The Kind of Prob­lem a Soft­ware City Is


Session Title:

  • The Art of Software Cities

Presentation Title:

  • The Kind of Prob­lem a Soft­ware City Is



  • Panel: The Art of Software Cities

    The final chap­ter in Jane Ja­cobs’ The Death and Life of Great Amer­i­can Cities from 1961 is en­ti­tled “The Kind of Prob­lem a City Is.”  Ja­cobs ac­counts for the re­la­tions be­tween urban de­vel­op­ment strate­gies and the pro­gres­sion of sci­ence. Through sta­tis­ti­cal ma­te­r­ial, sci­ence in the 20th cen­tury be­came ca­pa­ble of man­ag­ing cities as com­lex or­gan­isms. Un­for­tunal­tely, urban plan­ners at the time did not know much about the ac­tual in­ter­ac­tions mak­ing up the or­gan­ism. Ja­cobs stresses that urban plan­ners need to think in processes that ex­plains the gen­eral by the spe­cific rather than in sta­tis­ti­cal in­for­ma­tion that op­presses both the process and the spe­cific. Today, dig­i­tal media changes the cityscape with media fa­cades, urban screens, mo­bile screens, com­puter gen­er­ated ar­chi­tec­tural forms and so on. How­ever it is not only media that is in­tro­duced to the city but also soft­ware.

    A dis­tinct char­ac­ter­is­tic for soft­ware cities is that the rep­re­sen­ta­tions of media are al­ways con­nected to un­der­ly­ing com­pu­ta­tional processes that change the com­plex life forms of the city. Un­der­stand­ing soft­ware cities we must com­pare the city with the soft­ware at a spe­cific level. The pre­sen­ta­tion will seek to do this by in­clud­ing the ar­chi­tect Christo­pher Alexan­der’s idea of a ‘pat­tern lan­guage’ (that has been much more in­flu­en­tial in soft­ware de­sign than in ar­chi­tec­ture) and argue that we must look be­yond the form and spec­ta­cles soft­ware im­poses and begin to pay at­ten­tion to the ac­tiv­ity it fos­ters. The pre­sen­ta­tion will pre­sent a view on the pat­terns of soft­ware cities and fur­ther­more re­flect on the ac­ces­si­bil­ity of soft­ware cities as a pub­lic do­main. In what ways does soft­ware in cities re­sponds to our life?


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