Franz Nahrada /
Habitat Speech1996







Inhaltsverzeichnis dieser Seite
How will cities adjust and adapt to the possibilities of global communications?   
1. The Global Cities   
Five Fields of Action   
2. The five promises of Information technology   
2.1. Ubiquitous marketplace - the economic backbone   
2.2. Intentional Decentralisation - the physical plane   
2.3. Citizen participation - the revitalised community   
2.4. Systemic feedback - the urban nerve system   
2.5. Networking co-operation - the ultimate resource   
3. A word about the Village   
4. How can Cities adjust and adapt?   

How will cities adjust and adapt to the possibilities of global communications?    

Speech presented at the HABITAT II, United Nations Conference for Human Settlements, June 1996, Istanbul

by Franz Nahrada, GIVE (then department of the Center for Social Innovation)

Dialogue No.9 "Cities, Communications and Media in the 21st century"


It is a great honour to speak at this Forum. I would like, before I try to answer the question posed with the title of this speech, in a few words mention on which background my answer will be attempted and what actually brought me here.

The City of Vienna that nominated me for this speech has shown particular interest in both sustainable development and also the urban impact of communication technology.

The group that I am with is not institutionally linked to the city administration, but rather an external research group named "Globally Integrated Village Environment Project" (GIVE) in the Center for Social Innovation.

We started a conference on the changing face of the "City in the Age of Telecommunication" under the provoquative name "Global Village" in 1993. We were invited by the City of Vienna in the subsequent years to do this conference in Vienna's City Hall and expand it into an exhibition that would enable all the stakeholders of urban development to have an early encounter with the manifold possibilities of new technologies.

  • Vienna's City planning Department was sponsoring this event and was using this technology to enhance citizen participation in the urban planning process;
  • plans for urban development were put on the internet, to get input, opinions and creative statements from the side of citizens. Politicians of various parties engaged in "online chats" as an additional forum to public gatherings, allowing people to speak out about their points of view.
  • Vienna subsequently also created free public access points to the means of electronic mass communication, besides also hosting a very large number of commercial Internet providers.
  • Vienna is also committed to substantially support HABITAT's best practice initiative by providing a base for a European hub. The creation of a global network of linking and enhancing community efforts is meeting the traditional efforts of Vienna to provide a place of encounters,conferences, and decision-making in a new and very promising way.
But there is another, maybe even more substantial point related to information technology and the city of Vienna alike that I want to make before getting to the main points. As you might know, at the end of the last century, Vienna was a member of the club of the largest cities of the world. A newspaper columnist has found out, that in 1900 Vienna ranked number four worldwide in terms of population!

Today, Vienna is - in the global scale - a rather intermediate city with only 1.7 million inhabitants. We are talking today about cities roughly 10 times bigger in population, donít even mention expansion: Vienna has a relatively small footprint of 400 square kilometres, almost 50% of them being greenspace.

Still, the ecological footprint of the city might be considered too large. But the limited size of the city is a blessing, it keeps problems manageable and it allows the citizens to enjoy a comparatively high standard of living in terms of ecological life quality. In a way, this is a very encouraging condition to go one step further and dare to make the city a living model for good practise, that can be repeated everywhere.

Within the framework of the "Vienna Conference of the Future", the city has started to look at itself as an ecological system that strives for sustainable balance in flows of matter and energy. The Viennese Urban Development Plan and Traffic Concept set very high goals like the reduction of car traffic to 25% by the year 2010. Vienna is member of the European Cities Climate Union, which means a reduction of CO2 emissions by 50% in the same timeframe. In terms of shelter for all, Vienna's financial engagement in urban rehabilitation and moderate expansion is probably unmatched in Europe.

But in many ways, all these achievements will not mean very much for us if we are not able to share them; it then will mean inequality, tension, exclusion, increased pressure on everyone of us by migration, environmental damage and political tension.

Very few things could symbolise this paradox better than the fact that Austrian people got rid of nuclear power within the national territory by a successful and emotional political struggle - just to find themselves surrounded by the most dangerous atomic reactors right outside their border. Their winds could reach Vienna in less than an hour. If we try to just export unsustainable ways of living instead of getting rid of them completely, they will come back to us in one or another form.

Let me state this political philosophy bluntly: If we co-operate with our neighbours and communities elsewhere to make better use of local resources everywhere, we do a hundred times more for our safety than with police and fences, diplomacy and pressure, military and weapons.

