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24 NOVEMBER 2008

Re-conceiving the Post modern City: Planning in the Information Age

"The post modern city is experienced as a sequence of several images overlapping and evolving through different scales of space and time (Watson and Gibson 1995). Through the cognitive images of different layers and elements of spatiality, it is possible to perceive the disorder of post modern cities. A fruitful avenue of exploration may well lie in attempting to reveal the unconscious mental mapping and cognitive imaging that people use to construct the city. In so doing this paper attempts to deconstruct or reveal the dense intersection of various cultural practices within public spaces, regarded as offering social meanings whether these coalesce or compete. Such public spaces are both a primary means by which social networks are enacted, and a metaphor for the spatial relationships within city fabric.

Viewing the city through a deconstructive lens, it is possible to see the multiple manifestations of consumption of the post modern city fabric that enact a variety of (re)constructed identities (Fahmi and Howe 2000). The current paper introduces an urban experiment that proposes a (hypothological) city as an open framework of shared grounds/ownership. It includes built and unbuilt schemes as inserted within the fabric of the city, as influenced by history, human experience and contemporary culture. The article however examines the metaphors of space and being as manifest in the rhetoric of virtuality and materializes in real environments. It does so by looking firstly at precedents in the post modern built and media environment which have helped establish a discourse of immateriality upon which the rhetoric of virtuality depends; secondly, at the neo–futurist mechanisms which support the idea of an imaginative space in virtual environments; thirdly, at the appropriation of architectural metaphors that concretize and represent the spatial metaphor. The paper concludes by considering a number of conflicting forces that when initially encountered resisted the subversive rhythms of deconstructivism that challenge the normal stable institutionalized construction of space.

In the information–knowledge culture, existing urban order is being replaced by highly complex new networks. Therefore there is a need to deconstruct the contested (post)modern city, with the current paper aiming to examine the fragmented multi–layered nature of public spaces in an attempt to emphasize the nature and institutionalization of post modern spaces. The examination of such fragmented urban patterns will try to unravel the contested nature of sequential images and overlapping layers of events as they emerge in people's daily interaction, with such social relations being mobilized through public spaces. Such spaces could nonetheless represent the (re) (de) construction of identities with new urban spaces signifying a focus for fragmentation and proliferation of social patterns which are contested and juxtaposed in post modern cities.

Since the post modern city is based on the concept of disintegration of real space in virtuality, a development of new ways of looking at spatiality is needed, with emphasis being made on the changing notion of expression of identity. This latter is however developing in all directions at the same time as a result of new technology, new media environment, and new economy. The disappearance of nation states and emergence of regions will eventually lead to a restructuring of frame of reference (Fahmi, 2000a). In understanding the role of contemporary urban public life it is essential to identify certain aspects which reflect the diversity of the post modern society. Proshansky, Ittelson and Rivlin (1970) emphasized the significance of freedom of choice within public spaces where aspects of privacy, territoriality and avoidance of sense of crowding prevail. If people are involved in the location, design and management of local public spaces they are inclined to negotiate with rules of social interaction, with boundaries of public and private life being blurred (Altman 1975). Following Lefebvre (1991), we see that spaces are conceived as material in the form of design of space, as symbolized in the media and folklore history, and as imagined in the minds of planners, designers and politicians.

Furthermore, Fadd and Jiron (1999) mentioned environmental qualities which involved the representation of various social, cultural and ethnic groups encompassed in the society, with each locating appropriate places. Therefore balancing people's spatial rights (Lynch 1981) or rights of action is a complex task, with public spaces being likely to have heterogeneous population performing different activities at different times. Urban public spaces can facilitate the creation of invisible networks of contacts which weave together the fabric of people–places relationships. On a cognitive level this assists in creating legible cities (Lynch 1960), with the ability to enhance images and memories of places, and to contribute to identities of people. These are components of place identity which can enrich urban life, and make the anonymous city comprehensible, familiar and manageable, whilst meeting users' needs."
(Dr Wael Salah Fahmi, 2001)

TAGS

cityconsumptioncultural practicedisintegrationeconomyenvironment • Fahmi • fluidity of identityfragmentationidentityidentity as a construct • imaginative space • immateriality • invisible networks • ISoCaRP • juxtapositionlayer • legible cities • metaphorownershipplanningPostmodernprivatepublicpublic spacesequencesocial interactionsocial networksspaceurbanvirtualweaveweaving together

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
29 DECEMBER 2003

Urban Theory: the disintegration of social relationships into anomie

"Durkheim, writing towards the end of the nineteenth century, feared the disintegration of social relationships into 'anomie'. This constituted a situation where the norms and expectations surrounding behaviour were no longer known. The onset of industrialisation would create normlessness and social breakdown. He identified, as a key feature, the shift from a community based upon mechanical solidarity to one based upon organic solidarity. Mechanical solidarity was where the moral ideas and values of a society were shared by all members, collective authority was absolute and. deviants were not allowed. Conformity to the rules was expected of all the population and was enforced by strong sanctions. The basis of this form of solidarity was the homogeneity of moral beliefs across the population. In contrast, organic solidarity was based upon social differentiation and a key integrating role was played by the division of labour. The new form of solidarity was thus based upon the interdependence of specialised parts. Norms, rules and laws were organised, not around repression, but through contracts between individuals and groups which were legally binding and enforceable via the judiciary and court system. Stability and integration would be rebuilt on the basis of necessity. None of us could survive in the new industrialised urban world on our own; we all depended upon the activities of each other. The newsolidarity that Durkheim saw emerging came out of our diversity rather than being imposed by our homogeneity as it had been under 'mechanical solidarity'. He thus termed this new form of solidarity 'organic solidarity'."

(David C. Thorns, 2002, p. 23)

David C. Thorns (2002). "The Transformation of Cities", Palgrave Macmillan.

Durkheim, Émile. 1960. "The Division of Labour in Society". New York: Macmillian.

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