19 April, 2021

Two new Master Student Research Assistants for DIGI-GOV - Desmond Bast and Karinne Madron

April 1st 2021 marked the official launch of DGEO's new FNR funded project, entitled, Digital urban development - How large digital corporations shape the field of urban governance (DIGI-GOV).  And to help kick it off, we are pleased to welcome two new master student researchers to the project.

Joining us as a student researcher in his final semester at the Master of Architecture, European Urbanisation and Globalisation [MArch] here at the University of Luxembourg is Desmond Bast, who is also VP of the Architecture Student Association. He carries forth a considerable catalogue of work, primarily comprised of experience in an architecture office, working on three mixed-use CLT mid-rise structures for social housing purposes in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. There, he implemented an array of building information modelling skills with in-depth technical liaising he had acquired during his bachelor studies in Architectural Engineering and Technology at Thompson Rivers, University in Kamloops.

Desmond brings a developed interest in spatial politics and socio-ecologic discourse, leading him to his current master studies, where he is actively honing new methods of expressing multi-scalar ideas through a combination of written prose, cartographic, and graphic projection. Desmond’s interests lie at the intersection of urban governance, technology, and the harmonious welfare of individuals and planet-earth alike.

Desmond also tells us that as someone originally from Victoria, British Columbia, he is an O.K. flatland skim-boarder, a mediocre vegan cook, and a veteran of the Canadian Junior Hockey League. Desmond also loves art, photography, string-instruments, and sampling the occasional craft-beer with friends.

Also joining us is Karinne Madron who is currently completing her Master in Architecture, European Urbanisation and Globalisation here at the University of Luxembourg. Prior to coming to Luxembourg in 2019, she worked in architecture for nearly 11 years in Mauritius where she is from. She holds a BA in Architectural Studies from Newcastle University and an MSc in Development Studies from the University of Mauritius. Her research interests include spatial justice, planetary urbanization, urban innovation, urban governance and participatory development among other subjects.

Having obtained a scholarship from the Government of Mauritius in 2004, Karinne moved to the UK to study architecture in Newcastle upon Tyne. She developed an early interest in the relationship between the built environment and social change and chose ‘the rise and fall of high-rise mass housing in the UK’ as the subject of her dissertation. Pursuing her interest in housing, she worked as a trainee architect for a housing association in Newcastle for about a year after completing her degree.

She returned to Mauritius in 2008 and had the opportunity to work with communities living in informal settlements on slum upgrading and social housing projects. Over the years, she also worked on a variety of other projects ranging from the renovation of the Bank of Mauritius to luxury gated communities. Her work experience in both social and luxury projects allowed her to develop her insight into the socio-political underpinnings of land use and inequality in the small island of Mauritius. Seeking to deepen her understanding of these issues she decided to do a Master in Development Studies in 2012. Her dissertation titled ‘an analysis of the relationship between inadequate housing and the intergenerational transmission of poverty in Mauritius’ gave her the opportunity to discuss with local authorities, civil society groups as well as inhabitants of informal settlements. Having again an opportunity to pursue her academic interests in 2019, she chose the University of Luxembourg for her Master in Architecture because of the interdisciplinary nature of the programme.

Karinne has otherwise had the opportunity to be a volunteer teacher most of her life. As a teenager she used to teach the children in her neighbourhood. She was also an assistant teacher in English classes given to refugees and asylum seekers in Newcastle. Back in Mauritius she helped with academic support to children from underprivileged families with non-governmental organisations. 

We are glad to welcome Karinne and Desmond and are really looking forward to their creative and critical contributions to DIGI-GOV!

15 April, 2021

Tech update for this blog - Feedburner will discontinue its service

If you are reading this post because you are registered on the Feedburner and thus receive email updates, please know that Feedburner is terminating this service in July.  Thereafter, you will not receive any email notifications that we have updated this blog.

I just received notice about this today, so I am only just beginning to figure out what to do about this.

(It is also a kind reminder that the platform services we depend on can be revoked at any moment.  I wouldn't be surprised if Google terminated blogger at some point...)

Cheers!

