Open Space and Time in Global-City Regions

Open space (a fundamental element of the pair compact-city/open space) has often been seen as a landscape and a medium of representation  that historically has been thought to be innocent of idols (and idolatry), even associated with an iconoclastic prohibition on graven images, a (land)-scape from figurative representation. Landscape is here understood as empty space (For more on this see holy-landscape), that is, as that purified space described as a modern and western discovery, a revolutionary liberation of painting from narrative and ecclesiastical symbolism that can be dated in the 17th century[1]. Open space is also the postcard image of the city dweller (see Section, Below). And of lately, open space has become a space flowed with the discrete objects and inner architectural and planning projects of its surrounding city that as an object of planning and design seems to have lost its clear borders (as in Price’s metaphor of the “fried egg”). Open space is then a space whose morphology can not best be viewed as a discrete structure. 

Open space is all this above and much more. Above all, contemporary socio-economic and technological transformations do not simply mean that space is compressed (as in “Honey, I shrunk the space”). These transformations mean that open space is becoming a multi-temporal space inhabited by a multiplicity of reasons. There may not be universal reason at work anymore in open space. In contemporary open space it is not easy to find at work the idea of a unity of reason. Thus the myth of the best argument may not inhabit open space either. In other words, there may not be public reason-and not a single public sphere and thus no single public identity of citizen either-, at work in open space. There may be a plurality of public spheres (and thus perhaps an un-translatability of experiences) competing to define the topics worth of discussion in contemporary open space. Thus only the participants may be able to decide the topics worth of discussion and thus the nature of issues cannot be defined before hand. As Techno-economic systems inhabit open space,  conflicts become deep-lying, principles and factual descriptions maybe profoundly different, and uncertainty becomes radical. The best argument cannot be found. There is no universal reason Thus, the question is then whether agreement may spring from the incommensurability of languages inhabiting what we for the sake of argumentation will still call “open space”. Can there be in open space a public sphere in which different identities are merged into a (political) community? It is then on issues of open space as a technological space, where the collisions among discourses and knowledge is today very conflictive if not extremely violent, that we should concentrate our attention, in an endeavour to understand whether and how social co-operation can spring from this plurality of reasons.

This contribution has several aims, which are pursued at progressively greater length through several paths. First, to focus on the notion of open space as one of the main planning concepts that is being transformed by today’s socio-economic dynamics. It then becomes necessary to investigate the social context transforming the organization of space. Second, I argue, only partly in a willfully contrarian spirit, that the approaches that tend to characterize these emerging contexts as “information age and networked societies” may not be sufficient to understand the impact of today’s changes on the organization of space. These approaches tend to deny the temporal dimension. Yet time and temporality are at least as important as, if not more important than, space and spatiality in understanding the logic of contemporary transformations. We learn about and relate knowledgeably to a multidimensional space, but our understanding of the temporal dimension of socio-environmental life is pretty much exhausted with knowledge about the time of calendars and clocks. Nature, the environment and sustainability are not merely matters of space but temporal realms, processes and concepts. Their temporality is far from simple and singular. It is multidimensional. The prevailing knowledge of clock time is tied to the conceptual principles of linear perspective, which encompass within their knowledge assumptions about linear causality on the one hand, and reversibility on the other, as well as abstraction, rationalization and objectivity. What needs to be understood and theorized is then the contemporary social and urban condition and the manufacturing of risks and uncertainties  that accompany the contemporary way of life. It is in order to achieve this that we need to take time seriously.Time is the explicit focus of our research. This is a difficult challenge. How does an explicit focus on time affects the analysis of space and how different ways of taking time seriously alter what we can see and understand? We propose to start with the difficulties of taking time seriously. What are the  problems that may arise with retaining in our study the complexity of social time that one can identified at the theoretical level? The difficulties of taking time seriously get further compounded when socio-environmental issues and the impact of innovative technology become the focus of our attention.

A first attempt to overcome these difficulties may require that we consider a social science strategy of designating nature, open space and time as social. Nature and open space need to be recognized as socialized, acculturated and socially constituted, just as time had to be defined as social. Where an absolute, dualistic distinction had been maintained between social and natural time, the qualitative time of difference tended to be projected onto the social realm whilst the neutral, invariant, empty quantity, symbolized by the clock, designated the time of nature. This, may be unacceptable given that the quantitative medium is the social invention and tool for socio-environmental control and, equally pertinently, its invariable neutrality exists nowhere in nature where time is marked instead by rhythmic repetition of the similar, by seasons and by contextual patterns of growth and decay.

With this social science strategy of designating nature and time social, the underlying dualism of nature and culture that we need to question in order to be able to understand the contemporary social and urban condition, can be upheld. But, the socialization and acculturation of time and nature of this social strategy go some way but not far enough towards adequately theorizing the contemporary social condition and the risks that accompany the industrial way of life. How are we then to think about time? We would need to deal with the various ways of taking time seriously, and with how these different ways have very different effects on what we see and understand.  We need to map some of the pertinent features of a focus on time and explore the conceptual challenges that arise from it. We would also need to reflect on the contemporary role of research in a world where the construction of theories is inescapably implicated in the creation of socio-environmental futures.

Carlos H Betancourth

Ontwerpatelier 2001

RPD Vrom

The Hague-The Netherlands

8/11/01 6:08 PM




Open Space  and Time In The Context of Global City Regions: The Case of The Randstad-Green Heart Couple in The Netherlands




Open Space and Compact Cities as one of The Main Concepts and Images of Planning and Policy.

The notion of Open space [i] is part of a constellation of key spatial concepts [ii] in (Dutch) spatial planning as policy practice. It belongs to a constellation of policy measures[iii] in the sphere of spatial planning, that tries to influence the process of population redistribution and its settlement patterns in turn influenced by a complex set of factors which can be grouped in economic, socio-cultural and  demographic levels.  It is part of a vision and an image of the spatial organization that aims to achieve ‘spatial quality’ by keeping the countryside area open through a concentration of urbanization in the urban regions. It assumes that the activities of people should be limited to the confines of urban regions, measured in physical distance from the city centre.

Most prominently in this constellation is the twin concept of Green Heart and Randstad [iv]. The Randstad is said to consist of a ring of cities around an empty core (The Green heart). The compact city and the protection of open agricultural land are seen as the way forward to keep The Netherlands liveable. The Dutch government seems still determined to retain its compact building policy. Although new concepts are introduced in the Fifth Report (2001) the main idea remains the same: concentration of houses and working locations in and near to the large and the medium sized cities. Open areas should be kept open according to Dutch Policy. Thus these concepts still conceive of the city as a compact city, as a bounded clearly demarcated unity. City shape and morphology are thought within this constellation of concepts, as static shapes; the city is considered as stable and fixed.

In addition, when it comes to open space and landscape such spatial concepts evoke the image of landscape as pastoral space free of technical and urban interference by man. In line with the tradition of (Western) Industrial societies, nature is here understood in dualistic terms as the ’other’ of culture and technology. As countryside and meadows, hills and forests, animals and birds, this implicit-vision informing policy refers exclusively to the products of nature, to the externalized outcomes of processes, to de-contextualized physical phenomena without activity and process.

Landscape is supposed to be experienced here as emblematic of an intact, harmonious counter-world, it is welcomed as a corrective to the work of man, an antidote to the city. This is a naturalistic view of landscape as neutral, external backdrop in human activities[2]. The city is in turn seen as exercising a negative influence on the landscape. The relation between city and landscape is perceived hierarchically as that of a contoured figure against a passive background. The concept of the compact city aims at preserving and strengthening this contrast between city and country.

Notice in passing that the concepts of “Arche-Città,  Cine-Città, Tele-Città”, proposed by the The ISoCaRP 2001 Congress maintain this contrast between a contoured figure against a passive background  at least graphically.



The Context of Planning

Information technology, globalisation and deregulation are just some keywords for something that gained a strong influence during the last decade, in societies of developed as well as of developing countries. For important theorists it is quite probable that we are witnessing the early phase of a fundamental change of the socio-economic system, comparable to the agricultural revolution in 15th century or the industrial revolution in 19th century. If so, this of course will deeply affect the way society is organising space - our very professional field (The ISoCaRP 2001 Congress'. www.isocarp.org).

As suggested by the ISoCaRP 2001 Congress, the social economic and technical context of the spatial concepts above (such as the Compact city (e.g., Randstad)-open space (e.g., Groene Hart), seems to be changing dramatically.  There seems to be larger processes of social change and institutional transformation to which this system of key spatial concepts, assumptions, visions and images above may not be able to respond. What are the changes both in the societal context and in the institutional context that have reduced the power of these spatial key concepts?