Therefore we have to try every possible way to share what we have achieved. In terms of information and knowhow, this is particularly feasible, because information can be duplicated at almost zero costs and by that very act of duplication can have an enormous impact elsewhere. What my speech therefore is all about is the question if the expansion into Cyberspace can help a city to gain sustainability in the physical plain. Can we use Cyberspace to build sustainable living space? And how can cities co-operate on this goal?

1. The Global Cities    

The emergence of the current unsustainable trend towards the growth of cities that we all face is in many ways connected to the economic globalisation and, in this framework, to the emergence of global information networks.

Telecommunication has been and is an increasingly powerful engine of this economic globalisation. Only with the help of vast informational transport capacities is it possible to set up the networks of production, distribution and financial control that are required in today's world. And it is the very process of globalisation that has favoured the growth process of cities. In today's era of global markets it is nothing extraordinary, if the goods of daily needs like a cup of yoghurt have travelled thousands of kilometres until they reach the point of consumption (such things being normal does of course not mean that they really make sense). This means increasing competition between the producers, which again requires the permanent enlargement of their markets - a carousel which is spinning faster and faster, creating increasingly capital-intensive centres on one side and a lot of problems for the peripheries on the other side.

One should say, it is a game which is hard to reverse.

The demands on the industrial networks that serve those global markets are increasingly rising. Although often the control centres are separated from the centres of production, there is a global infrastructure providing the necessary support, knowledge base, workforce, and logistics, supplying the whole world with goods and services. Between those centres exists a "space of flows" that comprises an increasing percentage of the worlds material, immaterial and financial streams. There is an increasing disparity in demographic, economical and ecological terms between those centres and the peripheries; and in many cases, the demographic pressure on the cities reflects more the relative decay of the peripheries than the prosperity of the cities. Cities appear as the economic lifeboats, but for that very reason they are getting more under pressure than ever.

As mentioned, it is very difficult to talk about cities in general; some have managed to prosper on being the very control centres of global economy, like New York, London, Tokyo; these are the ones that urban researcher Saskia Sassen called the "Global Cities". In fact, those cities are also the big winners of the telecommunication revolution; many times it has been pointed out that the City of Tokyo holds more telephone subscriber lines than the whole continent of Africa. But it seems that every large city is now constrained in one way or another to follow the ideal of the "Global City" and invest all its economic power in the ideal of competitiveness.

Increasingly the cities themselves, and not only the Nation States, become actors on the international arena in order to ensure that they still will be chosen by corporations as location for their headquarters or other economic activities.

It is not enough any more to provide traditional infrastructure, office space, workforce, transport; a lot of "soft factors" are required, like the knowledge base of a city, the existence of specific corporate clusters, even environmental qualities are becoming increasingly important. It is of crucial significance for example, if a technical or logistical problem can be solved within half an hour. The increasing demand in the creation of those "soft factors" can by no means be met by the public sector alone.

The community administration is more than ever required to team up with all the interests existing in a city to create the critical mass in terms of "soft factors". This is particularly true in regards to the financial aspects: by no means can the city itself provide all the services required to keep it competitive - taxation is not the answer any more.

One idea emerging under those conditions is the "private-public partnership": The community administration has to plan in co-operation with the private sector, how infrastructure can be created that delivers return of investment as well as maximum benefits for other economic and social activities.

Cities themselves have to act like enterprises, rather than considering themselves governmental bodies that simply administer. The fashionable term of "city marketing" reflects the importance of actively reflecting the outcome of economic and social activities within a city towards the outside world. It means that urban planning and development is substantially becoming the design and production of this outcome towards the global arena. The quality of urban life has to compare to international standards, and often enough those standards are quite contradictory.

In this situation, Telematic infrastructure seems to hold a big promise for cities, and it by no means by accident that, for example, the initiative of the European Commission to boost telematic infrastructure with a deregulation of infrastructure providership was actively answered by a city competition. I am referring the City of Stockholm with its Bangemann Challenge. Their goal is to provide fast, cheap bandwidth to all the actors in the city and to implement service areas that make the city an attractive place for service providers.

