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This book highlights an interdisciplinary terrain where the humanities and social sciences combine with digital methods. It argues that while disciplinary frictions still condition the potential of digital projects, the nature of the urban phenomenon pushes us toward an interdisciplinary and digital future where the primacy of cities is assured.




The Introduction to Digital Cities concisely integrates the three components central to the urban geo-humanities that are so often treated in isolation from one another: first, the interdisciplinary nature of the city as an object of inquiry; second, the position taken by various methodological approaches to the urban phenomenon relative to overlapping disciplinary traditions; and third, a theoretical understanding of the interdisciplinary structure and conception of current and future digital city projects. This triple articulation of an interdisciplinary object-methodtheory is the expression of a single argument.

Benjamin Fraser

1. Layers of the Interdisciplinary City

Chapter 1: Layers of the Interdisciplinary City works through historical attempts to provide a complex definition of the city itself — for example. Charles Baudelaire, Walter Benjamin, Louis Worth, Lewis Mumford, Jane Jacobs, David Harvey, Sharon Zukin and Saskia Sassen. This core set of ideas brings together a layered series of overlapping notions: the city as a set of physical structures, the city as a social institution, the city as a center of political and economic power, the city as a subjective experience, the city as an experienced subjectivity, the city as a temporal image, the city as a complex organism and the city as a work of art.

Benjamin Fraser

2. Disciplinary/Digital Debates and the Urban Phenomenon

Chapter 2: Disciplinary/Digital Debates and the Urban Phenomenon shifts from a focus on defining of the city toward seeing how intellectual knowledge has become fragmented across particular disciplinary frameworks. Attention is given to the increasing interdisciplinarity of humanities and social science research in general, before addressing the interdisciplinary challenges facing digital work throughout the second half of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first. The challenges of integrating disciplines can be understood by looking at two particular moments: first, the Snow-Leavis controversy of the early 1960s and, second, the origins of the digital humanities and their contemporary evolution. The final section of this chapter returns to the work of Henri Lefebvre as a way of bringing humanities, social sciences and digital sciences together.

Benjamin Fraser

3. Toward a Theory of Digital Cities

Chapter 3: Toward a Theory of Digital Cities articulates how thick mapping of urban areas through digital projects realizes theoretical insights on the interdisciplinarity of the urban phenomenon in concrete ways. Discussion builds from Henri Lefebvre’s work on the levels (and dimensions) of the urban to re-incorporate the urban temporality at the heart of the urban experience. Here the digital humanist concepts of thick mapping and deep maps — as explored in a number of recent laudable and high-profile publications — are interrogated for both their interdisciplinary bias and their potential to think more broadly about cities. In this way, the theory of digital cities returns the twenty-first-century city to its roots in nineteenth-century urban modernity and brings this Palgrave Pivot project full circle.

Benjamin Fraser

Epilogue: Bridged Cities (A Calvino-esque Tale)

The concise epilogue is offered as an inadequate tribute and as a companion vignette to those included in Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities. Here, the city of Alif is one of many “Bridged Cities” in whose creation, rise and fall can be seen metaphorically the ontological primacy of urban totality. In the end, if Digital Citiesare the future of the urban geo-humanities, they do not signal a break with previous investigations into the cultures of cities, but instead articulate a collective project in which the contradictory insufficiencies and potentialities of previous disciplinary work on the urban phenomenon still persist.

Benjamin Fraser


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