For instance, over the recent years important social actors have published new planning documents that challenge the idea and the key notion of open space. A recent example is The Delta Metropolis Manifesto. This document was drawn up by the aldermen responsible for spatial planning in the four largest cities of the Netherlands. The Delta Metropolis Manifesto is a plea for stimulating housing and commercial development along corridors between and around the metropolitan areas of the large cities. This would lead to much more intensive contacts between the large cities and would strengthen the position of the area as a whole (much larger than the traditional ‘Randstad’) in European and global economic competition (Deltametropool (1998) De Deltametropool: Verklaring van de wethouders ruimtelijke ordening van Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Den Haag en Utrecht over de toekomstige verstedelijking van Nederland. Appendix of Stedebouw en Ruimtelijke Ordening, 79 (1998) No. 1. Deltametropool, 1998).. The Ministry of Agriculture also came up with a document on ‘urban landscapes’ in which it played with possible mixed use environments around cities intermingling ‘red’ and ‘green’. It aimed at an integrated approach to solving problems particular to the city (lack of amenity) and to the surrounding countryside that was undergoing rapid changes in particularly owing to a reclining agricultural usage. ‘Red’ could be made to pay for—high quality—‘green’ environments. This was a direct challenge to open space, that is, to the official planning concept of the compact city and the restrictive building policy for the green zones surrounding the urban regions. The Ministry of Economic Affairs published a paper ‘Space for Economic Activity’ (Ministerie van Economische Zaken, 1994) in which it argued for the reservation of additional space for economic activity. This spatial-economic strategy was reinforced by several publications pushing the idea of a corridor-oriented development of economic activity (Ministerie van Economische Zaken, 1997a). Here the motorway infrastructure is taken as the basis for the determination of the ideal locations of new business parks and distribution activities. This represents a challenge to open space, that is, it runs against the commitments of the official locational policy which is aiming at a concentration of labour intensive economic activities in the direct vicinity of nodes in the public transport system. Again, the spatial strategies are not congruent with the official line of the government. It would lead to an erosion of the compact city concept and, because of its orientation towards motorways and its claims of new ‘green field sites’ rather than the restructuring of established ‘brown field sites’ in the urban regions, it would have an unfavourable ecological balance and negative effect on open space. A similar story can be told for a document bearing the title (in translation) ‘Vision on urbanization and mobility’ by the Ministry of Traffic & Transport (Ministerie van Verkeer en Waterstaat, 1995) which argued for a spatial strategy that would take the existing infrastructure—the railway system in particular—as its starting point.  These documents and some others (see WRR, 1998, 98 ff.) all contained alternative ways of looking at current spatial trends and they all presented new policy approaches incongruent to the official planning policy (For an scenario that take the existing infrastructure—the railway system in particular—as its starting point without denying the issue of open landscape, see our “The history of landscape as seen from the train and the stations”).  Meanwhile, the core of Dutch planning (Fifth Report on Physical Planning, 2001) remains to build as compactly as possible. The Dutch government seems to have given up on the compact city in its original strict sense, but this does not mean that the national planners have lost their ambitions to regulate the urbanization process. The compact-city concept has been traded for the ‘network of cities’. The network of cities as the Dutch planners see it consists of a number of formerly monocentric urban regions integrated into a polycentric urban region, which is still very close in scale to the traditional monocentric urban regions (De ruimte van Nederland: Start-nota Ruimtelijke Ordening 1999. Den Haag: Ministerie van VROM. VROM, 1999).

Can we in these new contexts still think of the city as a bounded clearly demarcated unity (that is as a compact city or  “Randstad”) and of landscape as pastoral landscape (that is, as open space or “Groene Hart”)? Are these concepts being eroded? Can these current spatial concepts of Dutch spatial planning still form the basis of a system of strategic planning which is both effective and legitimate? And if not what are the alternatives? But most important, how are we to understand this background and this new context[3]? What are the main dimensions of this new emerging context and how are these dimensions to be translated into spatial and temporal patterns? What are the issues spatial planning will need to deal with in the years to come?


This is the information age, in which, we are told, biology is defined by a three-billion- letter instruction manual called the genome and human thoughts are analogous to digital bits flowing through a computer. And, we are warned, human intellect will soon be dwarfed by super-intelligent machines. All kinds of people, are happy to tell us information is the central metaphor, the best explanation of everything from biology to economics to aesthetics to child rearing, sex, you name it. Is this justified? Computer scientists themselves can not even agree on useful definitions of their field's most common terms, like "information" and "complexity," let alone the meaning and future of this revolution[vi]. Similar objections could be posed to notions such as “globalization[vii]” and the “internet[viii]

In what follows next we won’t pretend to have created the conceptual framework that would allow us to fully grasp the new context of planning. Time and space limitations won’t allow us to undertake a full review of approaches that too soon assume the “information age” as being the unitary causal mechanism that affects the organization of space. Suffice to say here that the problem with such approaches is that they continue to prioritize space over time. Yet we think that it is important to bring back time into the analysis of space in the contemporary situation (more on this later).

The Network Society

Take for instance the case of an emblematic figure in the Anglo-phone spatial literature, namely Manuel Castells that takes space as well as time seriously [4]. Castells’ starting point is what he and others refers to as the redefinition of the material foundations of our life, that is, of time and space. Social arrangements increasingly stretch across space[5]. For Castells there is then a historical intensification of disembededdness; the tearing apart of space away from place that Giddens has identified as a paradigmatic feature of modernity (Giddens 1990). The notions of time-space distantiation and time-space compression (Harvey 1996) seems to capture the multi-temporality of these  processes. The process of time-space distantiation involves the stretching of social relations over time and space so that relations can be controlled or coordinated over longer periods of time (including the ever more distant future) and longer distances, greater areas, or more scales of activity. Time-space compression involves the intensification of 'discrete' events in real time and/or the increased velocity of material and immaterial flows over a given distance.

Castells argues that this multi-temporality is a feature belonging to what he has called the ‘network society’. “Networks constitute the new morphology of our societies, and the diffusion of networking logic substantially modifies the operation and outcomes in processes of production, experience, power, and culture” (Castells, 1996 p. 469). Social actors (whether individuals, organizations or businesses) have always operated in networks, yet key to today’s society is that it operates with a substantially different sense of time and distance[6].

From the perspective of physical planning and design, one could take off from here and start by arguing that one of the main characteristics of this emerging context (or info-age) is a shift from “proximity to connectivity”. The next step will then be to distinguish a response which endeavours to restructure the system to comply to the requirements of a ‘network society’. Indeed, the recent “shift” from the notion of compact city to the idea of a networked city [7] may already suggest an interest in capturing these new emerging contexts and concepts and their implications for planning and design. The so-called shift from proximity to connectivity is then here translated as a shift from compact to networked city. From here onwards one can go wild and then start to translate these “emerging contexts” and its concepts and representations into the field of physical planning and design by for instance starting to define the spatial dimensions of the so-called networked society and then translate them into spatial patterns. Let us briefly review this approach.

From Networked Concepts and Contexts to Spatial Dimensions and Spatial Patterns.

The main spatial dimensions of the networked society include new technologies and customization and customer sensitivity.

New Technologies

An important element of the technological dimension of the network society may be the notion that in a network structure ‘proximity’ is less relevant for social organization. As result of this it is argued, a new spatial configuration emerges that can be characterized by describing the flows between ‘nodes’ (e.g., Castells space of flows[8]) rather than say, in terms of its land use patterns. The space of flows then refers to the technological and organizational possibility of organizing the simultaneity of social practices without geographical contiguity. Most dominant functions in our societies (financial markets, trans-national production networks, media systems etc.) are organized around the space of flows. And so do an increasing number of alternative social practices (such as social movements) and personal interaction networks.

Space of Flows?

Next to this comes the by-now familiar clarification, namely, that the space of flows does include a territorial dimension, as it requires a technological infrastructure that operates from certain locations, and as it connects functions and people located in specific places. Yet, the meaning and function of the space of flows depend on the flows processed within the networks, by contrast with the space of places, in which meaning, function, and locality are closely interrelated [ix].

It follows from this that the network society seems to undercut both, the idea of ‘proximity’ as orientation for planning and design, and the control of land use to influence socio-spatial developments. Since distances are increasingly measured in terms of time[9] locational strategies tend to opt for places that are optimal in terms of ‘connectivity’ rather than proximity.

PLACES OFCONNECTIVITY (See connectivity Scenario: The area around Booscoop.)

From here one could then argue that even in agriculture [x] much activity takes place in networks spread in space: there is no need to be close to markets as long as logistics and transport technologies can guarantee a swift delivery of goods at the appropriate places [10] (See for instance the  case of the  tree and flower value chain around Booscoop and Schiphol).

Area Around Bod-Koop

It is on the basis of this logic that it could be argued that the network society is a constellation that requires new spatial strategies. It also poses a direct challenge to the key planning concept of the compact city which, uses spatial proximity as its organizing principle [xi].

It then follows from this above that the new economic structures of the network society is the joint product of technological innovation, restructuring, privatization and new enterprise strategies. Technological innovation in transport and transport management has resulted in a reduction of the friction of distance through which space ‘shrinks’ by a general speeding up of movement[11].  Speed tends to annihilate space with time, the meaning of proximity changes and new forms of action at a distance emerge[12]. It is also argued that the emergence of telematics has led to revolutionary change in the organization of production processes allowing for a spatial separation of functionally interdependent activities managed by complex logistic systems (See Connectivity-Scenario above). To the degree that new technologies allow for the production of goods elsewhere (‘outsourcing’), and the rapid movement of goods, persons, money and ideas (‘electronic’ and ‘smart’ highways’, ‘just-in-time’ production) proximity is eroded.

And then comes once more the by-now familiar clarification. This trend towards dispersal is also accompanied by a trend towards concentration[13]. Firms distinguish between ‘front offices’ and ‘back offices’ and for the first category proximity seems even more important than before.  It is in this context that the "creative city" emerges here as a spatial strategy .( What is important to notice, however, is that all these developments and trends may undermine the current vision on the spatial-economic structure of the Netherlands which for instance, assumes that the larger cities are the areas where the expansion of the economy takes place[14]. See for instance our work on creative cities for agricultural innovation, The case of Boskoop).

The small town and the problem of trust and risk. Tim-Scapes

A second dimension of the network society is said to be the new patterns of consumptions-of which the  consumption of space by individuals is an important part. What seems to be occurring over the last decades is a shift away from a mostly quantitative search for housing, work and recreation towards an increasingly complex and diverse search for high quality locations. It is said that under the influence of a positive economic climate and a general social emancipation people have come to develop new consumer styles, also in terms of consuming space[15]. First, the consumption of space seems to have gone up in quantitative terms. For instance, there seems to be evidence for an increase in the space per household in The Netherlands. This may be the case for both urban environments (e.g. in the call for larger apartments) as well as for suburban and non-urban environments (more demand for single family houses with garden, a rising number of people living outside the urban regions). Second, the consumption of space has made a qualitative turn. People have become the consumers of ‘places’ rather than—abstract—spaces. They have very high expectations of the environments in which they live, recreate or work[16]

Third, it is also said that as result of the individualization that has resulted from the general emancipatory process and that emerges as a characteristic of network societies, new social relations emerge where people no longer depend on the traditional pre-given biographical stories, but put together their own biographies[17]. There is not another possible social form - a form constituting something - in this approach that could for instance be considered like the reverse side of the contemporary experience of individualization. One could then also suggest that this process translates itself into new spatial patterns and argue that even if the metropolitan centres will remain the most intense concentration of different social networks, it is increasingly normal for people to participate in urban networks but live in preferred environments at greater distances from the urban centres or vice versa (See, scenario: Networked-communities).

