About the INFRATIME Seminar Series

Urbanisation acts as an accelerating aspect of the Anthropocene (Elmqvist et al. 2021). Cities are at the forefront to address climate change challenges, as sites where ‘business as usual’ modes of ordering are questioned and repurposed through urban transition initiatives. At the same time, cities are highly exposed to risks of different likelihood and impact, including heatwaves, flooding and other extreme events, as well as infrastructure failure, climate action failure and infectious diseases (Global Risks Report 2021). In the European Union, the Report “100 Climate-Neutral Cities by 2030 - by and for the Citizens” (European Union 2020), together with the roadmap “Driving Urban Transitions towards a sustainable future” (EU DUT 2021) are setting the pace of the EU Green Deal strategy with the aim to achieve EU climate neutrality by 2050, consistently with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agenda, and to make urban areas and communities more resilient.

Time and timing are inherently present both in transnational and national policies, in local urban adaptation and mitigation, as well as in the very concept of “crisis”, “risk”, and “transition”. Yet the temporal issues and the timescapes (Adam 1998) of such processes have rarely been addressed in the debate on urbanization and the Anthropocene. The temporal relation between Anthropocene and the Climate Change has been questioned in broader political terms (Nordblad 2021): the concept of Anthropocene encourages us to look at our time and societies from afar, but it may be not effective for an actual political engagement; the emphasis on Climate Change would allow to consider alternative futures and connect the long term with political action in the present. As pointed out by the French philosopher Bensaude-Vincent (2021), the strong emphasis on the ‘Anthropos’ over the ‘Kainos’ (epoch) framed the discourse of the Anthropocene by the assumption of ‘human exceptionalism’, which in turn is “embedded in the modern concept of time as a universal chronological timeline”. That perspective risks to overlook the polychronic aspects of the Anthropocene, in which the modern linear time is but one way of experiencing time, among many others.

This seminar series aims to explore the co-existence of a variety of more-than-human temporalities, their interferences and synchronization, as embedded in and enacted by urbanization processes with a focus on the convergence between the digital and the climate in the management of transitions. As urban transitions and climate adaptation and mitigation response are increasingly digitized in many areas of urban management, time is materially embedded in (digital) infrastructures, and in turn shapes the temporality of transition processes. Real-time data on mobility, transports, air and water quality, energy, and other services is made available to inform everyday users, urban managers, as well as decision-makers and support short- and long-term planning. While accounting for a digital “pulse” of the city, the time apparatus of smart urbanism produces actionable data to shape urban futures. The socio-technical and data assemblage of smart urbanism – its polyrithmia, realtimeness, and casting practices (Kitchin 2019) – thus interacts with the futures produced by the “vast machine” (Edwards 2013) that allows projecting human and environmental conditions in the next decades and centuries.

The digitization of urban processes coupled with the climate change mitigation and adaptation initiatives suggests a new relation between data infrastructures and transition management in a temporal perspective. The temporality of networked urban infrastructures and the deep time of earth transformations interact with the temporality of management processes (Ancona and Chong 1996; Granqvist and Gustafsson 2016) and the narratives that pace organizational change (Czarniawska 2004). The governance of ecological transitions acts at different timescales. The rhythms set by transnational and national policies are redistributed across the situated variations of urban management tempos. The global time horizon set by the scientific community – especially revolving around the work of the International Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) – such as the Special Report on 1.5°C (Masson-Delmotte et al. 2019) – acts as a (time)frame of reference for strategies and long-term policies, while the plural actions and protests of climate movements bend the time curve, create the momentum and the urgency, and update the climate agenda with radical temporalities and hopes.

The seminar series has been organized as part of the H2020 funded MSCA-IF-GF project "INFRATIME -  Infrastructuring Time in Smart Urbanism and Urban Transitions" (www.infratime.eu). The series is intended to address the temporal issues in urban transitions particularly looking at the interplay of urban, digital, and organizational processes and especially at the interferences between real-time management, long-term visions and casting, and deep time. The focus is on the idea of transition as translation, not a linear step from an unsustainable past to a viable future but a way to reshape and reshuffle past, present and future and articulate non-linear tempos, and speed.

  • How is time operationalized in urban adaptation and mitigation processes?
  • How digitization affects the temporality of the urban response to the climate crisis?
  • How do institutional change and organizational processes affect time infrastructuring and how is urban governance reshaped by it?

We welcome contributions at the encounter of urban studies, environment studies, science and technology studies, organization studies and time studies. Papers are invited to reflect on digital, urban, organizational, and climate time interferences in a variety of cases and topics involving urban adaptation and mitigation, including urban automated management of energy, water, mobility, environmental monitoring, casting, and modeling; networked infrastructures, experimental urbanism, and eco-districts; planning for risk mitigation in cities; climate activism and new forms of urban governance for climate change.

References

Adam, Barbara. 1998. Timescapes of Modernity: The Environment and Invisible Hazards. London; New York: Routledge. 

Ancona, Deborah, and Chee-Leong Chong. 1996. “Entrainment: Pace, Cycle, and Rhythm in Organizational Behavior.” RESEARCH IN ORGANIZATIONAL BEHAVIOR, VOL 18, 1996 18: 251–284.

Bensaude-Vincent, Bernadette. 2021. “Rethinking Time in Response to the Anthropocene: From Timescales to Timescapes.” The Anthropocene Review, April. SAGE Publications.

EU DUT Roadmap 2021. Bylund, Jonas, Christoph Gollner, Maximilian Jäger, Johannes Riegler, Margit Noll, and Gabriele Klaming. 2021. “Driving Urban Transitions Towards a Sustainable Future.”

Czarniawska, B. 2004. “On Time, Space, and Action Nets.” Organization 11 (6): 773–791.

Edwards, Paul N. 2013. A Vast Machine: Computer Models, Climate Data, and the Politics of Global Warming. Cambridge, Massachusetts London, England: The MIT Press.

Elmqvist, T., E. Andersson, T. McPhearson, X. Bai, L. Bettencourt, E. Brondizio, J. Colding, et al. 2021. “Urbanization in and for the Anthropocene.” Npj Urban Sustainability 1 (1). Nature Publishing Group: 1–6. 

European Union. 2020. “100 Climate-Neutral Cities by 2030 - by and for the Citizens: Interim Report of the Mission Board for Climate-Neutral and Smart Cities.” Website. Publications Office of the European Union.

Granqvist, Nina, and Robin Gustafsson. 2016. “Temporal Institutional Work.” Academy of Management Journal 59 (3): 1009–1035. 

Kitchin, Rob. 2019. “The Timescape of Smart Cities.” Annals of the American Association of Geographers 109 (3): 775–790.

Nordblad, Julia. 2021. “On the Difference between Anthropocene and Climate Change Temporalities.” Critical Inquiry 47 (2):328–348. 

Resilient Cities Network. 2021. “What is urban resilience?” https://resilientcitiesnetwork.org/what-is-resilience/
World Economic Forum. 2021. “The Global Risks Report 2021 16th Edition.” https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-
global-risks-report-2021