Introduction to Technology and Cities >> Content Detail



Course Structure and Content

This seminar is an introduction to the usage and impacts of information and communication technologies (ICTs) on urban planning, the urban environment and communities. Students will explore how social relationships, our sense of community, the urban infrastructure, and planning practice have been affected by technological change. Literature reviews, guest speakers, and Web surfing will provide examples and issues that are debated in class and homework exercises. We will examine metropolitan information infrastructures, urban modeling and visualization, e-government, collaborative planning, and cyber communities.

Students will attend a regular Tuesday seminar and occasional seminars of invited speakers during lunchtime on Fridays or Mondays.

During the past two decades, ICTs have become so pervasive and disruptive that their impact on urban planning and social relationships has begun to reach far beyond their immediate use as efficient bookkeeping and automation tools. This seminar will examine ICT impacts on our sense of community, urban planning practice, the meaning of 'place', and the nature of metropolitan governance. In each of the four areas, we will utilize readings, class discussion, guest lectures, and homework exercises to identify and critique key trends, relevant theories, and promising directions for research and professional practice.

Procedures and Evaluation

Seminar sessions will involve intensive discussions of assigned readings, guest lectures, and selected Web sites. Final grades will be based on four short commentaries on course readings and guest lectures (40%); two brief class presentations contrasting and comparing theories and methods within two of the four major topic areas (30%); two reviews of Web sites that are considered representative of current practice in two of the four major topics (20%); and an assessment of student's contributions to class-based discussion (10%).

Four Short Commentaries on Course Readings and Guest Lectures40%
Two Brief Class Presentations Contrasting and Comparing Theories and Methods within Two of the Four Major Topic Areas30%
Two Reviews of Web sites that are Considered Representative of Current Practice in Two of the Four Major Topics20%
An Assessment of Student's Contributions to Class-based Discussion10%

Class Outline

Part I: ICT and Community

Computer networks are inherently social networks. The first three weeks of this course focus on how new ICTs affect "community." Existing empirical studies of the impact of new technologies on social relations will be examined. Is the Internet decaying the social fabric of our urban environments? Are we becoming home-centered as we pigeonhole ourselves into communities of interest, maintained from within the home and separate from our geographic communities? What role should planners take in using and developing ICTs to build better communities?

Part II: ICT and Planning

By moving beyond text-oriented databases and tools, modern ICTs provide new ways to measure and model urban spatial structure and interactions and powerful tools for visualizing places and spaces that don't yet exist. ICTs also facilitate communication and coordination among groups that are spatially and culturally diverse. But ICTs also complicate planning by impacting what is measured, changing the economics of place, risking overreliance on imperfect performance indicators, and requiring increasingly sophisticated infrastructure and professionals. These three weeks examine the impacts of ICTs on professional planning practice and skills.

Part III: ICT and Place

ICTs are impacting "place" on many levels. On the macro level, large scale economic and political transformations are related to the rise of a post-industrial or information based society. On the micro level, we see changes in how people perceive and use the private domain of the home. Somewhere in-between, we see changes in the use and design of the public realm of sidewalks, cafes and shopping malls. The next three weeks provide a brief introduction to the impact of new ICTs on the different levels of "place".

Part IV: ICT and Governance

Is e-government more than office automation? Who is (or should be) paying for the spatial data infrastructure that is enabling new forms of planning? Can ICTs facilitate community and citizen empowerment, improve public participation, and illuminate and enhance development and environmental review processes? Who can/should manage the privacy/security impacts? The last segment of the seminar focuses the ICT impacts on the citizen involvement and governance of our metropolitan areas.


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