It can also be said from this perspective that trends towards the formation of both, working-patterns characterized by flexible contracts and  households made up of two income earners, contribute to the formation of socio-spatial patterns in which work, recreation and dwelling are spread across space and with little stability over time. The attempt of the planning system to concentrate these activities in and around the existing confined urban regions (as in the case of Vinex-policy) may not be (and has not by now  been) able to prevent this general dispersal of households and activities. Not the city centre of a well defined urban region but people’s own home and residential area form the functional centre but also symbolic or mental core of a large urban field[18].

It would then follow from this detour around the idea of the “information-age” and the “networked society” that key spatial concepts in Dutch spatial planning such as Randstad, Green Heart and Open Space, are therefore seriously challenged, especially the assumption that the activities of people should be limited to the confines of urban regions, measured in physical distance from the city centre. What is more, this brief detour also suggests that successful urban and regional development now requires active design of space to create the ‘places’ that appeal to actors looking for a place to live, recreate or work or a combination of all of them (We are researching these issues under the heading Investigating Landscape [xii]).

INVESTIGATING LANDSCAPE. The question that interest us can be stated as follows: How do people construct narratives and practices of home in a world of movement? Are, the sense of belonging and of movement or displacement relationally produced?. Such view of home may entail an historical intensification of disembededdness.  This feature,  would seem to push people to invest place and home with personal agency to counter these tendencies. We propose to start to address these issues by first investigating different perspectives on place consumption (See separated paper: perspectives on place consumption). From here we will move into an investigation of Places as one pervasive component of leisure and tourism. Leisure and tourism include encounters with place. Encounters with other people and material things, imagination and memory occur in places. In social science increasing attention is being given to the human individual as productive in everyday practices, as producer rather than consumer (Places, leisure and tourism).


A preliminary conclusion here would be as follows: the emerging picture of the spatial organization of the network society (in the Netherlands) is dominated by a general scaling up of social processes. As suggested above, so far the intention was to achieve ‘spatial quality’ by keeping the countryside area open through a concentration of urbanization in the urban regions through the twin concept of Green Heart and Randstad. The new features of the network society[19] push a more dispersed patterns of settlement.[20] In various regions of the Netherlands the pace of urbanization has been such that whole stretches between the official urban regions have now changed face in light of unplanned piecemeal settlements. This all happened despite the fact that official policies did not allow for such developments[21]

All this above is of course all right, but what has happened to the time dimension in the mean time?

Nothing seems to return here in the network society

UNPLEASANT QUESTIONS concerning the emerging socio-spatial context-the network society-, of planning/design practice.

It is not too difficult to agree with most of what was suggested above concerning our first elaboration on the dimensions of the emerging networked society and the translation of these dimensions into spatial patterns. Yet this manner of elaborating these dimensions and of translating them into spatial patterns seems still rather limited.  Thus we need to problematize all this above as follows.

First, the three dimensions above are driving forces-technology, customization, and globalization-that are integral to the creativity and productivity of dynamic market economies.  Take for instance the force of customization of product and services and the concerns for customer convenience and life style. To focus on customer sensitivity, would mean for instance, to look at the issue of open space within the transformation of entertainment and leisure time activities which had been for the most part family affairs or public activities and have begun to migrate to the market place, where they are made into commercial services of various sorts (For more on this, See our proposal for a National Urban Park).

Yet while a focus on customer sensitivity would enable us to address our preferences as consumers and as producers, such a focus may force us deny the importance of needs such as personal autonomy and social cohesion. The point that needs to be noticed here is that the institutions that served these other needs (needs such as autonomy and social cohesion that are not withering away), namely the standard employment relation, the institution of careers and patterns of working life-, are being undermined by this very same focus on customer sensitivity when one looks at it in relation to technology and globalization. And as these institutions (the standard employment relation and the institution of careers), that serve these needs decline, one the central planks of middle class life-the same class for whom the trilogy open space-highway-shopping mall, is the symbol of property relationships-, is also removed. These changes in patterns of working life, this ambiguous freedom that accompanies individualization, this liberation also de-traditionalizes values and the social relations that they embody (For more on this see proposal for The City as a Branding Environment in Boosscoop).

If we were to measure For men, this transition was crucial in both relative and absolute values. In 1856 about 150 thousand hours of a male's lifetime were spent at the workplace and only some 91 thousand hours outside it (not considering physiological time). The former figure decreased to some 88 thousand hours, while the latter increased threefold to about 256 thousand non-work hours in 1981. In other words, from 1856 to 1981 the fraction of the disposable lifetime of a UK male spent working fell from three-fifths to one-fourth, with the crossover from a majority of work to non-work occurring around 1900.The emergence of new patterns of consumption

The second dimension of the network society above still needs to be studied in relation to the dominance of consumption, or the non-productive sphere (to use a term formerly employed in socialist economies) of social activity in industrialized countries. The hypothesis here is that the change may be related to to changes in the ratio between non-work time and work time (the eroding relative position of work time) and that this change may be expressed throughout the economy, for example in the energy sector, where demand for personal transport and residential purposes exceeds industrial demand (Schipper et al., 1989).

The formalized work contract has historically become the central issue in industrialized countries. It does not only regulate the standard of life, but is also the most important factor for social integration. The economic crisis and rapid technological change have created a shortage of jobs, and labor-market policies try to find new ways for redistribution (shortening of working time, more flexible working hours, job sharing). Nevertheless, formal work seems to lose its traditional unique and central place. One indicator for this are the growing discussions on the importance of other, ´informal' sectors of work and service. When looking at work in such a general sense we are faced with the big problem of having to find a new equilibrium between the historically established sector of guaranteed employment and other (still) informal sectors. (Eurosocial, 1983). Due to this eroding relative position of work time one could put forward the hypothesis that work time and alternative uses of time compete for the individual's total time (We won't test this hypothesis now. Suffice to say now that To test the hypothesis, a standard of total life hours would be necessary. Historical data on longevity (as that elaborated by for instance Flora et al., 1987) would provide the standard for retrospective analysis. Demographic models are available to project future total life hours. Historical data (Figure 6) fit well to a logistic function, which projects life expectancy increasing by about 5% over the next few decades, to almost 80 years on average for men and women. Comparing life hours of work to total disposable, active non-work hours yields the fractions of the lifetime time budget at work and other activities).

The ultimate implication of this individualization of risk is that the individual himself or herself becomes the reproduction unit of the social in the life world. For the individual this floating free from both security and tradition means being faced with choices in place of established paths with their supporting norms and expectations. The autonomous ability to re-programme one’s own personality, in interaction with an environment of networks, becomes the crucial feature for psychological balance, replacing the strengthening of a set personality, embedded in established values. In this ‘risk society’ (Beck 1992), the management of anxiety is the most useful personal skill. Two conflicting modes of interpersonal interaction may emerge here: on the one hand, self-reliant communes, anchored in their non-negotiable sets of beliefs; and on the other hand, networks of ever shifting individuals (See Scenarios).

Thus it is as if for the networked society approach there is no a possible social form in the contemporary experience of individualization. We would like to suggest that such an understanding of the "disembedding" of modern selves in contemporary post-traditional societies ignores the expansion of object-centred environments which situate and stabilize selves, define individual identities just as much as communities or families used to do, and promote forms of sociality that feed on and supplement the forms of sociality studied by social scientists. Our general take on the desocializing forces and experiences of current transitions is that they need to be confronted with a postsocial model of sociality: one that brings into view objects as the risk winners of the relationship risks which many authors find inherent in contemporary human relations, and object-relations as a category of relationships that are perhaps increasingly competing with human relations. One distinctive characteristic of the contemporary scenario could be that perhaps for the first time in recent history it appears unclear whether, for individuals, other persons are indeed the most fascinating part of their environment - the part we are most responsive to and devote most attention to (see also Turkle, 1995). With this idea we attempt to take this possibility seriously and to soften some boundaries that have been made rigid by previous approaches that we are developing elsewhere. See Betancourth, The city as a technological site. 2001).

What is of interest here is then the open range of cultural forms which transcend common definitions of the social order but which are manifest today in a variety of settings. These forms include high risk behavior in relation to natural environments (e.g., skydiving); definitions of identity in terms of object principles and categories which emerge from the analysis of consumer behavior and shopping malls. What these forms have in common is that they involve "object-relations" with non-human things which challenge and to some degree replace human relations. Other forms may include collective disembodied systems generated in a symbolic space, for example forms of human interaction mediated by and constituted through communication technologies. These are forms that arise in circumstances where interaction, space, and even communication appear to mean something different from our accustomed understanding of the terms. How the characteristics of social interaction change when the technological is the natural, and the social space is a computer code, is an open question that needs to be answered by empirical studies (We are in a different paper-The City as A technological site-, focusing on these kind of emerging cultural forms in an area where the object is both human and non-human: financial markets in financial centers).