Interestingly enough, the major force unleashed by this deregulation of infrastructure might be the public utility companies - mostly in possession of the city administrations - that have a lot of assets at their disposal like power lines and other channels for wiring. It might be a big temptation for those companies to understand competition as non-co-operation; but there is also a big opportunity to co-create a telematic infrastructure that is as public as the roads of a city and allow the rapid development of networks and services answering the needs of users.

In a way, privatisation is the usual way modern societies respond to technology shifts, but not the ultimate truth. In many countries, the building of railway networks started by private corporations based on large amounts of capital; but when the networks became dense and influencing more and more parts of society, the necessities of public re-regulation became stronger than the interest of oligolopolistic structures. The same might be true for the current boost in telematic networks, for which the postal monopolies were not designed at all, but also the competition of various players is a very imperfect and doubtful solution. That does not mean that the private sector should not play an important role in the life of the networks. But just as in the idea of the private-public-partnership, the constant view from various angles, from various goals, from various sectorial politics on the infrastructural developments will be necessary to assure a meaningful development. Eventually, we might consider this as natural as the fact that roads are built by private companies, but with public planning as the purchaser.

Five Fields of Action    

To answer the question how cities should adjust and adapt, let us look at the five big promises of information technologies and examine closer if and how they can be turned into urban reality.

There is the promise to create a ubiquitous marketplace, where goods and services can be produced, delivered and consumed place-independently, which leads to the promise of decentralisation, better services, diversity and mixed structures. The third promise is citizen participation and the revitalisation of community. It brings the fourth promise of better integration of the various elements of the city, which I tried to put in the analogy of an urban nerve system. This nerve system could enable co-operation between cities, division of labour and a new economy of scope.

2. The five promises of Information technology    

2.1. Ubiquitous marketplace - the economic backbone    

As outlined before, the economic globalisation and information technologies are a cluster of interrelated causes and effects, which produce a powerful self-supporting and almost inescapable trend. An estimation of the International Labour Organisation in Geneva says that roughly 20% of all jobs in the old industrialised countries have been transferred to South East Asia, Mexico, Eastern Europe and other countries. The most qualified jobs - the software development - for the development of magnetic resonance tomography systems produced by Siemens in Germany are done in Bangalore/India for less than 25% of German wages, while the material parts stem from all parts of the world. Then they are "just in time" assembled in Erlangen in Bavaria.

Capital and production becomes increasingly mobile, and in the course of this development the location of a business becomes an obsolete point. The comparison of market impact, wages, social costs, taxation is leading to placeless corporations that find their natural home in cyberspace.

"Not only the Shells, IBMs and Sonys will act out there", write Herman van Bolhuis and Vicente Colom in their recent book "Cyberspace Reflections", "but nearly any company of any size will be able to enter the global field. A good example of a possible future company structure is ABB. Consisting of partners in Sweden, US,Switzerland and Germany," - and about 1000 branches in 40 countries all around the world, ''" the head office in Switzerland has only about 150 people employed there. This totally decentralised structure denies the existence of borders. The information and capital flows between the parts of such a company are, in principle, no longer controllable. If, for instance, digital money transfers become widely accepted, capital will become opaque."''

The crucial question for cities emerging in this context is how to re-integrate such "global" players into the framework of a functioning local economic and socio-cultural structure. There is a deplorable tendency of such globally networking entities to bring with them their own resources and pipelines, and in the normal case they tends to ghettoise themselves intentionally.

Manuel Castells has described the emergence of the "Dual Cities" especially on the bases of information technologies, where local and global areas drift apart and are more concerned with their own affairs than with each other. The active promotion of integration into local networks requires participation from both sides and also the respect for each otherís different intentions and reference frames. I do not think that we have fully developed the conceptual tools for this even in a city like Vienna, where there are 40000 employees of international organisations and 18% of the population are foreign citizens.

In order to develop those conceptual tools, we must clearly understand the advantages and disadvantages of this development.

First, it is almost inevitable. Any seclusion from the globalisation process cuts the area off the economic dynamics and deprives it of any means to develop itself according to the state of the art in technology and productivity. There are already so many invisible ties in the most elementary bases of life that bind us globally, that the attempt to cut them off completely regularly leads to disaster.

Second, and this is true as well, the reward does not come automatically and we are rather confronted with another kind of disaster which stems from the destruction of traditional networks, traditional solidarity and traditional community. We have to actively adjust and adapt, but this requires a lot of consciousness, intelligence and creativity.

