Jan 1, 2020
Environment and Planning B: Urban Analytics and City Science
The digitizing city emerged soon after the introduction of remote controlling via Telnet in the 1970s. Thus, it was soon argued that ‘the modern city exists as a haze of software instructions’ (Amin and Thrift, 2002: 125). Such instructions and the city jointly form ‘code/space [which] is quite literally constituted through software-mediated practices, wherein code is essential to the form, function and meaning of space’ (Kitchin and Dodge, 2011: 71). The digitization of urban space has spread over time to endless categories and dimensions, but we will focus here on those categories that imply citywide flow and mobility: urban utility systems, on the one hand, and activities carried out by individual urbanites, on the other. Relevant digitized urban utility systems include transport, electricity, water, gas, and sewage, but they exclude, for instance, elevators, airports, and harbors, which are located at specific sites. Digitized activities by urban individuals include Internet and communications activities, as well as the emerging Internet of Things (IoT), or the communications between people and their domestic appliances (within ‘smart homes’), and the upcoming driverless autonomous vehicles (AVs). Digitized urban activities, carried out by individuals, are, therefore, mostly activities that have shifted into Internet space, i.e. online shopping, or activities that will continue to be performed in real space, but will turn digital, mainly the use of IoT and AVs. The objective of this commentary is to highlight this distinction between citywide urban flow or mobility categories as well as to note several differences between the digitization of urban utility systems and that of urban activities by individuals. Following a short presentation of some basic terminology for digitized cities, we will comparatively discuss digital urban systems and digital urban activities.