2022-23: More-than-Human Cities

Image: Karl Hedin (2022)

The 2022–2023 ASCA Cities seminar will approach the city through a more-than-human lens. Taking up the theme of ‘More-than-Human Cities’, we will explore the heterogeneous technological, social, and natural systems that mediate urban environments. From oceans and atmospheres to gardens and guard dogs, we will consider the complex entanglements between the human and non-human constitutive of city life—all without losing sight of the broad political stakes in such assemblages. 

Building on the concept of climatic media (Furuhata 2022), we are interested in how the city can be understood as itself a climatic medium, a diverse agglomeration of techniques for sensing and regulating environments. Today, the sensing practices of distributed computational media are reshaping our very notions of sense (Gabrys 2019) and, in turn, calling attention to the already-existing affordances of plants and other living beings as sensing entities (Jaffe 2020). Challenging our own position as inhabitants—and researchers—in a complex web of “interdependency and involvement” (Puig de la Bellacasa 2017, 17) attunes us to the agencies of other human and non-human actors in the urban, and may facilitate new possibilities for an “alternative reading of the present” (Wakefield 2020, 10). Which tools—or ‘radical tool kits’ (Gabrys, 5)—might be deployed for building toward more egalitarian visions of sensing and living in the urban? How can a sensitivity toward more-than-human relations inform collective responses to colonial legacies and contemporary fantasies of environmental control? In what ways does an attention to sensory affects and atmosphere in urban design (Degen et al. 2020) create intersections between imaginaries of the natural, the urban, and the technological? 

Engaging with and expanding on such questions, the seminar seeks to bring together perspectives from urban geography, media studies, anthropology and technology studies as well as architecture and design research. Over the course of the seminar, we will explore the more-than-human in research and praxis-oriented projects, at the intersections of sensing the present and critical reenvisioning of the future.