The fourth MediaCity conference reflects on pluralities and globalities, on MediaCities everywhere.


What new lines of inquiry and emergent relations between urbanity and digital media are found in non-Western cities, in post-Capitalist cities, in cities hosting civic turbulence or crossing international boundaries? What urban-medial relations are taking shape differently in urban milieux that may have been heretofore overlooked? These cities are deserving of more attention than ever before, as sites of population growth, of new cultural and social formations, of new entanglements between urban life and contemporary media, communications and information technologies, and more. MEDIACITIES promises to expand our understanding of both media and the city today, and to articulate new sites of practice and working methods for an expanding field.

This fourth MediaCity conference inaugurates its transition from the EU funded MEDIACITY project at the Bauhaus-Univerität, Weimar to a roving event taking place every two years in different cities around the world.

Areas of focus for this year’s conference fall broadly into several topics: Other Urbans, Uncommons, Zero Growth Cities, Media Geographies and Bordervilles.


Other Urbans
MediaCities are typically associated with post-industrial societies, Western and Asian cultures, and urban centers whose economic bases are rooted in technology. But many nonwestern cities around the world are rapidly evolving under the aegis of ubiquitous computing, and urban living in these places appears differently as well. Now is the time to recognize and identify the new models, problems and lives of nonwestern and other MediaCities as relevant to all cities. Other Urbans concerns the non-Western MediaCity, but also the marginalized Western (Detroit, Charlotte, Pittsburgh, Belfast, Leipzig) as well as the experimental (Songdo, Masdar).

What novel shifts are found now at the nexus of protest and public space in cities, and what roles are digital media playing? How are we to understand the enduring implications for events of 2010-2011 and after, from the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street to whatever unfolds up until the conference itself, as each suggest diverse mutations in urban, medial and participatory formations? Lately we are seeing new catalytic reactions between these three elements. While the cases are familiar (WikiLeaks, Tahrir Square’s life on Twitter, OWS’s “human microphones”), their potentials to intertwine matters of economic, cultural and other representation suggest the start of enduring changes to how public space and public discourse appear within and between global cities. Each holds potential to recognize and reform our thinking of public space and public discourse irrevocably as an “uncommons.” No longer modeled on a rural pasture and no longer only a problematic of shared resources and individual interests, uncommons describe novel formations located in contested shared urban events.

Zero Growth Cities
This theme regards relations between growth, economy and MediaCities in diverse cases where urban landscapes and populations once considered dead or dying are rejuvenating themselves: an urban afterlife of sorts, often with clever mixtures of new and old technologies. How are MediaCities being newly inhabited and opportunistically developed in response to market conditions, and what creative and theoretical responses can we make to these developments? And what of those cities experiencing no growth (or even shrinkage)? Do wireless networks perform similarly in these cities as elsewhere? How do sensate and sentient landscapes affect life in cities whose populations don’t otherwise change? What vibrant new urban events and situations are appearing in these sometimes overlooked places?

Media Geographies
Today we recognize terms like “landscape” and “urban” to be non-oppositional – instead, we embrace the view that environment, social relations and even human subjectivity must be seen as interrelated ecologies. What roles do digital media play in this shift, and what new practices under a rubric of “Media Geographies” can it all suggest? For example, how are we to operate across scales, as critics, scholars, artists, designers? From bodies to landscapes that are at once local and global in scale, media geographies ask how this trans-scalar subject constitutes a form of urbanism. This theme critically engages spatial, social, ecological and philosophical implications as it mines the media cities we know for urbanities that we have overlooked.

How are urban conditions around national borders inflected by ubiquitous computing? What mediated forms of citizenship are emerging at these border zones, and how do they differ around the world? Bordervilles are often unofficially twinned cities that share common conditions (ecological, micro-economic, climatic) but not others (lingual, macro-economic), all of which can be affected by digital media that transcend physical boundaries and sometimes skirt national regulation. What new mediated bordervilles are to be seen, and what urban conditions do they propose? These MediaCities are diverse and ripe for study. Some include an expanded border region, (San Diego/Tijuana, Buffalo/Toronto) while others are cities divided across nations (Istanbul, Jerusalem, Shenhzhen / Hong Kong).


University at Buffalo, The State University of New York

Conference Chairs:

Jordan Geiger, Omar Khan, Mark Shepard