The advantages of the global, ubiquitous marketplace have to be actively discovered, spotted, enhanced. But this *is* possible, if globally networking entities are considered a source of leverage for local development and if the competition between those entities is big enough to avoid dependencies. This can mostly be guaranteed by active participation in this competition. For example, a hospital might save a lot of money for specialists and expertise on the base of telemedical co-operations; a university might save a lot of money and resources by subscribing to distance teaching activities provided by virtual universities. There are now many institutions that have completely devoted their activity to the ubiquitous marketplace and that are doing tremendous work in providing world class services and teachings.

But the effort must come with a constant balance seeking process between the global and the local service provision; and it must be combined with the active effort to discover one's own strength and turn them into a competitive offering to the global marketplace.

I am not advocating this as a solution to the overall problem of unemployment, economic decay and disparity. But I think more than just being the cause of the problem, the right handling of the globalisation process might also be part of the solution. We might think to stop turning all our activities into exportable goods and commodities and instead refocus much more on local development and local quality of life. But exactly because we want to achieve that, we have to develop the "Olympic spirit" that a critical mass of participation in the global marketplace is absolutely mandatory to maintain the very base for the refocusing on our local agenda. So we want to send "only the best athletes" to this global marketplace. Instead of providing expensive infrastructure for factories and office spaces, we might choose to invest in cables - but not cables to primarily import leisure, popular music, sports, video on demand and "pay per view". Those consumer gadgets mainly drain our financial resources, and turn our investment into infrastructure into an unproductive one. Rather than that we need cables and satellite connections to import knowledge resources and simultaneously invest much more in training and developing our own offerings.

A recent study by the European Union titled METIER which deals with the macroeconomic effects of investments in advanced telecommunication infrastructure has shown that the investment in telematic infrastructure must be combined with deployment of applications and services, or it will lead to a dramatic loss in jobs. What I would like to add to this is that even a successful deployment of such services might in the overall effect be combined with a net loss of jobs. If communities are sharing experts, they do not need to employ so many. Therefore, the monetary gains of a possible and successful restructuring should not only be invested into training and workforce development, but there should also be a financial transfer from the market sector to the non-market sector, which is discussed widely now as the only true solution to unemployment. The non-market sector is consisting of people engaged into solving their own local problems at a community level. Governments will perceive the community level more and more as a positive force allowing to maintain society even if the old maintenance base out of taxation is shrinking; but that means the restructuring of communities and their economic build-up has to be supported.

I would like to mention one particular example of the positive combination of ubiquitous marketplace and community activation. The City of Compton, California, was a once blooming, now decaying community between Long Beach and Los Angeles, where the radical differences of American Life have turned a rural middle-class town into a suburban problem-area. Fortunately, the city is linked to the Blue line, a suburban railway that connects Central Los Angeles and Long Beach. There is a building erected decades ago, that once was a lively extension of the train and bus station, the Compton Transit Centre, now largely empty. Based on the 1990 census, 28,000 people live within 1/4 mile of this building, 33,000 live within 1/2 mile and 180,000 people live within 2 miles. Over 6,000 people a day gets on or off either the rail system or the 6 bus lines that serve the area at the Compton Transit Centre.

In this setting, the use of the fiberoptic infrastructure of the metropolitan transit authority for a telecentre is an attempt to create more access to jobs and educational resources for people otherwise secluded to their community. The initial community meetings for the prospective televillage therefore were well visited and well supported with a lot of enthusiasm. Many services like job-finding, education, health and housing information will make use of the same telematic infrastructure. It is too early to say if this definitely good practice will succeed, but I suggest that we all keep watching this example of re-creation of a local centre and of local communication. It might be a positive alternative to the seclusion of people in their homes, served by teleshopping, telebanking and tele-everything.

2.2. Intentional Decentralisation - the physical plane    

We are already in the middle of the second big promise information networks hold for cities - decentralisation. One of the heaviest burdens that lie on the shoulders of cities today is the explosive growth of transportation needs, that surpasses all the natural provisions of urban infrastructure. Walter Siembab, promoter of the Compton televillage, calls it the nightmare of the Auto-City:

"Auto oriented suburbs, shopping centres, industrial parks, and parking lots and the extensive network of roads and highways that feed them characterise the physical environments of these "Auto-Cities."