Second, the idea of a network society assumes the existence of a global capitalism. We still need to deal with the problem of sustainability of this form of global capitalism. First, the main claim above, shared by mainstream and left theories alike, is that global-capitalism is the hegemonic, even the only present form of economy, and that it will continue to be so in the foreseeable future. In this view, global capitalism has been endowed with such dominance and hegemony, that it has become impossible to think social reality differently. All other realities (subsistence economies, “biodiversity economies”, Third World forms of resistance, cooperatives and minor local initiatives, the recent barter and solidarity economies in various parts of the world, etc.) are thus seen as opposite, subordinate, or complementary to global-capitalism, never as sources of a significant economic difference (For some interesting alternatives, see for instance, the case of Porto Alegre Brazil at, www.portoalegre.rs.gov.br/ See also, http://www.forumsocialmundial.org.br/). Such critique applies to most theories of globalization and even of post-development, to the extent that the latter situate global capitalism “at the center of development narratives, thus tending to devalue or marginalize possibilities of noncapitalist development”[22]. By criticizing global-capitalocentrism, we could seek to liberate our ability for seeing non-capitalisms and building alternative economic imaginaries. Such reinterpretation would challenge the inevitability of capitalist “penetration” that is assumed in much of the literature on globalization. Under these conditions, is it possible to launch a defense of place in which place and the local do not derive their meaning only from their juxtaposition to the global[23].

Third, the notion of individualization cannot be seen separated from a complex and permanent struggle between forces of de-traditionalization and forces of re-traditionalization.  Fourth, risk needs still to be positioned within what is being called here, the ‘network society’. Fifth, the notion of network society is still informed by a rather arid oppositions of networks of flows and inhabited place, or Cartesian space and Archimedean place[24], that is the clash of supposedly abstract space of international flows and the habitable places of personal knowledge— as though habitation was local and information was distant. But what if we do not just see information moving through the world but as creating new spaces? Then we have not just a problematic about representing the city but information creating new forms of habitation that fuse the global and local, the fluid and static. We have to think of a space that incorporates turbulence into its fabric rather than being opposed to it[25]

Last but not the least all these transformations still need to be studied in the context of the 'retreat from the welfare state' (In the Netherlands spatial planners have focused on this retreat primarily by attention to the housing sector (Dieleman 1996; Van Kempen and Van Weesep 1997; Priemus 1995, 1997, 1998; Salet 1999). The lack of broader attention is especially highlighted in the Progress Report on Structural Reforms in the Netherlands published by the national Ministry of Economic Affairs. In its goal of creating a more limited welfare state, this report specifically singled out spatial planning regulations not as an asset but as a problem for the future economic welfare of the nation.

Granted. In his recent work Castells claims that informational capitalism involves a 'mixing of tenses', the shattering of 'linear, irreversible, measurable, predictable time', and the emergence of 'timeless time'. These ideas seem to parallel his emphasis on the growing importance of 'space of flows', which we might think of, by analogy, as 'placeless place'. Castells thinks of the space of flows as others have thought of the Internet previously, that is, a placeless data sphere[xiii]. Castells argues that capital is now freed from time, escapes the contexts of its existence, and operates globally in real time (that is, in a placeless datasphere), thanks to new information and communication technologies; moreover, time can now create money (or generate rents) 'as everybody bets on and with future money anticipated in computer projections' (1996: 433-6).  More generally, he notes that time is managed as a resource, not according to the linear, chronological logic of mass production, but as a differential factor in reference to the temporality of other firms, networks, processes or products. Timeless time, he claims, is the dominant temporality of our society and characterized by compression to produce instantaneity or else by the elimination of sequencing in favour of random discontinuity (1996: 464). This transformation of time is a further feature of the globalizing network economy alongside the rise of a 'space of flows' and 'real virtuality'. Whilst recognizing the importance of time, however, Castells continues to prioritize space as a a placeless datasphere[26]. For he argues that 'timeless time belongs to the space of flows, while time discipline, biological time, and socially-determined sequencing characterize places around the world, materially structuring and destructuring our segmented societies. Space shapes time in our society, thus reversing a historical trend: flows induce timeless time, places are time-bounded' (1996: 465).

As suggested above, if we were to follow this approach in our research on open space all we could say is that because in agriculture much activity takes place in networks spread in space, here is no need to be close to markets as long as logistics and transport technologies can guarantee a swift delivery of goods at the appropriate places (See for instance the  case of the  tree and flower value chain around Booscoop and Schiphol, In Boskop study). Thus what one misses in the network society approach is an engagement with the long history of time rationalization one observes also at work in the agricultural landscape: machines and Fordist methods to speed up production processes; Taylorism to rationalize individual workers' actions; flexibilization to adapt to the variable patterns of production, service and consumption; the 'Just-in-time' system to cut from production all elements of non-productive which means non-profitable time (and space); geno-technology to eliminate from the breeding process the time of generational succession; the genetic engineering of food being perhaps the crowing glory of this rationalization of time. Thus the problem of open space in the context of global city regions require that we take time to take time into consideration. How do we propose to do this?



In Search of Alternatives:

Images of nature and culture in-forming the concept of open space:

Bringing time into open space.


The  concepts of open space and nature informing policy (The pair compact city/open space), are very similar to lay concepts of nature. Images such as “wildlife, animals and plants, countryside and fields, woodlands and mountains, rivers; lakes, the sea, earth, wind and fire”, these are also some of the most popular images of nature[27]. They can be characterized as pop images of nature. What is of interest to us here is that similar to the concept of open space informing policy[28], these images are also developed in sharp contrast and great distance to city lives. Nature is defined as “other”-from self, humans and culture-, and away from the hassle and traffic of the city; its smells, built up areas, its people, and its social structures of control. Nature as the countryside and its inhabitants is associated with pleasant feelings, a romantic vision of a wholesome world beyond the corrupting influences of the city.

Ideal Type Images of nature: Postcards, Forces, Environments, Landscapes.

If we were to define ideal types, we may then be able to talk of city-based images of nature that conceive of nature as external to ourselves and associate nature with the country-side, wildlife and positive, romantic feelings. These city based images of nature have an a-temporal, universal and abstract quality. They portray a pleasant but rather unfamiliar, almost alien world of picture postcards and holidays, television programmes and school outings. Like the notion of open-space, the city-dweller’s images and visions of nature are references to physical phenomena without activity and process, externalized outcomes of processes that have been de-contextualized and de-temporalized.

Nature is here considered as that which is uncontaminated by human activity and production.


The small informal investigation with city-dwellers also suggest a differentiation between on the one hand, urban and rural conceptions, and on the other, between images of nature and those of the environment and landscape. Thus members of rural farming communities may credit nature with active powers. They may describe nature as something that functions without and despite of human activity. In the rural conception of nature humans still influence her but this influence is distinguished from control since humans are considered to have no control over nature (over tides and seasons, wind and weather, the changing lengths of night and day).

Nature in the urban version is that which we can observe with our senses (nature’s products such as mountains, lakes, trees and animals). Nature in the rural version is understood as the temporally constituted dimension, the force (beyond the senses)  that gives rise to those observable phenomena, the invisible energy that is recognizable only through its products. Nature is that which farmers ”battle” against and engage with on a daily basis. It may also be recognized as that which returns to haunt (See Vermeer's Delft below)  them when successes have turned into excesses, when for example, ever increasing growth rates and yields have resulted in soil degradation and new diseases of plants, animals and people which are shrouded in mystery, uncertainties, rumours and hearsay. We will return to this logic of the return in another paper when we will be dealing with markets, consumption and disposal. Suffice to say here that when this nature as an absent force unexpectedly returns or attains a presence and shocks us into recognition of its significance, it could be said that the management of this absent force has not worked effectively. We see this most clearly when expected processes are unfinished or are carried out in an ineffective manner. The representational figure of unfinished processes is the ghost and its agency is expressed in the idea of haunting. To get rid of ... almost. It is the not-quite-fully-gotten-rid-of that raises itself up to speak to us in the form of a ghost. Therein lies its power to haunt. What is important for us to notice here is that as a figure of unfinished disposal, the ghost’s power resides principally in its ability to fold and unsettle the linear sense of time.  We generally measure the life of a thing, whether it be an object of art, a useful tool or a building in a city through a linear, temporal sequence as if using human life as our measure: production, consumption, disposal. We make things in factories, workshops and design studios, we consume them in our homes, offices and cities and they end up, depending on how they are valued, as either rubbish thrown into the gutter or as antiquities conserved forever in the museum or gallery - too useless/precious to remain available to hand. Such a sequence not only brings temporality into the understanding of a thing but it does so through a language of the subject’s temporality: production, consumption, disposal is the palimpsest of birth, life and death. And yet even in human terms the dead are rarely so fully disposed of (Marx, 1978). Time does not always flow in this way. As a figure of unfinished disposal, the ghost’s power resides principally in its ability to fold and unsettle this linear sense of represented time by standing outside of any knowable sequence of events. The idea of production, consumption and disposal is just one such sequence that is ruptured by this ability to linger and to return after one has gone. Moreover, the figure of the ghost generally questions this issue of temporality through an unsettling of the order of space. To haunt is to remain where one does not belong; it is to blur the ordering of space through a folding of time. The ghost puts us in contact with another space, out of time. Ghosts do not speak the language of representation, indeed they are defined precisely by an ability to unsettle representational order (As we will argue in a different paper, one important space in our modern world where we find such ghosts is in the city. [xv].).

As threats to bases of existence, however, these kind of problems are no longer “out there” environmental problems. Instead, they are understood in terms of the conflictual interaction with nature, as pushing back the boundaries of nature, going against nature by imposing “unnatural” measures, and nature retaliating.


Is Vermeer's Delft haunted? Vermeer's Delft is somewhere you'd want to live. Bu, is Vermeer's View of Delft a vulnerable illusion? It's a slender presence - a thin band of brick between the clouds and that deep, still harbour. Above, a raincloud menaces the light on the rooftops. Below, the shadows of the walls in the water have a terrible solidity - a second, deathly world glimpsed in the water. Mortality threatens this town. Vermeer's Delft seems haunted, a city whose survival is not certain, because nothing is.

