Balancing Act: Urbanism in the Digital Age seeks to address the tensions between the digital and the physical in today’s urban environments. Emerging technologies are at once providing new ways of exploring cities and meeting new people while they are simultaneously separating us from our immediate context and contacts. There is both an increasing desire to share spaces and experiences and decreasing interaction with the physicality of the city and its community: a complex and often confusing urban paradigm.
We tweet from our smartphone but don’t notice the birds in the park. We grab a ride with Uber, but no longer cross paths with old college friends on the train. We work from home but miss out on birthday cakes at the office. We order goods online but never get to know our mailman.
And these are just the small things. In addition to more digitalized physical devices, vehicles and buildings, we are also adding layers of embedded software, intelligent systems, sensors and actuators to our cities. Enabled to collect, analyze and exchange data, these technologies present us with new means of seeing and thinking about our cities and worlds. But they also pose potential risks to the physical world in multiple ways.
As the rapid growth of technology threatens to outpace that of the built environment, the tensions between the physical and the digital will only grow stronger. And they will have significant influence over the ways we plan and design our urban environments and experiences. In fact, they already are. Architects, urban designers, planners and policymakers are struggling to keep up with these changes; to create urban environments that are as flexible as the forces shaping them; to strike a balance between digital efficiencies and human experiences; to ensure the highest quality of urban life possible for today and tomorrow.
Balancing Act: Urbanism in the Digital Age will invite gallery guests to think about the powerful potential for the physical and the digital to work together, rather than against one another, in the 21st century city.