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From the Computable City to the City in the Computer

In 1995 Professor Mike Batty wrote a paper entitled ‘The Computable City’, the history of Digital Urban can be traced back to and indeed seen in the writing of the paper prepared for the 4th International Conference on Computers and Urban Planning and Urban Management in Melbourne.

In the paper Batty states that computers are changing the methods for understanding as well as changing the structure and dynamics of the city itself – it is this phenomenon that defines the Computable City. That was 1995 when any thoughts of dynamic virtual worlds and digital globes were in the hands of futurists. Virtual Cities at that time were mainly limited to html pages relating to the city itself, such as tourist or local council information with Virtual Bologna being a favourite to quote amongst commentators, us included.

The interface to the then Virtual Bologna is pictured below:

With the ever advancing pace of technology it could be argued that we now have true virtual cities, cities that are inhabited using systems such as Second Life, shifting minute by minute into new mainfications of digital urban form.

We would argue that the concept of the Computable City is alive and well, not in the city as such but within the computer itself, indeed it has become the City Inside the Computer. These are not necessarily cities based on any one real place but fictional cities linked together by the virtual urban sprawl which is simply part of the day to day metaplace that is Second Life.

Read The Computable City by Mike Batty, see also Imagining the Recursive City: Explorations in Urban Simulacra by Mike Batty and Andrew Hudson-Smith (1.14Mb .pdf)

Written during a lunch break while away from the office and the blog on Jury Duty.

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