Despite the differences in urban and rural conceptions of nature they also share some approaches. In both cases, nature may be identified with reference to that which it is not: arti-facts, culture, self, humans and in the rural case, the cultivated world of agriculture. Nature is defined as “other”, as that which is not created by humans, by being contrasted with the familiar and that which is known.

A second shared conception may relate to the environment. In contrast to nature as “other”, environment may be defined in a human-centered way as both the place and surroundings where we live work and relax. Moreover, it may be related not just to where but how we live. Talking of the environment, city-dwellers may take account of the human impact on nature as such their imagery may be negative and gloomy. Urban dweller’s images of the environment (images associated with road construction and pollution, destruction of the countryside and disasters such as oil spills, radiation and floods, the hole on the ozone layer), may then be negatively tied to the human impact on nature (in turn seen as an idyllic picture of countryside and wildlife and warm feelings) . In the farming communities the human impact on the environment may be conceived more in terms of the hard work of cultivation: maintaining hedges, keeping fields productive, processing effluent. As they see themselves more engaged at an everyday level with environmental matters, their conception may not be predominated by disasters and global hazards. 

It is this interactive component in these images and associations that transform the place where people live into an environment that is relative to the context within which it is constructed in mutuality. Thus the environment could be a bathroom with bather, a gardened garden, or the polluted atmosphere in conjunction with power stations providing energy for homes and work places, driving vehicles emitting exhaust fumes, and cattle farms producing methane. This context refers not only to spatial but temporal locations and horizons, the when and over what period of specific actions and processes. It is then the connection to how we live that turn spaces into landscapes of time of mutual influence and construction.


The roof, the prime spot in many an urban life for sunbathing, picnicking, social gatherings, gardening, smooching and more.


An old subway car making a splash off the Delaware coast. New York is dumping hundreds of the cars to create reefs where sea life can thrive

Such environment-time (the “when and for how long”) is the time of history, calendars and clocks, of seasons and diurnal cycles. It provides the external frame work within which actions are placed and excuted. It is a time that operates independent of human actions, an objective parameter that allows us to locate actions in a temporal grid and consider questions of timing and speed.


Beyond this backcloth to phenomena and processes, there is an additional aspect of time which is central to the above concepts and images of nature and environment. This time is less easily accessible and less tangible than the time of seasons, clock and calendars. It is a time sensed but merely talked about, a time that is internal to phenomena and constructed in interaction.

To briefly illustrate the difference between these times, let us return to the city-dweller’s images of nature.

His visions are references to physical phenomena without activity and process, externalized outcomes of processes that have been de-contextualized and de-temporalized. The rural image of nature as force take into consideration the internal generative force of phenomena and processes. Without the time-space of activity and processes, nature remains abstract and remote, detached from self and humanity. Nature is then a force that constitutes temporality. This temporality may originate in the interactive principles of relationality an of interactivity, principles that create asymmetry and with it difference and change; difference and change being the preconditions for there to be time. Perfect symmetry is an a-temporal state that is broken at the point of interaction. Such interactivity is the start of sociability[29]



When we look at a landscape, we see historical records of activity of wind, weather and climate, of the growth cycle of nature, culture, animals and human life. Consistently lopsided trees, may indicate coastal winds and the nearby sea. Hedges and stone walls may tell us about human agricultural activity even when there are no homes or people engaged in such activities to be seen. In short,  a landscape is a record of forces generating activity; it is a chronicle of life and dwelling. That is, the visible phenomena making up the landscape have the invisible constituing activity embedded within them. The landscape thus includes in its representation, spatial and temporal ABSENCES. It tells the story of forces, of interactions that have given rise to its existence. From the point of view of the observer, a landscape cannot be objective knowledge, since what observers can see depends on their prior knowledge, power of deduction and imagination. The scape of landscape-whether landscape, cityscape or seascape-, arises from the interactive unity of observer and observed, material phenomena and forces inaccessible to the sense, visible and invisible influences[30].

In addition, landscapes even when seen as simple ecosystems are highly complex.

Images of nature, culture, environment, and landscape.

The following points are of importance here:

·         A landscape is a record, a memory of constitutive activity[31]

·         It includes spatial and temporal absences

·         It combines natural and cultural activities into a unified whole.

·         It is related to the eye of the beholder.

Complexity in the landscape is present for many reasons, but most many sources of complexity can be grouped into the categories described below.


Even the simplest ecosystems are highly complex. Complexity in the environment is present for many reasons, but most many sources of complexity can be grouped into the categories described below.

The spatial scale. Many influences of the world's environment come from sources outside the Earth's biosphere. The sun, the moon, meteors and geomagnetism all influence life on Earth. But even if considering only our biosphere, the sheer scale involved in global environmental management is immense. The planet's surface area totals over 509,000,000 square kilometres. Simply monitoring one factor (say, surface temperature) across such vast tracts is a huge task. Thorough monitoring of all environmental factors or even rudimentary research of the entire surface of the Earth is currently impossible. Whilst modern technology can help (e.g. remote sensing), it generates huge volumes of data that must somehow be stored, collated and interpreted (Klomp, N.I., Green, D.G. and Fry, G. 1997)

The temporal scale Many environmental processes occur over geological or evolutionary time. Even successional or micro-evolutional processes usually take place over time periods much longer than a human life.

The number of organisms. Taxonomists have described about 1.5 million species (Wilson, E.O. 1992). The total number of species is not known, but is estimated to be somewhere between 10 million and 100 million. At the current pace it would take at least another 300 years of taxonomic research simply to document them all. However it is not sheer numbers of species that make the living world complex, but rather the enormous variety of ways in which they combine and interact. For instance, suppose that 100 species inhabit a region; then there are 4,950 possible pairs of interacting species. However, when we look at possible combinations, the possibilities blow out to astronomical proportions. There are over (6.33 X 10 19) ways in which we can select communities of 10 species at a time. For communities of 50 species at a time, this number rises to over (10 93 )combinations. This complexity increases further by orders of magnitude when the interactions of biotic and abiotic factors within an ecosystem are considered.

Criticality. An important example of complexity, especially in landscapes, is the phase change between connected and fragmented population distributions (Green, D.G. 1989). For instance, if we remove small patches forest from a landscape then the forest as a whole retains its integrity. However if clearing continues (at random), then instead of small patches breaking off, the entire system remains connected until a critical point, whereupon it breaks down into many isolated fragments (Green, D.G. 1994). Such criticality or abrupt phase changes have now been documented in many natural systems (Bull, C.M. and Possingham, H. 1995), from pest and disease epidemics (Green, D. 1997) to fire behaviour in forests (Green, D.G. 1989).

Non-linear interactions and feedback loops. One of the most important results to spring from ecological transect studies is that environmental factors alone do not fully explain the spatial distributions of organisms. For instance, competition between species often truncates distributions along an environmental gradient (Pielou, E.C. 1974). These results imply that ecosystems are not controlled in simple linear, fashion by external (i.e. abiotic) factors, but by interaction of biotic and abiotic factors within a system (Bull 1995]). Networks of interactions between species are a major source of complexity in ecosystems. Interactions between pairs of species can take many forms, such as predation and competition. Feedback loops are especially common in multi-species systems. In populations with seasonal reproduction, delays arising from feedback tend to produce cyclic behaviour. They can also lead to non-linear and chaotic dynamics (May, R.M. 1976). Complexity in an ecosystem (as measured by species richness) does not necessarily imply stability (May, 1972; 1974; 1976). One reason for this is that any random collection of interacting species is likely to contain at least one positive feedback loop, which destabilises the system and leads to local extinction of one or more species (Tregonning, K. and Roberts, A. 1979).

Human influence on natural systems. Human influences on ecosystems tend to be disturbances that disrupt any semblance of equilibrium. Two of the most far-reaching of these disturbances have been land clearing and the introduction of exotic species. In many cases the effects are unintended side effects. Examples include wildfires, spread of diseases, pollution, salinisation, and desertification, to name just a few. In every case the disturbances force ecosystems away from equilibrium and can lead to local extinctions or other abrupt changes. In addition to making ecosystems more complicated (or more difficult to manage), humans influence the management of ecosystems by directing goals and agendas in ways that require environmental management decisions to be based on much more than ecological knowledge. This has led to the recent, rapid increase in the use of decision support models by land managers (Klomp, N.I., Green, D.G. and Fry, G. 1997).

Some of the main effects of these sources of complexity at work in the landscape above may be as follow:

Local interactions can produce global effects. Although reductionism has served science well, we must recognise that it fails badly in trying to make sense of environmental processes. Above we highlighted a few examples of the ways in which interactions between different populations can have unexpected effects. It has long been common practice in ecology to study individual populations separately (``autecology'') , without reference to the ways they interact with other populations. Other reductionist practices include breaking down community level dynamics into studies of physiology and other responses at the level of individuals. A good example is the way in which dispersal (interactions between sites in a landscape) can affect the dynamics of whole ecosystems Rare species tend to form clumped distributions which help them to persist in the face of superior competitors. Simulation studies suggest that this process provides one mechanism which maintains high diversity in tropical rainforests. Field studies confirm that rainforest contain just a few common, widespread species, and many rare species. All of these rare species have clumped distributions. By not fully understanding such dynamics, conservation, management and research can be rendered ill-conceived or ineffective.

