2001: Planning in the Information Age
Perhaps an even more challenging outlook for planners than dealing with pulsar effects was to face cyberspace. How could the protagonists of physical and spatial planning and custodians of the built environment adjust to the requirements of a virtual world and the shrinkage of space and time which had penetrated not only international business and high tech activities but behavioural patterns of everyday life? Not surprisingly, a young group of planners offered to prepare the substantive framework of a congress on a new age. True to the fast changing and imponderable nature of information society, they formed a temporary autonomous network (TAN) to devise a model of thinking and a manifesto on the future role of the planner, his working methods and his tools in a network society with fragmented powers. Was planning a dying discipline or could it reconstruct itself to operate usefully in a world which had shifted from ‘genius loci‘ to ‘genius fluvii‘ according to Luuk Boelens a driving force of TAN in his keynote address.
More radicalism came from Ockert van Zijl, a Siemens captain of industry who postulated ‘act globally, think locally‘ for societies to cope with globalisation, knowledge driven revolution and their polarising effects on wealth creation between and within nations in a digital world. Based on his e-topia, William Mitchell depicted a world of decentralised networked intelligence, cheap ICT hard- and software and sophisticated control logic in which planners had to rethink distribution, supply systems and utility networks. Nevertheless values and priorities of the material world may lead to a ‘revenge of place‘ to safeguard intrinsic quality of urbanity, while ICT may foster decentralised self-sufficient anti-urbanism. More down to earth, the Dutch government was devising a spatial strategy for the information age by incorporating virtual spatiality and alternative virtual services. Analysing ICT driven spatial change van der Knapp concluded that city structures had become fluid, incorporating hierarchic and network features, containing places and flows simultaneously and thus integrating spatial scales. Accessibility remained the key issue to determine the use of existing and ICT driven spaces.
The TAN models of thinking provided a useful trigger for the case study debate which demanded also theoretical input. TAN proposed the concepts of ‘arche-citta‘, ‘cine-citta‘ and ‘tele-citta‘ to deal respectively with ‘cultural identity and spatial segregation‘; ‘dynamic networks and nodes‘; and ‘cyberspace and loss of concentration‘ While ‘arche-citta‘ was dwelling on static planning with emphasis on physical development and design, ‘cine-citta‘ beheld a more dynamic character addressing movements in space and spatially discontinuous activities; the ‘tele-citta‘ model ventured into cyberspace, representing simultaneously loss of spatial concentration and real world hyper-concentration with reliance on a-spatial communication tools. It was argued that these models of a material urban setting, spaces of flows and virtual reality in which both physical space and time were shrinking into inexistence were interdependent, conceptually reversible and applied simultaneously to many planning situations.
The relational ‘tele-citta‘ model claimed to facilitate understanding of links between death of distance and power of place, between spatial diffusion and global economy, between real events and virtual images of space, between hardware networks, (tele-) communication infrastructure and ‘org-ware‘, a concept which needed revisiting. What was the mission of the planning profession in the information age? Criticised for the disliked results of ‘rational-scientific‘ and control-driven planning, under pressure of by real estate markets and privatisation, displaced by many new actors involved in urban development planners had to cooperate with new partners through interactive and cyberactive networks. While cyberspace browsing for information and simulating the future, planners still needed to invent new tools to implement their strategic thinking more akin to the information society than strategic planning.