivity they enable, and more on the underlying conception of ‘the city’ advanced here. A central argument is that we need to be mindful of the utopian vision that digital urbanists espouse when they make claims about the potentials of real-time systems to change the way we view cities. Establishing the contemporary vision of the real-time city as a particular, and highly contested, way of imagining the space of the city, my thesis retrieves some different practices and perspectives, drawn from the fields of critical spatial theory, cultural geography and sound studies, to re-imagine a ‘real-time’ experience of the urban terrain. Through a practice-led response, I offer a sense of the digital terrain as a historical topology that enfolds within it different time-spaces – the ‘real times of space’ – lingering in the back-alleys of the contemporary scene. My practice makes tactical use of the mobile device as a listening platform, capable of retrieving the substrata of today’s digital terrain through its archival audio traces. Working in Sydney, Australia, I’ve retrieved the ambient resonances of particular moments in the life of the city in the way one might navigate a memori topi, using archival sound traces to facilitate experiential audio-visual interactions with the past-presences of an urban space. This is a trans-disciplinary project, which engages different spatial imaginaries of the city present within fields such as digital urbanism, cultural geography, sound history, utopian studies and urban planning. By sounding out the resonant traces of past moments, I hope to enrich our spatial imaginary of the real-time city and its digital practices; to not only illuminate the contours of its networked connectivity, but to also listen, and learn, from what we might retrieve when we return to its forgotten spaces.
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