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Episode 1: What is Digital Urbanism? (Part 1)

Updated: Apr 27, 2022

This is the first of a two part series on the Urbanism.Live podcast, breaking down the idea of #digitalurbanism.

What is digital urbanism? (Part 1)

Well, to explore this idea, I suppose one must break down those two concepts - digital and urbanism. I'm not going to look to school you at all on those concepts. I don't want to bore you on what urbanism is and what digital is, except to say just a few quick points.

Urbanism, as we know, includes both the built environment and our living systems, and way of life all coming together. And in the second part of this series we talk to the experts on this very topic.

And on digital, briefly, we know that it is about the use of information and communication technology to collect, store and use data. So tech and data as a shorthand I think is fine.

So let's park digital and urbanism for a moment and let's explore where they meet - the idea of those things intersecting is the exciting part for me.

That's what Urbanism.Live is about, where digital and urbanism intersect.

Imagine two circles on a page, one represents digital (on the left), and one represents urbanism (on the right). Now imagine those circles as like a dial that you can turn clockwise and anti-clockwise, like a dial, each having a set of markers on them.

So on the left, on our digital circle or our digital dial we have markers around the outside representing key digital enablers and innovations - the cloud, 5G, connectivity, analytics, artificial intelligence, satellites, LIDAR, autonomous vehicles etc.

And then on the right, the urbanism dial, we have marked various elements of urbanism marked on its outer edge - property, infrastructure, landscape, place, economic development.

And we bring the two dials together, meeting at various points. Mobility meets place, online shopping meets property, or mobility.

On their own these issues are not new. For example e-commerce been around for some time. But the intersections, they are new, or evolving.

And here's the question that I have; who decided these things? How did they evolve? Who decided that the smartphone was going to be the doorway into the phenomenon of urban food delivery?

Did we plan for QR codes being the unlocking mechanism for electric scooters? Thus becoming the gateway drug to a new world of personal mobility?

And when was it that the computer was considered an appropriate means for assessing multi-million dollar development applications?

At what point did we realise that community generated social media data could tell us more about what the community is thinking and feeling without us even talking to them?

At what point do these things come about as practitioners and policymakers? How much was it push or pull? Did we entice these things? Did we plan for these things? Or were we sold these things?

You see this intersection of where digital meets urbanism is absolutely fascinating when your pause and really think about it. It's also scary, but I find it more on the exciting end of the spectrum.

I think it's here where I rest on a definition of digital urbanism, at least for now, being "the practice of using digital technologies and data insights as the neighbors for shaping cities, infrastructure, property, landscapes and places that people love".

And with that question, "what is digital urbanism?", we may have partly started to answer it. But our follow-up part two in this series will go deeper, and offer some additional perspectives.

Stay tuned...

You can listen to the Urbanism.Live podcast via our website here, on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts.


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