Designing urban futures? Eco-cybernetics, or, how to govern the Anthropocene

Type: Panel
Sponsor Groups: Political Geography Specialty Group, Cultural and Political Ecology Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 2:40 PM / 4:20 PM (MDT)
Room: Napoleon, Marriott, River Tower Elevators, 41st Floor
Organizers: Kevin Grove, Maros Krivy
Chairs: Maros Krivy


Recent decades have seen design shifting its concern from objects to processes, systems and futures. Design orients thought and action not towards questions of how something came to be, but rather what something might become, crafting new futures from within, rather than outside, the present (Cross 1982; Buchanan 1992). These “designerly” sensibilities are overtly and covertly reconfiguring how human-environment relations are studied across all scales, attuning urban governance around the world to a technocratic variant of the Anthropocene and to the “urban age” promulgated by complexity theory. The post-historical impulses of resilience and smartness govern the urban as eco-cybernetic systems, discarding utopias and declaring politics and planning as obsolete (Grove 2018; Krivy 2016).

From New York City’s Rebuild by Design to the quantified community of Hudson Yards, from the Global South's rare earth metal mines to post-socialist smart cities, design becomes infrastructural while channeling data and matter (Halpern 2017). The Anthropocene's catastrophic imaginary converges with a speculative interest of academia, policy makers and corporate world in "bits and atoms," jointly heeding not to "let a serious crisis go to waste" (Mirowski 2014).

This panel session will explore the challenges and limits to design as a form of governing emergent futures in the urbanized world of the Anthropocene. What are the histories and geographies of designerly futures and who are their subjects?


Buchanan, R. 1992. Wicked problems in design thinking. Design Issues.
Cross, N. 1982. Designerly ways of knowing. Design Studies.
Grove, K. 2018. Resilience. Routledge.
Halpern, O. 2017. Hopeful resilience. e-flux architecture.
Krivy, M. 2016 Towards a critique of cybernetic urbanism. Planning Theory.
Mirowski, P. 2017, Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste. Verso.


Type Details Minutes
Introduction Maros Krivy University of Cambridge / Estonian Academy of Arts 10
Panelist Ross Adams Iowa State University 10
Discussant Clive Barnett University of Exeter 10
Panelist Stephen Collier The New School 10
Panelist Matthew Gandy University of Cambridge 10
Panelist Elizabeth Johnson Hobart & William Smith Colleges 10
Panelist Lauren Rickards RMIT University 10
Discussant Kevin Grove Florida International University 10

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