One + June 2011 - (Page 58)

Progress Through Technology Striving to be Europe’s beacon 21st-century city, both politically and technologically, Berlin, Germany, was an ideal location for the maiden Cognitive Cities 2011 event in February. BY R O B COTT E R FRITZ LANG PRESENTED HIS VISION OF AN URBANIZED FUTURE TO THE WORLD WITH HIS EPIC FILM METROPOLIS IN 1927. A budget never to be surpassed in silent movie making afforded the Berlin-produced artwork groundbreaking special effects for the themes that Lang wanted to explore: a high-rise, hi-tech future city fueled by a fractured population of impotent working hordes and the proprietary elite of the emerging capitalist economic system. There have since been many such cinematic portrayals of abundantly hi-tech futuristic cityscapes, almost all dystopian in mood and suggestive of varying degrees of social meltdown. The human subject is often depicted in thrall to the technologically domineering behemoth of “the city,” a sinister presence that they feel imprisoned by rather than something they can engage with. It is no surprise in Metropolis that the seeds of the worker revolt are fomented deep down in the bowels of the city’s underworld, in the 2,000-yearold catacombs, far from the brave new world created above that the people can’t relate to. Contrasted with contemporary city life, however, this aspect of filmic depictions of the futuristic city has completely missed the mark. Rather than descend to the catacombs, the modern city dweller, in his hi-tech realm, openly utilizes ether-space to transmit his ideas—we all use Facebook and Twitter—spaces that are indeed being used to alter the political landscape across the world. Today’s cities couldn’t function as divisive and oppressive. Rather, they are moving more in the direction of necessary interactiveness and participation. Emergent technology, doubling in power every 18 months, is coming to depend as much on what we feed it as what it consequently generates. This includes traditional urban infrastructure—for example, transport and 58 travel information or recording local weather conditions. Yet while certain cities around the world are recognized as more developed in this arena than others, the general concept remains abstract to the majority of people, even while they participate in it. It has led to the labeling of contemporary cities as “smart” or “intelligent,” depending on how advanced they are in engaging informational or cognitive processes. Berlin, the influence for Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and a city with a unique history, has been in constant flux since its 1990 reunification. Striving to be Europe’s beacon 21st-century city, both politically and technologically, it was an ideal location for the maiden CoCities 2011 (Cognitive Cities) event hosted in February 2011. A collaborative brainchild of Third Wave, a digital strategy consultancy, and Your Neighbours, a digital agency, both based in Berlin, the event was convened to assess data flows currently existing in cities and how much they can be usefully harnessed and developed to enrich the participative nature of cities of the future. Or more broadly, as the organizers themselves put it, to “assess where the paths for the future of cities are set.” “The field is undeniably abstract, and we often have to really explain it to people,” said Peter Bihr, co-founder of Third Wave. “We started CoCities openmindedly, with the goal of connecting the most relevant scenes and thinkers in one event, assuming that if you get the most interesting folks in one room and let them share their ideas, something great will emerge.” Attracting 350 thinkers to their first event—just over half from Germany and the remainder coming from 16 other, mostly European, countries—the event managed to bring together a broad range of backgrounds and professions. “The backgrounds most relevant to our conference are design, urban plan- one+ 06.11

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of One + June 2011

One + June 2011
Energy of Many
Paradigm Shifts, Part I
Ask the Experts
Web Watch
Recognizing Individual Excellence
Sound Off
Art of Travel
River Mason
Top Spots
Plan It Forward
Great Thanking
Running on Defaults
The New Mobile Workforce
World Wide Open
Higher Education
Progress Through Technology
Step by Strategic Step
Meeting Rxcitement
Tame Social Media Chaos
Meeting Against Meat
Re-Designed for the New Rules of Engagement
Industry Insights
Your Community
Making a Difference
Until We Meet Again

One + June 2011