Science Target Conference Systems, Ajman 4th International Environment Conference 2016

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Spatial Compression and the means of SMART Place Shaping
Ian Francis Lyne

Last modified: 2015-11-25


Globally urbanisation is exploding and embraces more than half of humanity.  Residual centres (cities) remain discernible but post-modern urban form is a matrix of rural-urban continuities extensivising vast interconnected territories.  Old centripetal structures are subsumed in the evolving forms and radical time-space singularities of Internet and computer mediated connectivity.  Centres may be stranded by mega flows connecting ports, airports and rail hubs that produce massive distortions and override physicality’s to create disparate, unknowable and placeless aerotropoleis, edge cities and endless megalopoleis.

This exponential pattern results from digitally induced practices that override even the solidity of real estate.  Humanity struggles to locate optimally along lines of data-driven habitats, forced to negotiate the frictional cost of distance and the fractional quality of life.

Smart cities are supposed to use digital technologies to enhance some quality or other yet increasingly the human condition of the majority reduces in the evolving urban forms of the 21st century Anthropocene.  The matrix imposes its requirements despite the spatial limitations of physical geography.  Demands for quality of life elude within a chimera of technologically fashionable virtual places in a state of permanent tension, likeness and temporal distortion.

This paper agues that here is urgent need to redefine SMART as:

  • Sensible,
  • Manageable,
  • Authentic,
  • Regenerative and
  • Transit-oriented

And that we need ‘smart’ ways to counter the spatial decompression of digital networks, of enhancing strategic foresight and increasing capabilities in place shaping, place branding, place making and place management if we are to survive the traumas of a virtual world.