ARL International Summer School 2023
The ARL International Summer School 2023 “A Contested Relationship? Urbanisation & the Digital vs. Digitalisation & the Urban” took place from 6 to 8 July 2023 at Luxembourg University, Department of Geography and Spatial Planning.
This year, the Summer School was situated within recent debates and developments about what was initially called “smart cities”. Judging from our observations, related urban policy frames have reached another level of sophistication after having undergone uncritical praise and popular tech hype by the 2010s (in what could be understood as Phase 1), and the more recent practice of policy formulation, implementation and aiming for local impact (which could be considered Phase 2).
These developments include the more subtle forms of how digital means and processes have become entrenched in urban practices, collective and individual. They also comprise issues of surveillance and control (for example, in urban domains or at the workplace); components of infrastructure that provide the backbone of related systems (such as data centers); just-city frames that have risen in response to perceived digital divides in societies; or systems of provision in retail and services that tend to become hegemonic, if not totalitarian (such as Amazon.com). Various forms of governance are also involved here, not only at municipal levels but also fostered by national and metropolitan governments, for example, in smart specialization strategies.
The Summer School “A Contested Relationship? Urbanisation & the Digital vs. Digitalisation & the Urban” was organized and implemented in cooperation with Prof. Dr. Markus Hesse, Prof. Dr. Christian Schulz and Dr. Constance Carr from the Department of Geography and Spatial Planning at Luxembourg University. For the ARL, Prof. Dr. Rainer Danielzyk and Dr. Lena Greinke were involved in the preparation.
Ten doctoral students with different scientific backgrounds, such as geography, planning, urban studies, and other social sciences and humanities, came to Luxembourg. In addition, four invited keynote speakers, Prof. Andrew Karvonen (Lund University, Sweden), Prof. Rob Kitchin (Maynooth University, Ireland), Priv.-Doz. Dr. Bastian Lange (multiplicities, Berlin/University of Leipzig, Germany) and Dr. Julia Rone (University of Cambridge, United Kingdom) enriched the program with exciting talks and provided valuable contributions as discussants.
Prof. Rob Kitchin opened the summer school on Thursday. His lecture "Exploring digital space-time" examined the relationship between time and space in the digital age and the production of digital timescapes. He illustrated the argument by charting the timescapes of smart cities and refers to his publication “Digital Timescapes: Technology, Temporality and Society”.
On the same day, Dr. Julia Rone analyzed two cases of challenging cloud projects based on "digital sovereignty" as a stack with different layers in her presentation. First, the controversies surrounding the relocation of French health data to Microsoft Azure, and second, the resistance to big tech data centers in the provinces of North Holland and Flevoland in the Netherlands. The focus was generally on mechanisms of democratizing decision-making and the role of citizen input in cloud infrastructure projects, specifically on a project for democratising policy-making on cloud infrastructure in the EU.
On Friday, Dr. Bastian Lange challenged the perspectivization of digital sovereignty that no longer looks mainly at the state’s dominant role but considers digital self-determination and autonomy through collective and collaborative governance sustained by civil society initiatives and social movements. He refers to his Paper “New working spaces in rural areas - Designing a research agenda for regional sovereignty in post-pandemic times”.
In his keynote speech on Saturday, Prof. Andrew Karvonen (Lund University) summarized the evolving landscape of urban AI and identified similarities and differences between related practices of smart cities and urban digitalization. He also discussed what is necessary to understand the co-constitution of digital/analogue in cities and to guide Urban AI‘s in deliberate and useful ways, referring to his book ”Artificial Intelligence and the City-Urbanistic Perspectives on AI”.
All participating doctoral students presented parts of their PhD projects and discussed them with the other participants of the Summer School. Each of them also received many comments from the keynote speakers. Due to the PhD students' different research foci and the event's interdisciplinary design, the Summer School participants were able to put their dissertation project into a larger context and reflect on it critically. On Friday afternoon, all participants enjoyed an excursion guided by Markus Hesse (University of Luxembourg), who provided current and exciting projects in Plateau Kirchberg.
The program was completed through joint dinners, which offered the opportunity for further informal exchange. Following the Summer School, the doctoral students will have the chance to publish their work in a special issue. For this, Prof. Dr. Markus Hesse, Prof. Dr. Christian Schulz, Dr. Constance Carr (all Luxembourg University), Lena Greinke and Rainer Danielzyk (both ARL) will act as guest editors in the European Journal of Spatial Development (EJSD). EJSD is a SCOPUS-listed journal that follows a strict double-blind peer-review process and grants all contributions a free online access online license. The articles will thus be essential for cumulative dissertation projects, which are targeted by most of the PhD students. The special issue is scheduled for the first half of 2024.