Tech-reality: Cities without continuity and the human condition

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation



Looking at cities not as socio-technical-ecological processes, but as an essential dimension of (modern) human condition, brings to light—and forces to reflect on—the ways in which technology transforms the spatial and temporal norms that regulate what one can do in the city. This is especially apparent when the endorsement of digital technologies as a means of coping with disasters, such as the rising sea level or global pandemics, allows to bypass the requirement of spatial and temporal proximity for the realization of common urban activities. Ultimately, telepresence and virtuality not only shorten distances, but transform physical proximity from necessity into commodity, rendering as redundant the continuity of cities. Here lies one of the essentially disruptive characteristics of how computer technology mediates between urbanites and urban challenges. With our presentation we aim to invite researchers to discuss the effects of this disruption on the human condition: How is the experience of the city evolving, while what the city is will radically change? If the city is radically disrupted, what are the frameworks to express one’s experience of it (as social network? As home? As an erotic experience?) And based on these, we aim to ask: What does understanding the human condition tell us about the limits of virtuality?

We approach the problem from an interdisciplinary perspective, drawing from research in urban geography, urban semiotics, existentialism, and post-phenomenology. Our starting point is the classic understanding of what it means to be a human and live a meaningful life. We look into the concept of shared spatiality (as opposed to a mere event) and argue that it is an existential need, which allows us to be the creators of our lives rather than mere “passers-by”. Furthermore, shared spatiality gives way to accidentality, plurality, and random encounters, allowing cities to provide creative uncertainty. We will show that telepresence—an ever-pervasive element of cities—challenges this paradigm.
Period17 May 2021
Event titlePhilosophy of the City Now: Around the World in 24 hrs
Event typeConference
LocationEnschede, NetherlandsShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • spatiality
  • telepresence
  • virtuality
  • disruptive techology
  • human condition
  • urbanism
  • urban fabric