Main theme 'Designing the Hybrid City' | TMC @ Shanghai World Expo 2010

Today’s cities are no longer limited to the experience of physical spaces. Digital technologies provide new ways for architects to design their buildings. At the same time they influence the way city dwellers organise their everyday life. Consequently, cities are now understood as ‘Cybercities’, ‘Sentient Cities’, or ‘Hybrid Cities’.

The design of cities thus is no longer (if ever it was) the concern of only architects and planners, or policy makers. Other professional parties (telecommunication companies, software developers, consulting firms, artists, ICT companies, construction companies, etc.) are bringing in their own views and expertise, and are increasingly involved in shaping the city. But how do we design for Hybrid Cities and lifestyles?

In the Designing the Hybrid City conference artists, interface designers, mobile application designers, urban developers, architects and researchers from the Netherlands and China are asked to give shape to the 21st century in fresh and unexpected ways.

Why are we organizing this meeting in Shanghai?
The city as we know it is increasingly sung loose from its mere physical appearance, and pervaded with new digital technologies. Mobile telephones, GPS navigation and other technologies such as RFID sensors and CCTV cameras increasingly influence how we use, understand, and design the city. Various disciplines are now involved in the shaping of urban life: not only architects and planners, but also software developers, interface designers, artists and community organizers, etc. Urbanites are engaging with both their physical environment and digital technologies at the same time: the city has become a hybrid city.

Yet there is no preset path that all cities worldwide follow. City growth and development, and technological practices differ from place to place. It is thus necessary to look at the particular cultural context of cities, and to set up cross-cultural dialogue to address these issues.

What are our main questions?
Designing urban life can involve multiple goals. For some it is to make urban life more efficient, for others it is about the expression of a shared identity. For some it is about economic growth or the promotion of innovation, for others about fostering an urban community. For some it is about personalizing the experience of the city, for others it is about relating to strangers.

In this meeting we focus on two interrelated questions, in line with the main theme of the World Expo (“better city, better life”):

1. How do various participants from their own professional and cultural background define ‘a better city and a better life’?

2. How do they employ digital media, either in the design process itself, or to achieve these aims?

What are our aims with this meeting?
Participants should get a better understanding of the role of digital media in urban life; Rethink their own position and consider if and how digital technology be deployed to intervene; Learn from other disciplines: are the experiences and insights from other disciplines applicable to one’s own discipline, and can an interdisciplinary language and a crossover of interests be forged?