Systems can be inherently unpredictable. Sensitivity to initial conditions is a well-known phenomenon in non-linear systems, and one of the hallmarks of chaos. It is especially common in ecology where so many interactions are non-linear [Noble, I.R. and Slatyer, R. 1979]. As an example, consider what happens if the connectivity of a landscape is near the critical region mentioned earlier. Under such conditions the size and composition of connected patches becomes extremely variable so the outcome of processes that involve spread through a connected patch, such as fire, epidemics, and invasions, become inherently unpredictable [Green, D.G. 1994; Green, D. 1997]. Likewise the addition of a single exotic species to an ecosystem alters the web of interactions between species, perhaps creating a potentially devastating positive feedback loop where none existed before [Tregonning, K. and Roberts, A. 1979 ]. The need to cope with unpredictability highlights the importance of tools such as simulation models. Simulation allows us to carry out virtual experiments. In environmental management such experiments are often impossible to carry out in practice, either because they would take too long (e.g. forest succession) or because they would be too damaging (e.g. burning down an entire forest). Although exact prediction may be impossible simulation makes it possible to examine ways of dealing with many potential scenarios. ·

There is no balance of nature. The idea that nature is in equilibrium - a cornerstone of much thinking within the environmental movement - arises from several sources. Perhaps the most important is the exceedingly long time scale of many processes in forest ecosystems, as mentioned earlier. Individual trees often live for many hundreds of years and simple succession - the replacement of one community by another - can take literally thousands of years to complete [Green, D. 1982 J]. The fact that forests change so slowly gives the false impression that they are in equilibrium. The equilibrium assumption underlies many ideas in theoretical ecology. For instance, Macarthur and Wilson's theory of island biogeography suggested that for any island there is an equilibrium number of species that it can sustain (Macarthur, R.H. and Wilson, E.O. 1967). However growing understanding of the large scale and long-term dynamics of ecosystems make equilibrium assumptions increasingly untenable. For example Clements' theory assumed that succession leads to an equilibrium climax state [Clements, F.E. 1916 ]. This theory dominated plant ecology for most of the twentieth century, until evidence accumulated for other kinds of dynamics, such as chronically disturbed ecosystems [Noble, I.R. and Slatyer, R. 1979] and long-term instabilities in vegetation history [Davis, M.B. 1976; Green, D. 1982 ]. Perhaps more importantly the urgent need to address environmental management, especially in disturbed ecosystems, is forcing ecologists to search for non-equilibrium models.

The Serendipity Effect. Combining different datasets together often leads to unexpected discoveries. That is serendipity occurs. The probability of serendipity increases exponentially with the number of different datasets available. So large repositories of data are almost certain to be rich sources of new insights about environmental processes [Green, D.G. 1994].


Such complexity and its effects require some sort of machine vision. Such understanding of the landscape may differ from the images of nature and culture discussed above which are defined negatively in relation to each other: culture as the product of humans and not of nature; nature as that which is created without the aid of humans and which functions despite of human activity. A landscape perspective is then inclusive.[32] It gathers up sources of knowledge from both material and immaterial, visible and invisible sources. Such transcendence of materialistic and dualistic approaches becomes crucial for a our understanding of a world of globalized human activity characterized by the manufacturing of uncertainty and risk. It becomes relevant for a context in which “cultivated” nature is affected by human nature and thus in a context in which such acculturated nature RETURNS boomerang fashion as hazards constituting the always pressing conditions for re-action (An interesting and contemporary example is the recent return of the mad cow disease in North England. 11 nieuwe MKZ-gevallen in Engeland Uitgegeven: 28-8-2001 7:29 LONDEN - Het aantal gevallen van de ziekte mond- en klauwzeer in het noorden van Engeland is nog niet tot staan gekomen. Maandag bleek dat de ziekte op nog eens twee boerderijen is uitgebroken. Daarmee komt het totale aantal MKZ-haarden in vier dagen op elf. Dinsdag 28 augustus 2001. www.nu.nl).

Thus the kind of knowledge that is entailed in such a landscape perspective may constitute an excellent base upon which to develop a sensitivity to the complex temporalities of our contemporary existence. The notions of landscapes of temporality; thematic landscape; time-scapes; task-scapes; etc, seek to achieve an extension of the landscape perspective that allows us to develop an analogous receptiveness to temporal interdependencies and absences, and to grasp environmental problems and questions of space and landscape as complex temporal, contextually specific wholes, that is, as holograms[33]. This may involve a shift of focus from space to time and from the visible to the invisible forces that are outside the capacity of our senses. Since we don’t have a sense organ for time, we need the entire complement of our senses working in unison with our imagination before we can experience its workings in our bodies and the environment. Such an effort at the level of imagination is needed if we are to be able to take account in our dealings with the city and time[34], that is, the environment of pace and intensity, contingency and context dependence, time distantiation and intergenerational impacts, rhythmi-city and time scale of change, timing and tempo, irreversibility and indeterminacy, the influence of the past and the projection into an open future.

It could be in a certain sense be suggested that there is a gradual loss of faith here in natural perception and the age-old act of seeing (and thus in the reality principle). What we see is no longer given by our eyes but by visual technologies and our instruments (prosthetic visual devices) and their scientific interpretation. Everything one sees in the landscape is not within the reach of my sight, it is not marked on the map of the "I can". In addition to the technical devices that automate s perception, the whole panoply of issues raised by the digital image undermines faith in natural perception of open landscape also. This includes the virtuality of the digital image, that is, the fact that unlike say a photographic image, it is not a physical inscription of any this-has-been. Related issues include the instantaneity of telecommunications above all the displacement of duration by real time, the institutionalization of certain forms of blindness, and the development of stealth technology (We will develop this further in vision technologies. See Graph below). Thus Complexity theory uses mathematical formulae and powerful computers to characterise the enormously large number of iterative events that occur in systems, such as a pile of sand. In particular experiments, examining increases in the reproduction patterns of gypsy moths showed, through resulting changes in population size, dramatic non-linear changes in the quality of the system. Changes in the parameter resulted in transformations in the system; in certain contexts, order generates chaos (Baker 1993: 133).

To conclude this section: It seems then as if the notion of open space at work in policy and planning  is in-formed by such city based a-temporal images of nature as those briefly described above. These images portray a pleasant but unfamiliar world of picture postcards and holidays, tv programmes; etc. The visions of the city dweller refer to the physicality of nature (mountains, forest, countryside and birds) without activity and process, they refer to external outcome of process that have been de-contextualized and de-temporalized. The understanding of nature informing policy then remains unchanged. This concept of nature is the dominant everyday concept at work in Western Industrial Societies.  Nature means here what it means for city dwellers: green fields and pretty countryside existing out there (in the edge of the Randstad just below the red border) as a place for leisure, recreation, stress relief, aesthetic consumption and redemption. This is a concept informed by a nature-culture as well as a mind-body divide. This is a naturalistic view of landscape as neutral, external backdrop in human activities As suggested above, the city is here seen as exercising a negative influence on the landscape. The relation between city and landscape is perceived hierarchically as that of a contoured figure against a passive background. The concept of the compact city and open space aims at preserving and strengthening this contrast between city and country.

Yet, thIS brief review on images of nature above also suggests that it is difficult to sustain this distinction between nature and culture informing the concept of compact city and of open space. Nature is not external to human knowledge and involvement. As we will argue below, open space is always already a design and a technological space. Thus talking about scarcity of open space-when the later is defined as a nature free of human and technical intervention-, may not bring us too far. After all, agriculture (that to which we seem to be referring as open space) has already changed the face of the landscape. Indeed, farmers have already interfered with nature by domesticating animals, by needing to move on after an areas’ fertility had declined as a result of their activity, by tampering with growth cycles and maturation processes through their animal and plant breeding programmers, by controlling the process of decay through methods of storage and preservation of seeds and food.

We then need an approach that takes in the generative time of phenomena and processes.  To bring time to open space means to pay attention to the country-side  and its re-generation. So we need a perspective that includes what is seen and what is not seen. Such inclusiveness is fundamental to understand open space in a world of globalized local activity that alters the territory radically.  It becomes fundamental to a context in which nature is affected by human activity and technology. It is to this that we now turn our attention.

Open Space and Technology

Is Open Space Free of Technical and urban interference?

Animals grazing peacefully on a hillside, waves lapping gently up the pebble beach, a pine forest whistling in a storm, a river bursting its banks, all are idyllic images of nature. Can we be sure, however, that this is nature in the conventional meaning of the word, that is, the result of forces uncontaminated by human activity and production? What becomes of this understanding of nature when those grazing animals are contaminated with radiation or suffering from BSE, when the sea waves carry the residues of an oil spill or other forms of pollution, when the pine forest is suffering from the effects of acid rain, when the flooding is due to agricultural practices that have led to over silting, when the extreme whether conditions are linked to global warming, and when the bush fire and the scale of its damage have been facilitated and exacerbated by human actions?

Certainly concepts that evoke the image of landscape as a pastoral space free of technical and urban interference by man, an image of a landscape that is supposed to be experienced as emblematic of an intact, harmonious counter-world, may have little relevance in a situation in which open space as the space of agricultural land is already the space of design activities for changing nature to better suit human need and desire (such design activities may include industrial farming, intensely farmed designer food, pesticides that are chemicals designed to be biologically active in the environment[35],  and/or tree and flowers production, not to mention the polder socio-technical system. See Graphs below). In the days of Captain Cook, Hawaii's native goose, the nene (pronounced neh-neh), was abundant. By the 1950s it was almost extinct. What nearly cooked this particular goose was not, however, the Hawaiian habit of baking it in underground ovens for supper, but the loss of its habitat—most of which has become farmland. Thus one could also see open space here as the space of captive breeding programmes for the (re)production of hundreds of nene. Yet if the goose is to prosper, it must be returned to the wild. That means restoring its habitat. And that, in turn, means dealing with the private landowners whose property is the most suitable for nenes to live on.

The Space of Design Activities for changing nature to better suit human need and desires



Such pastoral notion of space may proof irrelevant in a situation in which open space is already a technological space, that is, in a situation in which the agricultural sector (that has always already occupied the open space), and its territory has through this very technological space[36] become a space of emotions [37], a techno-emotional space of purity and danger, a space of interpretation and meanings, a space where we assign meanings to risks and to bads[38]. Thus contemporary socio-economic and technological transformations (or the context of planning above) do not simply mean that space is compressed (as in “Honey, I shrunk the space”). These transformations also mean that open space is also becoming a multi-temporal space inhabited by a multiplicity of reasons.