Connie



Toronto versus Barcelona - Comparing smart city development at the University of Stavanger

It was a great pleasure to meet Dr. Ramon Ribera Fumaz, Director of the Urban Transformation and Global Change Laboratory, (TURBA), and Dr. Anders Riel M├╝ller & Professor Bettina Bluemling of the UiS Research Network for Smart Sustainable Cities, University of Stavanger last month to talk about Actually Existing Smart Cities: Alphabet Inc. (Google) In Toronto and Commoning the "Smart City" in Barcelona.


Comparing smart city development in Toronto versus that in Barcelona is such a great comparison. There is so much to explore, address and discuss concerning scale (of corporate size, of financial power, of targeted technological reach), centralization versus fragmentation, knowledge differentials across institutions in charge of urban development, and the visible/hidden agendas of those in charge. Fascinating directions at the nexus of an old triad urbanplanning, urbanpolitics and techinnovation. If you missed it, it can be found at the University of Stavanger YouTube channel for smart cities (see below).

Abstract for Ramon Ribera Fumaz's Commoning the ‘Smart City’ in Barcelona 
There is a well-established consensus amongst critical scholars, activists, and, increasingly by the general public, that the Smart City practices are generating a new spatial fix for (tech) capital and depoliticise urban redevelopment and environmental management. Against this backdrop, Barcelona has attempted in the last years to harness digital platform technologies to enhance participative democracy and its agenda to secure technological sovereignty and digital rights for its citizens. In doing so, it has aimed to build a tech ecosystem that does not respond to corporate digital capitalism needs. This strategy's central tool has been the multi-purpose platform Decidim, built on FOSS and transparent and inclusive ethical principles. This paper explores the Decidim ecosystem – the network of developers, research centres, maintainers, advocates and activists, and city administrators – in Barcelona and beyond to establish the long term connections, the affordance and limitations of such initiative concerning its replication and scalability elsewhere. Thus, reflecting on its potential in challenging mainstream strategies.

Abstract for Carr's Alphabet (Google) in Toronto – Technocratic joint ventures of politics and large digital corporations (LDC)
The arrival of large digital corporations (LDCs) on the urban development scene is a relatively recent phenomenon, which has sparked concerns around data privacy, surveillance, and the implications of new technologies shaping supposedly smart urbanity. In this entry, I will present research that examined what happens when an LDC entered the field of urban development. Specifically, the empirical focus was on Alphabet Inc.'s failed digital city plans for Toronto’s waterfront. It is clear that the arrival of LDCs hardly signifies the sole and simple arrival of new palates of technologies. Rather, LDCs are new players in the field endorsing post-political modes of urban development. 






08 April, 2021

New Publication: Background on Urban and Regional Planning

Carr wrote the introductory chapter on urban and regional planning in the upcoming Palgrave Handbook of Global Sustainability edited by Robert Brinkmann.

Abstract of Chapter
Sustainable development has been a subject of urban planning for three decades now. Planners and practitioners now have a wealth of materials, catalogues, readers, and textbooks at their disposal that discuss local problems and practices. The problem, however, is that sustainable development is a very broad and often contradictory concept that is difficult to implement, and has since become a vector for market-led, exclusionary, urban development and planning. Little progress has been achieved, especially in regard to social equality. At the time of this writing, the global pandemic was also unfolding, which demanded priorities in health care on one hand and opened up new questions about sustainable development on the other. If sustainability and post-pandemic planning (for sustainability) is to be taken seriously, it is imperative to identify, reassert, and re-center social injustices in the productive processes that generate urban and regional spaces. There is a risk that social polarization will widen further still and that it too will be market-led as governments struggle with the crisis. Practitioners need to be careful about how people are included and can benefit from planning practice. There is inspiration from planning theory. Knowledge of public interest, differing epistemologies and ontologies, problems of racism and class, and a revival of kindness in political democratic are some ideas that publicly funded urban and regional planning offices can promote and assert – in the interests of sustainability.

The full article is available here at Springer or here at the archive of the University of Luxembourg (orbilu).  Don't hesitate to request access if you have any problems.