“Made By Us”: new program about industrial heritage and smart & social cities, Beijing/NL/Shenzhen

We are happy to announce Made By Us, a new project The Mobile City is partnering in with The New InstituteMade By Us is a six-month research-by-design program investigating creative reuses of former industrial plants. The challenge is to help design smart media interventions that will engage stakeholders in postindustrial heritage planning for abandoned factories.

Capital Steel Factory Beijing

Capital Steel Factory Beijing

The New Institute, the Netherlands’ new national institute for the creative industry, has invited Dutch research group The Mobile City to help develop an ongoing dialogue around the concept of smart cities between Chinese and Dutch architects, media makers and designers. We will launch the Made by Us project during the Beijing Design Week in partnership with the China Millennium Monument Museum of Digital Arts (CMoDA) The programme will feature an interdisciplinary symposium, an exhibition and a two-day workshop led by Dutch and Chinese experts. Participating Dutch creatives will include the new media artist Sander Veenhof, Niki Smit from game studio Monobanda, and Mark van der Net of OSCity.nl. They and their Chinese colleagues will explore the use of new media technologies in a participatory approach to redeveloping postindustrial heritage. They will focus on the Beijing Capital Steel Company. Made by Us will result in a prototype and exhibition, which will be on view during the Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism/Architecturein Shenzhen.

Made by Us aims to promote the exchange of knowledge and culture and the growth of market relationships between China and the Netherlands through exhibitions, conversations and collaborations that involve creative producers working in the fields of e-culture, design, architecture and planning.

Read more about Made By Us >>

The program Made By Us is partly funded by the Netherlands Creative Industries Fund.


Talk “What lessons can urban designers learn from new media?” (Dutch) Europan, Het Nieuwe Instituut, 12 April 2013

Europan, a European competition of ideas for young spatial designers, invited me (and also Miriam Luizink, director Mesa+ Institute for Nanotechnology) to give a talk at The New Institute in Rotterdam. My talk was about the influence of digital media technologies on urban design.

In the presentation I use the structure of a simple business plan to raise questions about potential lessons for spatial professionals from the world of new media. My argument is that in the context of combined crises in finance, expert knowledge and democratic legitimacy, urban designers should rethink several aspects of their professional occupation, including their vision and mission; their product or service; target group; resources; organization form; working process; distribution, marketing, and communication; and finance or business model.

Check out the presentation below (pdf 840 kb)


Presentation “Playfully taking ownership over your media city” (in Dutch)

As announced in the last post, on 6 March 2013 I gave a talk for the urban game project Rezone in Den Bosch about (digital) play and citizen engagement with the media city. The evening was a kick-off for a – hopefully – new project I am participating in. The crowd was a n interesting mix of architects/planners, media and game developers, (semi-)government and the cultural sector.

After my talk a lively discussion arose about the potential of play and games for citizen engagement.

Below the presentation that I gave that evening (in Dutch, pdf 1.2 MB).

Spelenderwijs eigenaar worden van je mediastad.PNG

Talk 6 March 2013 ‘Play & the City’

The initiators of the urban game project Rezone in the city of Den Bosch have invited me to give a talk about play and ownership. Read the announcement below (in Dutch):

Lezing – Michiel de Lange 6 maart

“Bovenkamer” van de Bibliotheek, Hinthamerstraat 72, Den Bosch


Ownership en gamification: nieuwe vormen van (burger)participatie in de hedendaagse stad

6 maart 2013 vanaf 20.00 uur

initiatief: DW en BAI

Locatie: “Bovenkamer” van de Bibliotheek, Hinthamerstraat 72 ‘s-Hertogenbosch

Toegangsprijs en reservering: <klik hier>

Voor meer informatie <Achter de Kan>

Rezone, een samenwerkingsverband tussen het BAI (Bosch Architectuur Initiatief) en de DW (digitale werkplaats, new media art instituut), is ontstaan om op een innovatieve manier projecten te initiëren die de kwaliteit van het leven in de stad willen bevorderen. In het kader van Rezone 2013 wordt de volgende lezing gegeven:

