In the 2020-21 ASCA Cities seminar, we will consider recent developments in urban life in the wake of the ongoing global pandemic. In taking up this theme, 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.
The seminar will take stock of lived experiences in global cities today, with urban inhabitants subject to varying degrees of social-distancing restrictions, often violently enforced, and with crucial aspects of urban lives and livelihoods halted, slowed or intensified. For some, the pandemic prompted a rapid switch to ‘remote’ work, education, and leisure, accompanied by surges in digital gaming and content-on-demand consumption. Meanwhile, existing processes of urban datafication and ‘smart city’ infrastructures have been crucial to making contact tracing a viable option independent of citizen consent. With current warnings of a prevalent “pandemic shock doctrine” (Klein, 2020), how can we make sense of the ‘viral’ city and uneven distributions of risk, exposure and (im)mobility? What alternative visions are being generated for inclusive urban recovery, from the local to planetary scale? What role do digital media play in visually narrating ‘urban crisis’ and subsequent reclaiming of urban space, for instance, in public protest? And what kinds of inventive methods are being developed to address the current predicament in artistic and cultural practice?
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 “playful digitality” and online communing in global gaming cultures (Jeursen, 2020), and digital intimacy in “platform urbanism” (Barns, 2019), amidst calls for “radical care perspectives” (Fitz/Krasny, 2019), “patchwork ethnography” (Günel et al., 2020) and a sensitivity to “our tools for urban listening” (Mattern, 2020). In doing so, we are not only responding to issues of digital urbanism in the (post)pandemic situation, but also invested in a critical re-assessment of our chosen approaches for the cultural study of cities today.
Semester 1 dates: Friday 18 September, Friday 23 October, Friday 20 November, Friday 11 December (see full programme: www.cities.humanities.uva.nl)
Organisers: Carolyn Birdsall, Alex Gekker and Thijs Jeursen