ICS Seminar Series - Simon Marvin

Date: Thursday 9 November 2017
Time: 11.30am–1pm
Venue: Conference Room 4, Level 9, Western Sydney University Parramatta City campus, 169 Macquarie Street

Simon Marvin

(The Urban Institute, University of Sheffield)

(co-authored with Andrés Luque-Ayala, Department of Geography, Durham University)

Urban Operating Systems: a Computational Logic of Urban Control?


A set of software/hardware packages developed by IT companies for the urban market is transforming the way in which cities are imagined and configured. These urban operating systems (Urban OS) embody important presumptions about what constitutes appropriate knowledge and forms of decision making, pointing to how novel forms of ‘smart’ or ‘computational’ urbanism may govern urban life. Arguing that an analysis of the interface between the urban and IT requires a broader historical and theoretical perspective, the article traces the ways in which the city has been diagrammed as a space of power since the nineteenth century and highlights the antecedents of Urban OS present across different domains of life––particularly in military and corporate enterprises. Relaying the urban as an efficient logistical enterprise, and operating as a piloting device, the Urban OS appears as an emerging urban diagram introducing an informational diagrammatic of control. The talk focuses on archetypal framings of how Urban OS envision the city, illustrating how a new corporate rationality of control based on functional simplification and heterogeneous reintegration seeks to take hold in the city  - via re-engineering, agility, modularity, flexibility and configurability.


Simon Marvin is Director of The Urban Institute at the University of Sheffield. He is an internationally recognised academic with an excellent publication profile, with expertise in constructing conceptual understanding and empirical evidence of the changing relations between socio-technical networks and urban and regional restructuring. He has extensive experience of directing successful urban research centres in previous roles at Newcastle University, Salford University, and Durham University, where he was Chair in the Department of Geography.

His work is noted for the way it develops innovative, interdisciplinary perspectives to help open up and explore important new agendas for urban studies and infrastructural research. He has played major roles within urban and planning research towards addressing important questions surrounding telecommunications, infrastructure and mobility, sustainability and, most recently, systemic transitions, climate change, ecological security and smart cities.

He is currently working as either PI or Co-I on five RCUK funded grants, including two projects, one impact grant, and two international networks employing five researchers as well as research work for the Swedish Mistra Urban Futures Foundation. Finally, he regularly undertakes work for policy users, including central government and urban and regional agencies in the UK, Europe, and internationally. Simon is currently an urban expert on the JPI Urban Europe Scientific Advisory Board.