Jeronimus Toren Den Bosch UAR

Michiel de Lange is onderzoeker, schrijver, filosoof en mede-oprichter van Mobile City, een onafhankelijke onderzoeksgroep dat de invloed van digitale media technologieën op het stadsleven, en de gevolgen voor stedenbouw onderzoekt.
De Lange gaat in op welke wijze digitale middelen ingezet kunnen worden om meer betrokkenheid (ownership) te creëren voor urgente stedelijke kwesties bij de gebruikers van de stad. De vraag is: “Kunnen digitale mediatechnologieën, zoals games, bijdragen aan het betrekken van burgers bij de ontwikkeling van hun stad. En hoe doe je dat?”



De hedendaagse stad is een mediastad geworden. Mediatechnologieën beïnvloeden de manier waarop stedelingen omgaan met fysieke ruimte, hoe ze sociale verbanden aangaan en onderhouden en hoe zij de stad ervaren. Digitale mediatechnologieën vormen geen apart domein (een virtuele wereld van ‘cyberspace’) maar raken juist steeds sterker vervlochten met het alledaagse leven.

Tot nu toe pogen veel digitale toepassingen het leven in de stad makkelijker te maken voor individuen: altijd en overal toegang tot informatie en bestaande sociale contacten. Volgens ons is het interessanter om te kijken hoe we digitale mediatechnologieën kunnen aanwenden om bewoners te betrekken bij hun leefomgeving en bij elkaar. Vanuit het begrip ownership (eigenaarschap) onderzoeken we hoe bewoners vorm kunnen geven aan hun eigen stad en op collectief niveau stedelijke problemen zoals leegstand aan kunnen pakken.

Dat eigenaarschap beslaat meerdere niveau’s: mensen voelen zich betrokken bij een onderwerp dat henzelf aangaat, ze organiseren zich in open netwerken, dragen op wederkerige vertrouwensbasis bij aan het collectief, ze programmeren zelf hun eigen (technologische) middelen of hergebruiken en verbeteren het werk van anderen, ze voelen zich verantwoordelijk voor het product of de uitkomst van collectieve actie en voor het beheer ervan op langere termijn. Hoe kunnen we dit gevoel van eigenaarschap inzetten voor het leefbaar en levendig maken van de stad?

Lezing Michiel de Lange

Eindhoven Hackable World City: speculating on future investments for the city

Eindhoven Hackable World City

Eindhoven Hackable World City
by: Matthijs Bouw, Froukje van de Klundert, Michiel de Lange en Martijn de Waal, Amsterdam, 2013 (pdf 2.2 MB)

A while ago The Mobile City (Martijn and I) was invited by Amsterdam based architecture and planning firm One Architecture to collaborate on a research project about the possible future of urban planning and policy in the Netherlands. The project was commissioned by Deltametropool Network for Metropolitan Development.

One of the outcomes of this collaboration is the publication ‘Eindhoven Hackable World City‘ (in Dutch, pdf 2.2 MB) in which we present our ideas about the future of the Eindhoven city region, and the role of technologies therein.

For the non-Dutch: Eindhoven is the fifth-largest city in the Netherlands. Together with a number of other municipalities, Eindhoven is part of Brabant Stad, a metropolitan area with more than 2 million inhabitants. In 2011 Eindhoven was named world’s most intelligent community by Intelligent Community Forum. (Wikipedia)

Below the executive summary of the publication (the publication itself is in Dutch only):

Executive summary ‘Eindhoven Hackable World City’
Traditional urban planning in the Netherlands with top down master plans and large scale area development is over. This is partly due to the financial crisis, demographic change, peak mobility, and the digitization of urban society. The challenge of large future  investment projects is to optimize and make better use of existing resources. Cities will have to adapt in flexible ways to changing circumstances. This implies an important conceptual shift in thinking about city making: it is less about individual possession and more about the question how multiple stakeholders can make use of the various resources that the city offers.