It is important to recognise that the capital cost of the investment to create Auto-Cities on a global basis is truly incalculable. Additional wide scale rebuilding of cities is no longer affordable, and certainly is not feasible within any reasonable time frame. The challenge is to use what exists in more productive and less damaging ways.

Fortunately, new computing and telecommunications technologies characterised by unprecedented annual improvements in price-performance ratios are available for integration into existing urban environments. In other words, telematic technologies offer the possibility of a cost-effective retrofit of existing Auto-Cities in order to make them more liveable as well as economically and environmentally sustainable in the long run."

Another planner from this world's most auto-obsessed city, Joseph Smyth, has tried to calculate the economic power that cities would gain out of diminishing the modal split in transportation. He starts at the private costs of operating and owning a car, which multiplied with the number of cars lead to the incredible number of 56 billion dollars in the city of Los Angeles - "not including road building, maintenance, police, fire, ambulance, hospital, loss of life, rehabilitation due to injury, loss of human hours due to commuting and traffic jams and reductions in effectiveness at the workplace due to stress and other related illnesses."

The hidden costs of U.S. urban-sprawl cities are enormous, and the waste of urban surface is another source of additional costs: the length of utility lines and drains produce another big amount of construction and maintenance costs, while the disappearance of natural "dissipation space" (= self cleaning areas) increases pollution and lowers the quality of life.

The alternative lies in dense, clustered, pedestrian oriented urban subcenters that hold all the possibilities for living, working and leisure in close hand. "The city of short distances" should be our goal and we should actively look into the possibilities of telecommunication to bring this goal into reality.

It is important to see that within their spectacular agglomeration process, which on the surface appears as an immense process of centralisation, cities have already provided all the elements of decentralisation. Yet the form in which this decentralisation happens, adds to urban problems instead of diminishing them.

The dynamics of suburban sprawl in many cases has led to a development of Edge Cities, which gradually attracted not only housing and living, but also other urban functions. Telecommunication has played a big role in this development: Banks and insurances and many other businesses have moved their back-offices to the suburban areas, where real estate is cheap and a mobile workforce is available. They have often drastically reduced front office and branch-office spaces because many tasks can now in real time be centrally done at the back-office. So the emerging picture of cities is really rather polycentric than monocentric, with peripheral business districts as a new form. This development is already announcing the end of suburbia in the traditional form. But for the moment it usually causes more car traffic, encourages further urban sprawl by widening the diameter of the urban hinterland, and leaves a big question mark in the traditional urban centre, which is often answered by a sort of tourist-oriented or shopping mall use.

Still, the Edge City is like a training ground for the really decentralised fractal city and beyond that for the distributed city, where mixed use and high density within sub-centres and clusters create urban village situations and allow the emergence of truly urban life at short distance again. And here again, cities have a bit of influence in their hand; by decentralising the administration process, by creating public access points and allowing their employees to telework, they can send out fundamental signals to the urban development process.

This is also the background of Vienna's participation in the creation of urban telecentres. The city has teamed up with major telecommunication companies to create those centres in districts where urban expansion, in terms of housing projects, forces many people to commute to work. At the same time, those centres might also be the crystallisation points of local networking and local business relations. The city will provide public information and interactive services to locals and raise the level of those services so the forced trips to the centre will be reduced.

2.3. Citizen participation - the revitalised community    

The third promise of new information technologies comes right along with decentralisation: it is the promise of creating a closer link between the urban decision - making process and the citizens.

While information technologies have for a long time been mainly perceived as a means of control and power, of big brother watching, there is an increasing perception that the control perspective might be reversed, too. User polls have shown a vast preference of applications that allow people to access public information online in comparison to applications of telematic networks in entertainment or even shopping via the network. But also administrations gain a lot from making their information available; it means that there is opportunity for inclusive policy-making, involving citizens, organisations and interests into the development of a more satisfying and sustainable urban environment.

Author and architect Richard Levine has outlined, that at the core of every successful achievement of sustainability in urban development lies an ongoing process of negotiation. Whilst in traditional city development this negotiation took place as a slow process of response and modification of decisions, the modern city would very much require the help of electronic negotiation technology. The main reasons for this are the speed of development and the complexity of the problems as well as the artificiality and unsustainability of the involved forces. Such a "sustainability negotiation process" would ideally include simulation tools, so the anticipated results of actions and decisions could be experienced and allow constant re-negotiation.

