Our founder, Wendy Gold, caught up with Dr. Evren Tok on a book about improving urban systems to be released this month. Dr. Tok has a PhD from the Carleton University School of Public Policy and Administration. His chapter discusses OpenCity Projects’ unique approach to place-making.
OpenCity Projects: The book, City Competitiveness and Improving Urban Subsystems, was published by IGI Global Publishing. Can you tell us generally what the book is about?
Dr. Evren Tok: The book attempts to shed light on information science perspectives to improve working subsystems in transportation, sewage, electricity, water, communication, education, health, governance, and infrastructure. Many cities need better functioning subsystems because this is the prerequisite for the efficiency of the whole system. This book positions the cities as the major forces of national economic dynamism and provides a variety of intriguing perspectives to policy makers, professionals and researchers, as well as students of urban planning in better understanding what city competitiveness means today and how it could be improved.
OCP: As a recent graduate of Carleton University School of Public Policy and Administration’ Ph.D. program, you contributed a chapter about creative cities that features OpenCity Projects. Why did you choose OpenCity’s work to demonstrate the use of creativity and communications technologies to solve urban problems?
ET: I believe that OpenCity Projects puts special emphasis on viewing the urban from the lens of people who aspire to create more inclusive, vibrant and creative urban environments. OpenCity Projects’ understanding of creativity and communications technologies in this respect points out a city which is “unfinished”, which is open to change and transform and which aims at solving urban problems by identifying both challenges and opportunities inherent in the urban space. OpenCity Projects underlines that creativity belongs to everyone, which makes OpenCity Projects quite unique in identifying the new possibilities that arise through the experiences of people who connect with the urban space every day.
OCP: You described OpenCity’s web site as a “virtual” urban space” that has a “special role in increasing awareness and consciousness among Torontonians.” Can you talk about why you view OpenCity’s use of digital media—web, Facebook, Twitter—as important?
ET: It is important because they are part and parcel of creating urban identities that are not necessarily limited with certain boundaries. We are becoming more and more concerned with and interested in issues that are beyond our reach. This empowers people. The virtual urban space I mentioned makes it possible for Torontonians to be more aware and conscious about their city. It makes them believe that they can be part of the change and transformation that will shape the city’s future.
OCP: You discuss OpenCity’s approach to engaging people “at the street level” and use of communication technology as elements capable of transforming the “power of urban reality.” Can you explain your conclusion?
ET: Shaping urban spaces should not be under the hegemony of certain interests. Urban space provides opportunities and possibilities to different stakeholders and I believe that OpenCity Projects’ perspective which is equipped with the effective use of communication technologies makes it feasible for different stakeholders to realize their potential. An important implication is that OpenCity Projects illustrate the possibility of dreaming and designing more democratic and inclusive urban spaces without ignoring the competitiveness dimension.
You can find more information and purchase the entire book or just the chapter featuring OpenCity Projects here.