Building the next data economy: distributed manufacturing and computation for an open source society
Studio Faculty: Tomas Diez, Dr. Mathilde Marengo

As new data technologies emerge, we see the raise of opportunities of scaling complex systems into the urban realm; if the Internet of Things is aimed to grow in the coming years as many corporations and consulting companies envision (ref to IoT Cisco reports), it will for sure need a new type of governance and distribution. The raise of the blockchain technology (which powers the cryptocurrency Bitcoin (ref to IBM paper) is opening new ways to implement distributed and self organised systems, opening a new age for the Internet (and IoT) and for the raise of a new economy of data (ref to blockchain text). We want to explore those scenarios of a new economy in cities, and experiment with new Internet of Things and blockchain technologies in order to prototype strategies for the probable next iteration of our economic, social and cultural systems.

The FAB City design strategies aims to build a body of knowledge between urbanists, designers, economists and architects, which could not only envision, but propose and develop projects together with professionals and experts in computation, big data, digital fabrication and other disciplines related with cutting edge tools and technologies. The studio will try to address big questions related with the future vision of cities, based on three main approaches:

Urban Data: Computers and Internet are powering our contemporary life. After 20 years of Internet and another 30 of having computers in our lives, digital information and interactions are constructing new social, economic, and urban dynamics. We need to understand how data is produced, who owns it, how can be used, and when it becomes a new urban space (both physical and digital). Self-quatification, sensorization, big data sets from companies and governments, and the extreme socialisation of our private life is producing vast amounts of data that can be used to predict and define planning strategies for cities, but is it enough?

Urban Strategies: Urban design strategies cannot be focus on static maps, renders or physical models anymore, as they did in the past. We need to approach to new methods to persuade, manipulate and engage our different publics with ideas and strategies to transform urban dynamics, and re-shape how urbanism is practiced. Using design fiction, critical design and design research strategies we will imagine the short and long future of cities identifying the core tech tendencies that are affecting, and will potentially affect, human life in cities and we will manipulate audiences to translate this ideas into desired scenarios.

Urban Models: We have seen how the [linear, garden, green, sustainable] city models have been studied and proposed by scholars and practitioners in the past. However, human life is changing in a speed that never did before. New technologies are affecting the way we live, and how we interact with other humans and our physical space. Even Moore’s Law in how processor speed doubles every 18 months might change with the introduction of new materials in the production of electronics. How can we define the current city model? is it the smart city enough? Do we really need a single model to define a city?

We will address the following subjects both in theoretical and practical ways, experimenting with experts and professionals in the field from all over the world. The studio operation territory will be:

–  Food production in cities and regions: Urban farming will scale up from experimental practice to large scale infrastructure. Will corporations’ skyscrapers be used as vertical farms once the financial system collapses? Synthetic biology is bringing new ways of producing proteins and living foods, which can supply the demands of a human being.

– Building the future circular [spiral] economy: Reduce the amount of imported goods, food and resources like water or energy. Increase the use of recycled raw materials for the production of objects in cities. At the same time, the value change of local production increases the knowledge on how things are made. The transition from a linear economy to a circular economy is happening, but beyond an infinite loop of materials, energy and food cycle, there

– Locally productive, globally connected: how a global network of cities can share knowledge and best practices in urban solutions coming from citizens, companies, educational institutions, and governments. Local networks of manufacturing spaces connected to the larger global network, sharing knowledge, best practices and projects. Flexible manufacturing in cities will change the way mass production is done.

– Cryptocurrency for a new economy: How can cities create their own trade market connected to a global economy? Coins were produced in cities during the medieval times. Internet created a global economy in the 90’s. Can we think about a high-tech medieval and connected global economy based on digital currencies, blockchain and bitcoin-like solutions?

– Change of the governance model in cities: Local government and civic organizations, start-ups, universities, and other organizations must work together in order to make a cultural shift that promotes the empowerment public participation in cities.

– Educating and learning: Upgrade the educational system towards a learn-by-doing process, and by engaging all levels of education in finding solutions of local needs, through digital fabrication technologies, and by sharing it with global networks. Upgrade of skills for a new reality in cities, where play, work and live merge into the life experience.