Digital Place and Urban Space

Thursday, 13 March, 2014 - 14:00

Abstract: An issue similar to that described above exists for both digital place and urban space. In both cases, the dominant discourse about place/space has come out of the phenomenological and hermeneutical tradition, mainly Heidegger (dwelling), Merleau-Ponty (embodiment), and later interpreters such as Edward Casey and Jeff Malpas. Phenomenology has been a powerful frame for place, but it has tended to leave both the digital and the urban as deficient, ersatz, corrupted, or even fake place. In both cases phenomenology questions the authenticity of the experience. The urban does not afford "dwelling", if that means a Heideggerian sense of dwelling, and code does not provide materiality. I wish to question both of these equations, that is, both that dwelling does not occur or is diminished in the urban, and that code cannot be material. And, I wish to preserve the usefulness of phenomenology, while introducing other theoretical approaches to place that might reframe the issues.

Bio: Bruce Janz is Professor and former department head in the Department of Philosophy at UCF, and director of the CAH Center for Humanities and Digital Research. He has been at UCF since 2003, and has been chair of the Philosophy department since 2008. Previously he was at Augustana University College (now the Augustana Faculty of University of Alberta), in Alberta, Canada. His Ph.D. is from the University of Waterloo in Canada. He has taught in Canada, the US, Kenya, and South Africa. Dr. Janz is currently working on two books (Philosophy as if Place Mattered and Putting Philosophy in its Place), as well as essays on place, African philosophy, and culture. He is also involved in research grants, including “ChinaVine/EduVine” (, “Space, Science and Spirituality” (, and a pending grant on "Scenes of Innovation: Care as an Aesthetic Engagement in Urban Cultural Practice", in collaboration with WISER and submitted to the Canadian funding agency SSHRC.

Sources for “Digital Place, Urban Space” by Bruce Janz

These are some sources used in the talk on digital place and urban space at WiSER in March 2014. I have added some others that might also be interesting on these issues.

Phenomenology of Place

  • Heidegger, “Building Dwelling Thinking” in Poetry Language Thought. Harper & Row, 1971.

  • Heidegger, “The Question Concerning Technology” in The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays. Garland Publishing, 1977.

  • Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space. Beacon Press, 1994.

  • Edward Casey, Getting Back Into Place. Indiana University Press, 1993.

  • Edward Casey, The Fate of Place: A Philosophical History. University of California Press, 1997

  • Jeffrey Malpas, Place and Experience: A Philosophical Topology. Cambridge UP, 2004.

  • Jeffrey Malpas, Heidegger’s Topology: Being, Place, World. MIT Press, 2006.



Other thinkers mentioned on place/space

  • Michel de Certeau, Practice of Everyday Life, Vol. 1

  • Michel Foucault, “Of Other Spaces” – his work on heterotopias. Included in many places. Here’s an online source:

  • Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space. Blackwell, 1991. See also his work on the city, such as Writings on Cities. Blackwell, 1996. Also Rhythmanalysis: Space, Time, and Everyday Life. Continuum, 2004.

  • For an extensive list of work on place across many disciplines, see my web page, Research on Place and Space It is unfortunately out of date, but still has good links.

  • One of the best introductions to work on place is by Tim Cresswell, Place: A Short Introduction. Wiley-Blackwell, 2004.



The critics of the digital/urban


Versions of dwelling not rooted in phenomenology

  • Peter King, In Dwelling: Implacability, Exclusion, Acceptance. Ashgate, 2008.

  • J. MacGregor Wise, ”Home: Territory and Identity” in Cultural Studies 14:2 (2000): 295-310.


On the digital, materiality and place

  • David Berry, The Philosophy of Software: Code and Mediation in the Digital Age. Palgrave MacMillian, 2011.

  • Richard Coyne, The Tuning of Place: Sociable Spaces and Pervasive Digital Media. MIT Press, 2010.

  • Rob Kitchin and Martin Dodge, Code/Space: Software and Everyday Life. MIT Press, 2011.

  • Yuri Takhtayev, Coding Place: Software Practices in a South American City. MIT Press, 2012



On urban place

  • Alan Blum, The Imaginative Structure of the City. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s Press, 2003.

  • Bradley Garrett, Explore Everything: Place-Hacking the City. Verso Books, 2013.

  • Filippo Minelli (artist) - See especially his “Contradictions” series, “Google World”, and “CTRL + ALT + DEL”.



Some of my own work that is relevant to this

  • Bruce Janz, “Making a Scene and Dwelling in Place: Exhaustion at the Edges of Modes of Place-Making,” in Will Garrett-Petts, Craig Saper & John Craig Freeman, eds. Imaging Place. Kamloops, BC: Textual Studies in Canada, 2009: 145-154. Also in Rhizomes 18 (Winter 2008) Will Garrett-Petts, Craig Saper & John Craig Freeman, guest eds.

  • _____, “1The Terror of the Place: Anxieties of Place and the Cultural Narrative of Terrorism,” Ethics, Place and Environment 11:2 (June 2008): 189-201.

  • _____, “Whistler’s Fog and the Aesthetics of Place,” Reconstructions special edition (“Rhetoric of Place”, Michael Benton, ed.) 5:3 (Summer 2005) Available at:

  • _____, “Walls and Borders: The Range of Place,” City and Community 4:1 (March 2005): 87-94.

  • _____, Philosophy in an African Place. Lexington Books, 2009.