A multi-temporal space inhabited by a multiplicity of reasons.



That we are all engaged into a set of collective experiments that have spilled over the strict confines of the laboratories does not need more proof than the reading of the newspapers or the watching of the night TV news. At the time when we write, thousand of officials, policemen, veterinarians, farmers, custom officers, firemen, are fighting all over Europe -indeed now all over the world- against the foot and mouth virus that is devastating so many countrysides. Nothing new in this, of course, since public health has been invented two centuries ago to prevent the spread of infectious diseases through quarantine and, later, disinfecting and vaccination. What is new, what is troubling, what requires our attention is that the present event is due precisely to the collective decision not to vaccinate the animals. In this crisis, we are not faced, like our predecessors, with a deadly disease that we should fight with the weapons concocted inside the laboratory of Robert Koch or Louis Pasteur and their descendants : we find ourselves entangled in the unwanted -but wholly predictable- consequences of a decision to experiment, at the scale of Europe, on how long non-vaccinated livestock could survive without a new bout of this deadly disease. A nice case of what Ulrich Beck has called " manufactured risks ". By mentioning this case, we are not claiming that 'naturally' we should have vaccinated livestock ; nor are we saying that economic interests have taken precedence over public health and the welfare of farmers. There may exist many good reasons for the decision not to vaccinate. The point is different : a collective experiment has been tried out where farmers, consumers, cows, sheep, pigs, veterinarians, virologists have been engaged together. Has it been a well designed or a badly designed experiment -that is the question.

Such contemporary scientific controversies are designing 'hybrid forums'. For instance, the global warming controversy is just one of those many new hybrid forums.Thus there are Spokespersons (a spokeperon being one that represent things of nature as well as people) who represent the high atmosphere, others the lobbies of oil and gas, still others non-governmental organisations, still others represents, in the classical sense, their electors.The sharp difference that seemed so important between those who represented things and those who represented people has simply vanished. What counts is that all those spokesperson are in the same room, engaged in the same collective experiment, talking at once about assemblages of people and things. The Human Park, would then be a space of multiplicity of reasons to elaborate the protocol of those collective experiments. Such present trends lead us to see how to fuse together humans and non-humans in the same hybrid forums and open, this Parliament of things ('thing' does not mean what is outside the human realm, but a case, a controversy, a cause to be collectively decided in the 'assembly or forum. There is hardly a thing, a state of affair, which is not also, through litigation, protestation, also a case. How to assemble the Parliament of Things)

A Brief Detour Through Issues Concerning the (re)Design of Open Space

Before we move into this let us briefly open a parenthesis and notice that by presenting emotions in a public forum such emotional space can be characterized as a space capable of  delivering content. Thus such a space can also be considered as a place for events that is, as an event-place[39]. Even though we will return to this in our section on “Projects”, let us notice that his condition of a multi-temporal space inhabited by a multiplicity of reasons calls for the creation of spaces of public information[40].  This means that in such event-places projects would be stories to be told. Yet, when telling such stories in a multi-temporal space inhabited by a multiplicity of reasons “a time master plan” will thus necessarily call for many points of view so as to restore the narrative to engage a wider public. Such projects  would delivery content by presenting information and emotional substance in a public forum. Thus the character of open space as a emotional space opens the need for a creation of places of public information. To manage (say) a national park adequately requires knowing much more than simply what is happening within the park. It demands that local issues be set in the context of the surrounding region, as well as national and international developments, global change, socio-economic influences, and a host of other issues as well. New paradigms need to be developed that are able to integrate traditional research and design with modern technology. It would be a paradigm that links scientific research to environmental planning and management. It would link diverse and potentially massive sources of information, from field ecology to satellite imagery ((For more on this see thematic landscape; se also machine vision project). Projects would then privilege content and communication. That is, here form would not be content. Projects would be here characterized as packages of ideas wrapped in a narrative. Projects would then be intended as information for public “consumption” with the promise of offering new insides into our world. For more on this see project for transforming the small Gren Heart into a National-European Urban Park. See also The small town-Booscoop-, as a Brand Environment where there is an attempt to connect (commercial) ideas with emotional values. See also landscapes and time).

We all know from our reading of the Bible that the tower of Babel has fallen and that people have been scattered around the world, prisoners of their differing dialects and of their incommensurable cultural biases. Yes, but who has told the terrifying story of the second fall of Babel, when nature, yes nature Herself, as a united tower which should have reached to the Heaven and made all of the people of the world agree again, has been destroyed under the weight of its own ambition and lie everywhere in ruins ?

Space of multiplicity of reasons

Culture Nature and Clock Time

Changing “nature” through technological space to better suit human need and desire, is of course an ancient cultural activity going back some ten millennia of agriculture and the domestication, breeding and hybridization of animals. Archaeological records indicate that ancient Egyptian cultures had mastered bread- making, fermentation and brewing techniques more than four thousand years ago. Thus, there is nothing new in the motivation to alter nature to improve the products of this nature–culture interaction in the direction of increased economic efficiency and productivity. The last 300 years of industrial activity, however, have seen this drive towards efficiency and productivity exponentially intensified. Towards this end the methods and the scale of their effects have dramatically changed, with geno-technology the latest in a long line of truly innovative methods to increase economic efficiency. Time, is a central factor in the industrial definition of efficient production. When time is money then speed becomes of the essence since the faster something moves through the system the shorter the time capital is tied up in production and the lower the labour costs and interest payments involved. Seen from the vantage point of industrial production, the genetic modification of crops and animals is merely the logical progression in a direction that begun with the dawn of human civilization.

Thus what above has been referred to as  “the compression of time and the valorization of speed” (that in turn is supposed to be the main characteristic of the so-called “network society and its networked cities”) are already at work in open and agricultural space, that is in a social system that relates to time on an economic basis. Open space (agricultural open land) is already the space of industrial farming. Thus increasing yields in ever shorter time constitute part of farmer’s skills and temporal compression is a source of their pride and brings them respect in their farming communities. Thus the very same land that the Government wants to keep open through the concept of Rand-stad and Groene Hart (as well as the compact city idea and its later version under the name of networked cities) and that it characterizes as a pastoral space free of technical and urban interference by man, is already a very busy technological space. Open space, its activities and its actors already relate to time in a certain way. But before we move into this, let us see how this first characterization of open space as a techno-emotional space affects a planner’s perspective on time.

Techno-space and planning time: "Honey, I shrunk the space"

How to Shrink the World

Could container ships as fast as speedboats soon shorten global supply chains? A transport revolution is waiting to happen

Aug 4th 2001 From The Economist print edition

It is fashionable these days to talk about the ways in which air travel and vast improvements in telecommunications and information processing have shrunk the globe[41]. Local times, we say, are now captive to a global rhythm that eradicates space: even in the dead of night some parts of every city are awake and in touch with the sunshine world (Fraser, 1987). The changes associated with the global village are a part of what we could describe as the current transformation in time regimes. In the 1960s, planners and social theorists characteristically represented that transformation as centred in an increase in ‘leisure’ time[xvii]. Even in the 1960s, however, ‘leisure’ evoked a complex image of the social challenge presented by the prospect of an increase in discretionary time and the consequent variety of temporal rhythms; in the paradoxical expectation that our lives would appear both more hectic and more within our control. Yet, representing this transformation in time regimes as centered in an increase of leisure time is interesting but not sufficient.

Why is it not sufficient? It is not sufficient because it reduces and impressive history of innovations in time–space distantiation to just improvements in transportation, information and telecommunications[42]. It may thus leave out of consideration geno-technology as the ultimate development in this history of innovations in time–space distantiation (Giddens 1981), time-compression (Harvey 1989), time processing and absorption (Castells 1996). In addition, geno-technology is a fundamental component of agricultural open space as a space of design activities. We thus need to understand  the genetic engineering of food as the crowing glory of a long history of time rationalization that is also at work in open space: Laborers have sought to shrink hours of work since time immemorial. Farm machines and external energy inputs to agriculture, culminating in the cheap and dependable tractor, provided the big break (Marchetti, 1979). With these, 80 percent or more of the population could live decoupled from the fields and move to town. As it turned out, the urban jobs to which people migrated initially demanded more time on an annual basis than the farm jobs.Work time in the early period of industrialization increased dramatically, up to 14-16 hours per day (Nowotny, 1989). The factory schedule extended the peak periods of agriculture, such as the harvest, to an all-year norm in early industries, such as textiles. At the same time, a qualitative transformation, in particular, continuous monetary evaluation of work time, occurred in the transition to industrial time (Hareven, 1982)

Thus we find in “open space” machines and Fordist methods to speed up production processes; Taylorism to rationalize individual workers’ actions; flexibilization to adapt to the variable patterns of production, service and consumption; the ‘Just-in-time’ system to cut from production all elements of non-productive which means non-profitable time (and space); geno-technology to eliminate from the breeding process the time of generational succession[43]. Representing this transformation in time regimes as centered in an increase of leisure time is insufficient because it leaves of consideration this history of time rationalization.

Why is it interesting? Representing this transformation in time regimes as centered in an increase of leisure time is interesting because focusing on the demand for discretionary time allows us to address issues of temporal planning. It would allow both, to develop spatial formulas with which to respond to the social challenge presented by the prospect of an increase in discretionary time as well as to elucidate the limitations of these very same spatial formulas and thus call for the need of studies on temporal budgets (e.g., the time spent in various activities in a given place).  Let s briefly look at this.

Spatial Formulas

Already at the end of the 1960s in Europe, the decline of working hours each week, the lengthening years of retirement, the reduction of commuting time, and rising middle-class incomes combined to create a vast demand for ‘leisure time activities’ outside the ordinary domains of the leisure classes [xviii]. Proceeding in this way may allow us to understand that the new uses of time require new facilities. This will bring us right straight in touch with issues concerning the satisfaction of this demand. In the recent past these demands were met within the terms of a spatial imagination that failed to locate activities in time. In Italy, for example, a 1968 ministerial decree prescribed a formula that obliged cities to allocate a percentage of their land area to each of a long list of social activities: so much land for schools and so much for parks, and so on and so forth. Taxes adequate to meet these demands were mandated and, if necessary, localities were entitled to condemn land in order to satisfy the formula (Campos Venuti, 1991).

