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[urban interfaces]

URBAN FRICTION the [urban interfaces] graduate seminar 2017-2018

Urban processes have been impacted by frictions all throughout history. The remarkable pace and dynamics of the current phase of global urbanization in the age of mediatization, datafication, and pervasive connectivity suggest a new age where insular, political boundaries have come to shift radically. Perhaps to a larger extent than before, people are identifying as global citizens. However, as a result of this spatial accumulation social, political and cultural frictions within our cities manifest themselves on a wide scale. In this year’s [urban interfaces] graduate seminar series we open up a forum to debate and inquire about contemporary frictions being experienced in urban cities, namely:

Civic Empowerment and “Right to the City”
Mobility and Migration
Urban Institutions and Smart Platforms

We intend to question these frictions from a critical, yet optimistic perspective. Frictions can be both obstructive and productive and, and we aim to disclose this paradox and approach frictions as a prospect to discuss their positive potential for urban culture and society. This seminar series proposes a framework to think about urban frictions, and about how urban media, art and performance as interventions in our cities’ public spaces can productively address these frictions. In each session, we will focus on the temporality and performativity of media, art and performance, and the ambitions of the design of “frictional” urban interfaces as a form of critical making.


This seminar is designed around shared reading, discussions, and also some hands-on experimentation during a two-day “pressure cooker workshop.” Here you find the reading list with materials about urban frictions, issues of participatory city-making, and urban interventions. The program for the workshop on February 27-28 2018 will follow.

Through these readings we will introduce and discuss some fundamental theoretical questions that have formed and challenged urban frictions through the three central frameworks of the seminar: 1) frictions in participatory culture, 2) urban publicness and civic city-making, and 3) urban interventions and the critical making of urban interfaces.

November 8, 2017   
Introduction by Michiel de Lange, Sigrid Merx, Hira Sheikh, Nanna Verhoeff


  • McQuire, S., 2016. “Introduction” and “Transforming Media and Public Space.” In: Geomedia, Networked Cities and the Politics of Urban Space. Cambridge: Polity Press, pp. 7-49
  •  Chantal Mouffe, 2007. Artistic Activism and Agonistic Spaces, Art and Research Journal, 1: 2
  • Brejzek Thea 2014 “From Social Network to Urban Intervention: On the Scenographies of Flash Mobs and Urban Swarms.” International Journal of Performance Arts and Digital Media. 6: 1:109-122. http://dx.doi.org/10.1386/padm.6.1.109_1

January 31, 2018

In this session, we will address urbanity, political participation, temporality, technological development, and performing the civic engagement. These topics are becoming increasingly entangled as the concept of urban publicness gains more influence in the fields of design and technological development. Appropriately so, as it aids us in understanding how digital technologies can support citizen empowerment and help individuals become active agents within the public sphere.

With this, we revisit the question of what an urban public sphere entails amidst emergent frictions such as growing privatization and excessive surveillance. Another question we will address is how these frictions affect the public sphere of democratic practices, where people from different gender, class, and culture can work out cooperation and conflict.


  • The Role of Digital Screens in Urban Life: New Opportunities for Placemaking by Martin Tomitsch, Ian McArthur, M. Hank Haeusler and Marcus Foth in Citizen’s Right to the Digital City: Urban Interfaces, Activism, and Placemaking.
  • New Media in Old Cities: The Emergence of the New Collective by Cristina Ampatzidou and Ania Molenda in Footprint: Delft Architecture Theory Journal, Volume 9, Number 1
  • Temporary use and the onto-politics of ‘public’ space by Suzanne Vallancea, Ann Dupuisb, David Thornsc and Sarah Edward

February 28, 2018
(This seminar is part of a two-day pressure cooker critical making session)


If you are a Research Master Student, you can earn 4 ECTS. In that case, make sure you register for the seminar via RMeS-fgw@uva.nl.

The workload consists of:
– Attending and preparing for the readings before each seminar
– A final reflection, in one of the following formats: a short exploratory paper (2000 words), a critical essay (2000 words), an interview, a set of 4 blog reports on the seminar meetings, or of other events. Upon review, if you are interested, these texts can be published on the [urban interfaces] web page (https://urbaninterfaces.sites.uu.nl)