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Complexity, Planning & Urbanism

New MArch Atelier at the Manchester School of Architecture: Developing new theoretical approaches & computational tools using a complexity science framework (systems, self-organisation, emergence, intelligence, structural change, adaptation) for the design, management, governance and understanding of future cities related to climate change, citizen participation, development strategies, resilient interventions, policy making, urban morphology and capacity management.

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Future Urbanisms: Technology, Science Fiction and Extrapolated Cities

Sengupta, Ulysses & Chattopadhyay, Bodhisattva (Manchester School of Architecture/Softgrid Limited & University of Oslo) presented a paper at the XVIII ISA World Congress of Sociology in July 2014.


An unavoidable dilemma of looking into the future is demonstrated by our pondering whether to filter reality through Google glasses (smart phones, tablets etc.) – providing data about location, proximity and resources – or to resist this new temptation to stream information and explore the reality of our environment. Technology has two sides, providing new social possibilities such as digital art and communications, while taking away the need to go shopping in person. The importance of science fiction in our consideration and construction of futures is illustrated through E.M. Forester’s short story titled ‘The Machine Stops’, written in 1909, which describes a future for humanity based upon a complete reliance on technology, and predicts the internet. The story serves as a warning of a future so completely reliant on technology that humanity is disabled. Science fiction utilises several methods to extrapolate possible futures and identifies both the obvious relationship between urbanity and imagined futures, and the distinction between approaches based on extrapolation and fantasy. The process of extrapolation based on existing socio-material realities provides an avenue to work with the city as an open-ended system. This paper will demonstrate how ‘systemic diagramming’ (Sengupta and Iossifova, 2012) can be used to extrapolate ‘potential’ futures providing a frame of reference for current actions and future speculations. Just as in science fiction the methodology is based on empirical socio-spatial findings (knowability), technological projection, epistemological growth and speculation regarding potential tangents and tipping points. The ability to act positively towards desirable futures is deeply embedded in possibilities of change, identifiable trajectories and an acknowledgement of the fact that cities and society continually transform. By positioning urban change in context of resilience (Walker et al., 2004)(Holling, 1996), adaptation and assemblage (DeLanda, 2006), potential urban futures become the space of socio-spatial speculation and resultant action.

For full conference details please see: 

22 October 2014
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