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Digital Social Media to Enhance the Public Realm in Historic Cities

Abstract. The research aims at exploring a methodology for the use of digital social media (DSM) to study and influence people's behaviors within the public realm of an historic city center. Potentialities and limitations, created by the use of digital social media for urban analysis and planning, are spotted regarding the specific conditions of an historic city center with the goal of creating a more livable public realm. The research aims at drafting a general methodology both in data mining both in public places promotion and enhancement, through information and digital connection, referring to the specific case of historic city centers. The research considers the case study of Urbino, in the Marche region (Italy), and carries on different analyses and proposals of intervention based on digital social media.

Keywords: Public realm • Historic cities • Information technologies • Social media • Urban analysis • Information strategy

1 Introduction

The research[1] at issue aimed at defining a methodology to explore the potentialities of digital social media (DSM) to study people's behavior within the public realm of an historic city center and to propose a strategy able to influence it, through information flows and media activities.

The Italian peninsula is constellated by a very conspicuous number of ancient municipalities, where people keep on dwelling, although increasing preservation restrictions. The dichotomy between the spaces of these cities and the expectation of contemporary dwellers is dramatically increasing in time. Particularly, the research focused on the case of Urbino, a historic city center in Italy, listed as UNESCO heritage and hosting a university pole. The difficulties to intervene with a material transformation of the city could foster the use of digital social media as tools for an intervention that shifts its field of action from the physical dimension to the informational approach. Based on those principles, we tested this praxis on the historic center of Urbino and we present in this paper the adopted methodology and its results.

In the first part of the paper we trace the literature references and define the main features of the case study Urbino.

Then we present the outcome of the analyses obtained by data mining of digital social media. In particular, we focus on how the geographical and social features of Urbino offered unique conditions and we investigate what kind of data are worth to be stored and what analyses are relevant for this specific case.

In the last part we present the strategy to reactivate the public spaces of Urbino based on injecting in the historic fabric new activities connected with the use of digital technology, whose accessibility and interconnection is enhanced by a designed flow of information. This strategy also seeks solidification of the community bonds of Urbino, particularly for students, facilitating a more active citizenship.

  • [1] The research has been developed within the activities related to a master thesis discussed at Politecnico of Milan in April 2013. The thesis Urbino: can digital technology enhance historic public realm? was the joint effort of three Politecnico students under the supervision of Prof.ssa Corinna Morandi, Prof. Paolo Ceccarelli and Prof.ssa Agata Spaziante.
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