This would allow to avoid irreversible mistakes and to find solutions where the pursue of one interest does not harm other existing interests, where there is synergetic potential to create win-win- situations. Sometimes the process might end up with the exclusion of certain interests in a particular local case.

While Levine's vision of a balance-seeking process at the core of electronic interaction is a positive and vital guideline to the development of electronic democracy, many authors have outlined and some experience has shown that in the practice of electronic democracy lies a number of inherent dangers, which might produce negative results as well.

First of all, the new media might be themselves artificial and unsustainable forces in Levine´s sense. They might give access to the computer literate, easy-access and time-rich type of interests, leaving the ones with less means and abilities out of the game. Second, they might favour emotional, spontaneous and media-manipulated decision-making rather than sound and well-thought-of solutions. Third, it is not automatically guaranteed that the presence of citizen participation would also support the consideration of "mute interests", like the preservation of natural dissipation space beyond recreational areas or other conservation issues.

It is therefore vital to experiment and to enhance the function of the media before applying it in the large scale.

2.4. Systemic feedback - the urban nerve system    

There is a fourth promise created by information technologies in regard to sustainable city development. That is the promise of a more coherent use of urban resources by the emergence of a kind of nerve system, that would allow cities to react and behave more like living systems, in real time and in a structured way. We are discovering that the exchange of information in real time is in fact much more fundamental to the function of every life form than we have previously assumed - and we can learn and achieve very much if we consider the city as an emerging life form of its own.

Richard Register from Ecocity Builders, Berkeley has brought to my attention that there is a lot of structural analogies that have been made by Author James Grier Miller between cells, organs, organisms, groups, organisations, societies and supranational systems, with the same nineteen critical subsystems appearing at each level. We might consider cities in the same way that Miller did with other manifestations of our social life. Life is interaction with the environment, and living systems are constantly processing the balance of their internal functions with the changes in their environment. The quick adjustment of every part of the urban organism to environmental changes and internal deficiencies is crucial for its overall duration and sustainability. And with the growing complexity of the urban organism there is not only a requirement for adjustment and growth control in long terms, but also for very fast adaptation processes.

Today we are at the very humble beginnings of such a development; at least, we are beginning to understand the crucial role of being informed for the actions we choose.

Information technology allows us to connect data networks to sensory organs, the eyes and ears and other senses of the city. The city of Vienna gets aware every ten seconds of the concentration of toxic substances like sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and ozone: the data recording system records the values at 18 critical places and calculates minute and hourly averages. The values measured are displayed for citizen information at large displays at prominent places, but also sent to the Internet, voice announcement systems reachable by telephone, videotext and also daily newspapers. They give short term and long term feedback to actions - they might show the efficiency of environmental measures - as well as they influence short-term behaviour and long term consciousness alike. They also serve as an alarm tool in the case of emergency.

2.5. Networking co-operation - the ultimate resource    

While there is a lot of internal benefits that can be gained by the applications of information technology to the urban organism, one might add to the metaphors of the "nerve system" and the "multicellular organism" the one of "eyes and ears and mouth" to describe the fifth promise that information technology holds. Following the organic metaphor, it allows the formation of networks between urban organisms that are co-operative and collaborate independent from distance. Thereby those networks form a higher system level, like the one of a group is beyond the one of a single organism.

It was part of the first promise, that the traditional notion of the city - a hub of knowledge and tools - could be expanded, if every city in the world could be offering and sharing its knowledge base to others. But this also means a deep change of identity that can influence the role of cities in a positive or negative way.

The "global cities" are becoming nearer and more familiar and similar to each other than most of those global cities are in regard to their respective hinterlands or outlands. The danger is, that mankind is drifting towards an archipelago of highly-developed nodes that are culturally growing together while leaving the periphery completely out of consideration . Megacity growth and land losses seem to go hand in hand. The positive vision, however, is, that the networking of cities and communities creates a new and powerful entity that gains energy from connectedness. That this energy might also help us to reverse the trend to megacity growth - simply because the knowledge resources of the Megacity can be accessed everywhere.

