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2 Relevant Works

Nowadays, information technologies are part of our daily life and are influencing the way we use and experience the space we live. It is important to consider new forms of communication when acting within the city and its spaces, assuming that information may be an ingredient that – as well as uses and physical infrastructures – drives the public realm. According to theoretical framework we referred to, digital technologies are relevant in planning and urban design in different ways:

• In first instance the possibility to consider digital social media data disclosures innovative manners of analyzing the public realm. There is a huge amount of invisible data daily produced by citizens: places are embedded with a series of media contents that once revealed might give new insights [2], [8,9], [11], [15,16].

• Secondly a new approach to design should be considered: points distant one from

the other, working reciprocally once they are digitally connected [1], [4,5], [12]. Referring to Networked urbanism means analysing and planning the urban environment with an information based approach, reasoning in terms of nodes (points) and connections (network); where the nodes are public and semi-public spaces assumed to be the core of not private activities and the connections, assuring the exchange among the nodes, are both the physical (roads, streets) and virtual (internet connection, video-streaming, information exchange) tools for communication. In this wider connotation accessibility also means “published on the web”, while density stands for frequency of intercommunication among different places through virtual information sharing. Thus, it is possible to create a more liveable system of public spaces considering a series of isolated points that work synergistically as if they were physically co-present and whose activities are “advertised” via media.

• A tool for place making. But communication technologies could also be used in order to drive citizen towards a more active role with the public spaces their cities, to support grass-root common projects and to strengthen the community ties in general terms. DSM are able to create connections among strangers and to provide a platform for a more proactive citizenship [6,7], [14].

3 Urbino: Why It Could Be Assumed as a Case Study

Urbino is a small-sized city located in the “heart” of the Italian peninsula; it is listed under the UNESCO patronage since 1983, thanks to its prominent historic heritage dated back to the Renaissance.

The condition of isolation – both geographical and infrastructural – represented for our research an in-vitro test situation. The number of observable social phenomena is limited and bearable; cases of “contamination” by exogenous factors – meaning social interactions coming from outside the city center – are rare and controllable.

Moreover Urbino hosts a huge university pole, thus students represents a significant slice of the population living within the city center and this conjunction is relevant for two main reasons:

• Digital devices, especially with a socially oriented purpose, are particularly spread among people between 15 and 30 years. Since university students fall entirely in this age-range and since these latter also represent a conspicuous slice of the urban population of Urbino, a preponderant number of users is observable using data coming from digital social interactions;

• Every year, young people arrive in Urbino from all over Italy, in order to attend

university, who will leave the city once their education is completed. Students are thus temporary users of Urbino and this condition is cause – and then again effect – of a lack of awareness towards the common value of public spaces. Such indifference is exacerbated due to the failure of these venues in satisfying the needs and demands of the students;

Moreover, the precepts of integral conservation of the architectural and historical heritage, further intensified by the declaration as UNESCO site, made it impossible to offer a tangible answer to the requests of those who live – or should live – in the historic city.

The aim of our research, therefore, was to give indications for a possible strategy of intervention, that could make the public realm of the historic city more suitable to the needs of young people, keeping in mind the neo-born practices influenced by the extensive use of digital social devices.

 
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