Gernot Riether, associate professor and director of the School of Architecture at the College of Architecture and Design at NJIT, co-authored a book on information technology and urban space with Marcella Del Signore, associate professor at New York Institute of Technology.

“Urban Machines: Public Space for a Digital Culture” was published by LISTLAB earlier this year and describes how digital technology disrupted city life at the beginning of the 21st century by changing the way we communicate, we gain goods, and we receive information. It also speculates in how these changes may affect the physical public space of our cities itself.

The book describes a particular landscape of projects that engage information technology to alter public space and social interactions in the urban space. It also addresses a series of questions that affect how information technology will be integrated in public space: Does the internet have to be free for a public space to be truly public? How accessible should the information of smart cities be for its citizens? The book also describes the potential of information technology to allow citizens to actively participate in the creation of public space. 

“Any form of media had an impact on public space. When the newspaper was introduced, for example, people first couldn’t afford it but you could read it for free in coffee shops, so people went to coffee shop to read newspapers,” said Riether. “Today it is the smart phones, social media, apps that allow us to think about new ways in which urban spaces can be programmed and inhabited.”

Through essays, case studies and conversations, this book presents a recent history and overview of the impact of information technologies on the physical public space while providing an inspiring vision of possible future scenarios for the public realm in a digital culture.

“I am worried that if citizens don’t get more involved in the process of integrating information technology in public space, large corporates will define how public space will be used and all qualities of public space may only emerge from consumerism. This book creates a framework for citizens to participate in the process of reframing public space for a digital future,” said Riether.

The book is available on Amazon. The authors Marcella Del Signore and Gernot Riether will also do a book presentation on Monday, April 1 at 12 p.m. at the Littman Library in Weston Hall at NJIT.