Cities DO have optimum sizes, and they are even far below the size of Vienna. Maybe the last and most efficient reason to eliminate the megalomanic patterns that still prevail in our thoughts will be when we see the successful operation of a city network as administrative body. When we see that it does not mean the loss of any access to resources or power, when smaller cities decide to join their forces and share their competences, but the opposite is very true. In a time of ongoing fragmentation, tribalism, separation and externalisation, city networks could be the structure that can fill the void that the power shift from nation states to global businesses has produced. The citiesí networks might be the answer to the growing difficulty to maintain social standards and a good level of public services. There is almost a spontaneous tendency towards networking nowadays between cities, and it is very obvious that an initiative like the Best Practice Initiative of the UNCHS or similar initiatives at regional level signal a structural difference between the behaviour of cities and nation states. Cities seem structurally much more inclined towards co-operation than towards confrontation. The new paradigm, boldly called "paradigm of the plant" by Terence McKenna?, is spreading on the grassroots level - while at the official level the "paradigm of the animal" still prevails. McKenna? characterises the paradigm-shift as follows "We have in the course of history copied the economy of animals that change to other areas, when their resources are depleted.... Plants in the contrary are bound to very efficient recycling and co-operation. The meshwork of roots in a tropical rainforest is an environment of maximal diversity. Those roots are constantly exchanging complex chemical messages; Checks and balance and an evolution towards symbiotic relations regulate the whole system".

In a way, this is true for the desirable future of cities. They are a part of the planetary life support system, and one-day we might understand them as the ''inorganic plants we live in''. We will understand that neither too much density serves their purpose well, nor too much distance. From the biology of plants we can learn that the growth of one could be positively linked to the growth of the other ó this could hold true if they are from equal or different species. In a way, we might then also realise that there is no real difference between the creation of peace and the intentional building of human habitat alongside the plant paradigm.

3. A word about the Village    

Allow me to take this thought one step further and ask about the relation between the city and the village. The fact that two thirds of the world's population are going to live in cities should lead to the conclusion that we have to at least devote one third of our considerations to the village - even if we accept the megacity growth as an irresistible trend. [1]

There is no doubt that the traditional meaning of the village - the place built as a cluster of farms, of agricultural production which served for subsistence and income alike - is in rapid decline. But this comes with a very dangerous side effect: It means the abandonment of cultural landscape, of the only real place of dialogue and real encounter between man and nature. A coral reef in Australia, a desert landscape or a rainforest might be of immense beauty, but they are strange and abstract to us, and we mostly enjoy them in the form of pictures and media.

Only the village is the place where we actually can live within nature and with to a certain extent. It is the product of hundreds or even thousands of years of experience, of trial and error, of patient struggle and gradual evolution. The village by its very definition is a place where natural resources are available in abundance, whereas the city - at least in this respect - is a place of scarcity.

But the village is also generally a place of high solidarity and mutual support, whereas the city is a place of competition and anonymity. Giving up the village might mean a lot of erosion, not only in geological terms, but also in terms of culture and social relations. We are in the middle of this erosion, and the news that we get from the villages of this world is increasingly bad news. That is why people flee them, that is why the cities grow.

When we gave the Term "Global Village" to our Vienna event, it was out of the deep conviction that the village still has a future and this trend is not hostile to cities.

In fact, the trend towards the edge of the city is mirroring our deeply rooted need for open space, nature and its resources. A recent survey from the Urban development Institute of Stuttgart University shows, that independent of the size, the location or the cultural background cities world-wide trend to have a chaotic development pattern with maximum surface, fractal structures and "settlement islands". This trend is even stronger in cities with rather compact core structures like Boston, Paris or New York. The usual picture of urban sprawl is somehow too simplistic to understand the real development, where cities like Boston and New York develop an Edge Surface up to 30 times bigger than the edge they would have in the image of continuous sprawl.

Besides that, there is a demographic trend of high-income strata back to rural areas, which mirrors deeply routed needs and desires.

I would like to present to you a very personal vision to answer this desire, which goes, of course, a little bit beyond my speaking on behalf of the City of Vienna - but implies that we cannot talk about the future of the city and the future of the village separately.

Like the diversity of species in the rainforest, the city and the village are two plants or life forms that need each other, and they can only survive in symbiotic relation to each other. This was true for the agricultural age, when cities grew at the crossroads of trade and around the castles of the warlords, this was true in the industrial age, when cities became the place of material production, concentrated mass armies of workers and built the pipelines for globalisation, and this will be true for the information age, when the cities will be the hubs in the network of pipelines supporting immense and intelligent decentralized capacities of miniaturized workshops. Always - at least in Europe - the cities very existence was rooted in a meaningful polarity to the village. When I talked about ubiquitous marketplace I also mentioned the co-existence of market sector and non-market sector as a positive perspective for the inevitable mass of unemployment in a globalised economy. Now I would like to go one step further and describe the inherent positive economic dynamics that we might be able to unleash on the base of Information technologies.