Digital media play an essential role in developing the instruments that allow a shift of gears to happen. The question is: how are we going to make use of these technologies? On the one hand local governments, technology companies en knowledge institutions are forming consortia to turn cities into ‘smart cities’ with the aid of informatics. Digital technologies are used to optimize urban processes and make them more efficient, like mobility and healthcare. On the other hand citizens and cultural organizations are increasingly often taking matters into their own hands. Tapping into the online culture and ethics of do-it-yourself (DIY), they take ownership over their city and undertake collective action: from collaboratively maintaining urban gardens to creating sensor networks to measure noise pollution or air quality.

We think these initiatives are too isolated to really offer a sustainable future perspective on urban transformation. The smart city departs too much from a utilitarian view of the good city but forgets the public domain and diversity of identities of urbanites. The bottom-up initiatives in the so-called ‘social city‘ on the other hand are often too fragmented. They are insufficiently connected to institutional stakeholders and lack impact and scalability. They also sometimes suffer from a ‘people-like-us’ mentality that seems to implicitly yearn for small-scale sociability rather than drawing on the potential of complex and heterogeneous city life.

These developments take place all over the world. In the Netherlands the city of Eindhoven is one of the most interesting places. In few other cities the divide is as big between high-tech business innovation occurring at the city periphery and inner city urban (sub)cultures. In this proposal we pose the question: how can we better connect ‘smart city’ and ‘social city’ in Eindhoven through research and design?  The challenge is not to fall in the same trap of attempting to construct yet another grand narrative for top-down urban planning. We are more interested in exploring and creating the conditions for urban ownership of citizens and organizations. Can we connect businesses, governments and the cultural and societal sectors to collaboratively make Eindhoven a truly smart hackable world city with the aid of digital media technologies?

Workshop report “How to engage citizens with the help of digital media”, Urbanism Week 2012 TU Delft


A while back I was invited to give a talk and host a small workshop during the 2012 edition of Urbanism Week. This is a yearly event organized by Polis Platform for Urbanism, the study association for Master’s students in Urbanism in the Faculty of Architecture at Delft University of Technology. This year’s theme was “Second Hand Cities: rethinking practice in times of standstill”. The organizers put together a pretty impressive program filled with interesting speakers. The workshop I gave was called “How to engage citizens with the help of digital media”. Here’s an impression.

12:30 − 12:45 Introduction Michiel de Lange
12:45 − 12:50 Form teams around issues
12:50 − 13:00 In teams, identify main issue to tackle (analysis phase)
13:00 − 13:10 Analyze stakeholders are involved and take a perspective (analysis phase)
13:10 − 13:30 Generate ideas (brainstorming phase)
13:30 − 14:00 Select one idea and start developing a rough prototype (prototyping phase)
14:00 − 14:30 Plenary presentations

In a handout (pdf) to the workshop participants I described the aim of the workshop in the following way:

The overarching aim is to use digital media technologies and principles in whatever form in the proposed design. The challenge is not only to use technologies but also to find out how to port collaborative principles from online culture to urban situations!
This can be in the process of gathering (new types of) information, in the creation of new networks of collaborators, enabling citizens to become active creators, in finding new financing, as part of the creative design process, as part of the proposed product or outcome, in the communication strategy, as a way to deal with maintenance, repair and repurposing, or in any other possible way you can think of.

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“Ontwerpen voor de mediastad” talk CAST Tilburg, 25 Sept 2012

A while ago I gave a talk “Designing for the media city” (in Dutch) at a very interesting evening called ‘City, Play, and Digital Media‘. It took place at the cozy Bomenlounge, a flexible working space for creative industry freelancers. The evening was organized by Buro Evelien Pieters and CAST (Centrum for Architecture and Urbanism Tilburg).

Other speakers were Kars Alfrink (Hubbub), Ekim Tan (Play the City), and Sacha Stolp (Amsterdam municipality, project Amsterdam Wastelands).

Here’s the presentation I gave (in Dutch):


CAST made a report of the evening, which includes a video impression made by Tilburg WebTV (in Dutch):