Unscripted Futures: 2020 OsloMet Urban Research Conference

I’ll be co-presenting two projects at next week’s “Storbykonferansen” Urban Research Conference, hosted by Oslo Metropolitan University.

The conference’s “Unscripted Futures” session seeks to:

“explore how radically open futures can be constructed and how we can secure that future scenarios are not locked into the premises of today. The aim is not to simply celebrate the openness of the future, but to create a space for developing experiments, for proposing alternative possibilities and constructing new futures, and then studying and discussing their implications and consequences ‘on the ground’.”

Marie Mahon of NUI Galway and I will discuss “Unscripting Europe”: Using Future Scenarios to Rethink EU Territorial Inequalities, exploring the scenarios being developed by the Horizon 2020 IMAJINE project.

Inequality isn’t just a question of measuring the current distance between the haves and have-nots, then checking whether that distance increases or decreases. It’s also about changing forms of privilege and injustice, changing values, and a changing social context. How can plausible imagined futures help us to better understand the nature of inequality?

Then, David Robertson of Monash University and I will talk about Playing With The Futures You Didn’t See Coming: High-Agency Participatory Scenario Activities, On and Offline.

David & I will be looking at what it means to create truly playful activities and encounters where participants can surprise the facilitators, formats can be broken or rebuilt during use, and new ideas can arise. We’ll talk about the infamous Library Island game, as well as some of its successor experiments from the era of Zoom and COVID lockdown.

You can read all the abstracts from the session at the Storbykonferansen website (PDF download), and I hope you’ll join us online for what promises to be a lively set of discussions. Find out more, and register for the conference, here.

Where Do We Dream Ourselves Next?

My review of Darran Anderson’s book Imaginary Cities is up at Australian literary journal The Lifted Brow.

oj_imaginary-cities_1

Anderson’s grand literary tour of urban environments that never were, from citadels of myth to more manageable fantasies of the kind you’d find in Walt Disney’s EPCOT centre, challenges our vision of what cities could be in 2017 and beyond.

In my review for The Lifted Brow, I link Anderson’s work to projects taking place around Australia, giving local context to his epic global account of the urban past, present, and future.

Read ‘Where Do We Dream Ourselves Next?” at The Lifted Brow.

I believe in Space…and Desire: Jessica Begley on library design

A guest post by urban planner turned librarian Jessica Begley. What can libraries do to help users make the most of their spaces?

Like the Pixies, I believe in Space.

I have been fascinated by how and why people use space, and how subtle design can influence behaviour, for as long as I can remember.

As a teen, I merged this interest in social geography with psychology and came up with a degree in Urban Planning and Design.  I was going to change the world. Improve open spaces. Create spaces people felt happy in.  The reality I found was far from my planned dream. Rows of brickwork, overshadowing, trellis screens, and complaints all dominated my day.  Not even I liked the spaces I was approving.  Approving, not designing.

Fast-forward fifteen years.  I am still an urban planner, but only in my mind.  I have been trained to look at spaces, movement of people, land use, all in a certain way.  I can no longer look at a space like an ordinary person. Taking my kids to the shops, the park, the library, I analyse the flow of movement through space.  When I see conflicting uses, I see a design-based solution. When I see desire lines – the unplanned paths naturally taken by people in any setting – I read them.

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