In this picture, we have in fact the "global city" on one side and the "global village" on the other one. The Global City is the entity which is seeking its primary goal in competition in the global economy, and it can only do so by steadily investing capital and increasing productivity, moving jobs around the globe or replacing them by automation. This situation is fundamentally unsustainable, also in simple economic terms.

The ultimate purchasing power of consumers world-wide is subject to constant erosion of jobs and employment, while production is synchronously expanded without limits by powerful financial means. The microelectronic revolution has made it extremely improbable that this expanding production will create new mass employment, like Henry Fordís production boost did for the car industry. Rather than that, the mass consumers will slowly disappear. In this scenario, a positive dynamic could emerge. Instead of the mass consumer, urban industries might target a completely new entity of customer: "prosuming clusters", that is the mixed community of specialised place-independent workers and a local community that is growing around locally available resources.

There is a clear synergy here: In this scenario, the "Global Village" arises as counterpart to the global city, because the combination of freely available natural resources with high technology allows a community to drastically reduce living costs without losing quality of life. And this might not be just a deliberate choice, but a constraint: the amount for a minimum of technology necessary to dwell on local resources might be the price that Global Corporations will pay for skilled brainwork - and not more. This cold economic dynamic, that already moves hundreds of thousands of jobs away from Europe to countries like India, that shakes and frightens unionists and politicians, that works beyond any attempt to stop it, might carry in itself the seed for a drastic change in society.

The Globalisation shock has the power to favour local arrangements and alliances that combine local material production cycles with global immaterial specialisation (and thus lead to the emergence of a "telematic triangle") and work more efficient than old consumer-pattern cities. It might bring forward a shift in the nature of industrial products, favouring tools for "productive village building" rather than traditional household consumer goods.

It might even help many people eventually to get more market-independent. It might help them to create sheer abundance around them, because the ratio of what we can do with fixed material resources has drastically changed. And yet; this serves in itself to create a market!

Because this will only happen if on the other side the "Global Cities" discover and serve a prosumer tools market and actively develop it. And if the same amount of capital, skills, imagination and zeal is put into this goal, as it was the case with the Personal Computer, Star Wars and Video on Demand, we might eventually end up somewhere where we really feel the world is meaningful again.

Since I feel the negative impacts of globalisation are increasingly annoying every one of us, why not start a positive competition? The City of Stockholm has launched a Bangemann-Challenge to honour the city that will be the fastest and the best implementing certain telematic application areas.

I feel it would be good if we had another challenge to honour the city that does it in the most meaningful way and ends up with sustainable results.

4. How can Cities adjust and adapt?    

To summarise the question that was the subject of this speech, I think it is very important that cities consider the information networks part of their infrastructure, as important as roads, telephone lines or public transportation. They might decide to leave the development of this infrastructure to the private sector, but to a certain extent it is necessary to express public preferences, alongside the fulfilment of the promises mentioned in this speech. I therefore would like to underline and close with the following recommendations of Ricardo Petrella:

"It is urgent to promote a vast open, participatory (all "stakeholder" included) world assessment of the economic, social, cultural and political implications and consequences of alternative development pathways of Information Society/Cyberspace. New Information and communication technologies (New ICT) can be designed and used effectively to meet present economic and social maldevelopments, provided that conditions are satisfied such as:

- To develop by priority those infrastructures, products and services that maximise the long term balance between individual empowerment and industrial opportunities linked to New ICT on the one side and 'community' empowerment and opportunities, on the other side;

- To promote technological innovation with the aim of solving human and social problems rather than increasing productivity and competitiveness in already saturated markets;

- To promote and sustain 'communitarian' information and communication squares, street corners, secondary country road, i.e. the 'public / civic information and communication spaces;

- To involve all concerned social groups to be active participants in the exploration of needs, designing action programs and governing the implementation process"

(Ricardo Petrella, Preface, in: Bolhuis/Colom, Cyberspace Reflections, Brussels 1995,p.10)

[1] I wanted to express at that time diplomatically that I did not believe in that assumption. Today, more than a decade later, I would have challenged this. FranzNahrada 2009