2008 Conference

2008 Writing Cities Conference
April 22-24, 2008 | Cambridge, MA

Writing Cities
Urban questions have become central to discourse in fields as diverse as architecture, urban planning, sociology, anthropology, history, philosophy, media studies, comparative literature, and the history of science and technology. As the discussion of urbanism has expanded, the notion of “urban studies” has become ever-more diffuse and contested. Within this shifting territory, new critical research and rigorous theory is needed to ensure vitality in such a broad, interdisciplinary field. As emerging academics and professionals situated between the social sciences, humanities and urban practice, Writing Cities aims to initiate a trans-Atlantic conversation on future scholarship and engagement in cities. This first Writing Cities conference called for papers that addressed the questions sketched out above. The workshop raised themes such as interdisciplinarity, methods, theory building as well as introduce in-depth case studies and examples and generated a lively and enriching discussion. 
Authors were given a paper other than their own to present, requiring one author to summarize another author’s research, and to then raise questions for all of those in the workshop to respond to. This process opened up exchange among the workshop participants, and tasked each participant to develop a critical and directive approach to all of the papers explored. This process of shared critical engagement was taken further during the review and redrafting of papers. Participants were required to reconsider their own papers in light of the workshop discussions, and to rewrite them for peer and faculty reviews. Writing was refined through an iterative process, where each participant was simultaneously writer, reader and reviewer. The writing thus emerged as a collaborative endeavor: from the individual workspaces of respective authors, to the face-to-face interactions in the workshop, and the long-distance exchanges afforded by the internet.

Organizing Committee:
Susanne Seitinger, MIT Media Lab Smart Cities Group
Shekhar Krishnan, MIT Program in Science Technology & Society
Jesse Shapins, Harvard Graduate School of Design
Claire Abrahamse, MIT Dept of Architecture
La Tonya Green, MIT Dept of Urban Studies & Planning


Conference Program:

Tuesday, April 22, 2008
MIT 10-485

5:30pm Welcome reception

6:00pm Richard Sennett. The Craftsman, City Design and Development Forum.

8:00pm Welcome dinner at Z-Square in Harvard Square

Wednesday, April 23, 2008
MIT Media Lab E15-209

9:00am Session 1
Chair: Susanne Seitinger
Corinna Dean. From Flash Art to Flash Mob: An analysis of Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall.
Cecilia Dinardi. Contesting culture, imagining the city.
Francisca Rojas. Open Source Civic Engagement in Zaragoza’s Digital Mile.

10:30am Coffee break

11:00am Session 1 continues
Chair: Susanne Seitinger
Frauke Behrendt. Walking Cities in Sound.
Suzi Hall. Making of Boundaries.
Jesse Shapins & Brian House. Talking about Media, the City and Human Subjectivity: A Retroactive Manifesto for a Critical Urban Media Arts.

12:30pm Lunch

1:30pm Session 2
Chair: Shekhar Krishnan
Melissa Fernandez. Creating the ‘problem of’ and seeking ‘solutions to’ Public Housing in San Juan, Puerto Rico : Locating the Past in the Present.
Erin Graves. The Implementation Chain: The Making of A Mixed Income Housing Community.
Sadia Shirazi. Settled Nomads: Shifting Boundaries + Housing Typologies of Sinai’s Gebeliya Tribe.

3:00pm Coffee break

3:30pm Session 2 continues
Chair: Shekhar Krishnan
Dana Erekat. Stolen Lands: A Legal Robbery Through Urban Planning and Policies.
Juergen Kufner. Negotiation Power within practices of urban planning and design in London.
Eli Rosenbaum. Local Government in the Urban Age.

6:30pm Tour of Union Square, Somerville

7:30pm Conference dinner at Macchu Picchu

10:00pm Event at Toast Lounge

Thursday, April 24, 2008
Harvard Graduate School of Design, Stubbins room

9:00am Welcome reception

9:30am Session 3
Chair: Claire Abrahamson
Austin Kilroy. How does the spatial configuration of a rapidly growing city impact on urban insecurity? — A case study of Bamako, Mali.
Hiromasa Shirai. Concentration or dispersion? A Critical Question to the Olympic City.
Matthew Matteson. Planning on the Line: Linearity and Disciplinarity.
Ninad Pandit. Delhi and the Monkey menace.
Torsten Schroeder. Mediation of the “Green City” terminology within London.

12:00pm Lunch

1:00pm Session 4
Chair: Jesse Shapins
Juliet Davis. Urban Catalysts in Theory and Practice.
Tad Hirsch. Distributing Dissent: Text Messaging and Protest at the 2004 Republican National Convention.
Huma Yusuf. Shattered Mirrors: The Urban Imaginary in Violent Cities.

2:30pm Coffee break

3:00pm Session 4 continues
Chair: Jesse Shapins
Olivia Munoz-Rojas-Oscarsson. Metonyms, Metaphors, Cities and the City.
Susanne Seitinger. Lights and the City.
Jonathan Schifferes. New Chinatowns at the Asian Mall.

4:30pm Wrap-up

6:00-8:00pm Farshid Moussavi (Harvard University).The Function of Architectural Ornament. Harvard Humanities Center Seminar.