Limitations of Spatial Formulas.

These observations may in turn allow us to point to the pitfalls of this approach. Thus we could argue that a problem was that the spatial standards were set without any attention to how long it took to get from one site to another, when in the day or week movement occurred, and how many hours were devoted to each activity. As Falco (1977, 1993) states, to establish quantities of land for social purposes by law had the effect of narrowing city planners’ understanding of time budgets. The only temporal rhythm that penetrated into the discourse of professional planners was the obvious difference between day and night populations in concentrated employment centers. The limitations of these spatial formulas would in turn demand that we pay more attention to time budgets, that is to time spent in various activities in a given place[44]. These studies of where time is spent (home; public facilities; open space) will in turn allow us to look at the main factors (age, gender, etc) that play a role in shaping the spatial allocation of time and thus to define the spatial implications of time budgets[45].

Limitations of Time-budgets.

Even though we will return to this approach to time later in a separated paper, let us notice already that this is a rather conventional way of taking account of time that simply adds time questions to those of space and quantity. This means, to questions of ‘what’, ‘where’, ‘how large’ and ‘how much’, we add questions about ‘when’, ‘for how long’, ‘in what time-frame’ ‘in what sequence’ and ‘at what speed and intensity’.

This is precisely what planners do when they take account of time. Thus, for example, spatial planners would take account of time by adding time questions to those of space and quantitiy. They pay attention (if at all!) to how long it takes to get from one site to another, when in the day or week movement occurred, and how many hours are devoted to each activity. In so doing they would define and demarcate the space (e.g., the spatial implication) of where (the home, public facilities, open space) is that ‘free time’ is largely spent. In do doing, they will establish spatial and temporal patterns of both desired and potential undesired effects.

To temporally extend analysis in this way is conceptually benign because it does not interfere with existing frames of meaning and empirical scientific investigation since the time involved is that of calendars and clocks which is principally external to events. Adding clock time to the analysis would thus mean a mere shift in emphasis and focus, illuminating issues that previously had been left un-addressed.

This way of bringing time into the picture operates with the time of clocks and calendars. This socially constructed time is a neutral, de-contextualized, quantitative objective medium which is external to the events it measures. It can thus be added without disturbing the methodology and framework of the analysis. On the contrary, on the basis of its abstract, objective quality, clock time is utilized as the common denominator that binds humans, animals, crops, fertilizers, scientific competition and the global market into a universal temporal framework of analysis and comparison across incommensurables.

We will then need to explore other ways of taking account of time in our analyses. We need to recognize time as an inescapable contextual counterpart to space (to recognize the mutual dependence of time and space and to understand environmental processes and events with reference to their inescapable interdependency); as well as to recognize the multidimensionality and complex structure of time; a temporal complexity that includes: time frames; temporality; tempo; timing; past-present-future; duration-instantaneity; sequence, simultaneity and repetition; beginnings and ends; pauses; transitional periods; etc (For more on this see separate paper on the dimensions of the time dimension).. Thus, what we need is a type of analysis (we would be calling a “landscapes of time perspective”) that is not concerned to establish what time is but what we do with it and how time enters our system of values. The landscapes of time analysis of socio-spatial matters (what we do with time and how we utilize the time–space dimension of existence to make it suit our purposes) goes beyond add-on time, to the recognition of the importance of context and the construction of typologies of social time. It brings contextualized temporal complexity to the heart of the analysis in order to affect the social creation of socio-environmental futures.

When we include the complexity of time over and above clock and calendar time and an undifferentiated acknowledgement of context, it changes both the perspective and the vision of a socio-spatial situation. It alters the questions and concerns we have about the issues at hand. It is this landscapes of time analysis that is left outside analysis dealing with the emerging socio-spatial context of planning and design practice such as those proposed by the “network society approach” (informing in turn concepts such as the network city). But before we go into this, let us briefly outline the contours of the landscapes of time perspective at work in open space.

The Multidimensionality and complexity of time at work in open space

‘Time is the substance I am made of. Time is a river which sweeps me along, but I am the river…’ (Borges 1970: 269)

‘... man is nothing; he is, at most, the carcass of time’ (Karl Marx, in Marx and Engels: 1976: 127).

Time will be shown to be irreducible, irreversible, asymmetrical and multiple.

We have been arguing that open space as the space of agricultural land is already the space of design activities (industrial farming) for changing nature (such as intensely farmed designer food and/or tree and flowers production). Thus open space is already a technological space that is also a space of emotions, a techno-emotional space of purity and danger, a space of interpretation and of meanings; a multi-temporal space inhabited by a multiplicity of reasons.

Open agricultural land is a space where not only farmers labour. It is also a space where bio-chemists and molecular biologists produce genetically modified material in the laboratory (As such open space can become a space of mis-trust. See the recent debate on the agricultural sector due to the BSE crisis). Thus, living (temporal) matter is taken out of its original interactive context and in the process of transformation becomes an isolated (thus a-temporal) entity. As soon as it is spliced into a new organism, however, it is no longer an isolated substance since, as Holdrege (1996) argues, ‘substances in organisms are processes not entities’ as such they are fundamentally temporal.

Such a perspective questions the Newtonian belief in time-reversibility and makes inescapable what an a-temporal, spatial conception could ignore: namely, that there is an irreversible direction in the processes of life and social activity that originates in the asymmetry of interaction. Moreover, since the temporality of genes is only indirectly encoded in DNA and cannot therefore be deduced from the structure of individual genes, the outcome of their engineering is anything but predictable or certain.

Pre-twentieth century science operated with what we can call Newtonian time (see Urry 2000: chap 5). It is time as absolute; according to Newton from ‘its own nature, [time] flows equably without relation to anything eternal...the flowing of absolute time is not liable to change’ (quoted Adam 1990: 50; see Coveney and Highfield 1990: 29-31). Such absolute time is invariant, infinitely divisible into space-like units, measurable in length, expressible as a number and reversible. It is time seen through the metaphor of space, as comprising invariant, measurable lengths that can be moved along, forwards and backwards, as with a frictionless pendulum. It is a science that is mostly timeless as pre-twentieth century science examined the very small, the very cold, the very hot, the very brief and so on (see Adam 1998: 39-41).
Newtonian belief

The scientific manipulation of genetic material at the level of the geno-type, is only possible because way back in the evolution of life-forms all organisms share genetic origins and are thus genetically related. This means that even very distant species share nucleic acid sequences or functional genes, so that specific proteins and enzymes, for example, may be found in the cells of yeasts, algae, crustacea, insects, birds and humans. Only on the basis of this shared evolutionary prehistory, therefore, is the transfer of genes from one breed and species to another possible and the new genetically modified future achievable.

The past–present–future aspect of time is also centrally implicated in our understanding of sustainability since sustainability means meeting the needs of the present with resources evolved in the past without compromising the ability of others in distant times and places to meet their needs. This definition of sustainability emphasizes the regenerative capacity of nature as the source of sustainability. It means not just the productive but the reproductive and regenerative capacity of nature has to feature in environmental concerns.

The flow of time seems irreversible. Rather than there being time-symmetry and a reversibility of time as in classical physics, a clear distinction is now made between past and future - an arrow of time results in a future that is unstable, relatively unpredictable and characterised by various possibilities, the ‘end of certainty’ according to Prigogine (1997). It is the ‘i[I]rreversibility [of time] … that brings order out of chaos’ (Prigogine and Stengers 1984: 292). The clearest example of irreversibility is to seen in the expansion of the universe through the cosmological arrow of time following the singular historical event of the ‘big bang’. There are many mundane examples of irreversibility, coffee always cools, organisms always age, spring follows winter and so on. There can be no going back, no reabsorbing of the heat, no return to youth, no spring before winter and so on. Laws of nature are historical and contra Einstein imply pastness, , presentness and futureness (Prigogine 1997: 165). As Eddington says: ‘The great thing about time is that it goes on’ (quoted Coveney and Highfield 1990: 83).

From this perspective, the genetic engineering of food is about the promise of massive time saving (thus about money as a reserve of time) in the scientific production of change. This is achieved by controlling time: controlling maturing, ripening, ageing and decaying; controlling the seasonality of animals and plants; controlling generational sequence and reproduction. Control of time in the production process, is an integral part of the success of the industrial way of life and so is the control of nature and the geno-technological control of the processes of life. Geno-technology has the potential of realizing the time rationalizers’ dream: instantaneous change in unlimited quantities. At a stroke, changes introduced in the present alter the life-course and evolution forever.

Genetic engineering thus entails uncertainties. Present and future generations do not know what the genetically engineered future holds for them. Genetic engineering fundamentally changes the meaning of ‘error’ since there is no going back, no correction, no recall of the outcome. The experiment is for real. The effects are temporally unbounded and dispersed across time–space. Such open-ended permeation of time and space has implications for the public and political demands on science to provide certainty and proof of connections between source and hazard, cause and future effect [xix].

A landscape of time perspective would also acknowledges the impact of cultural time values. It accepts that it makes a difference to socio-environmental praxis whether time is valued as an economic commodity, a resource or a gift of god(s) and loved ones. It recognizes that it matters to present and future generations across the globe whether speed and instantaneous change are equated with the holy grail of economic efficiency and profit creation or with hurtling into an unknown and unknowable, uncontrolled and uncontrollable, unbounded future. At stake is cultural and intergenerational equity. Genetic engineering has the potential to change socio-environmental life more drastically, fundamentally and irreversibly than all previous technological innovations put together.

To sum up: conceptions and approaches to time and space are linked here with (global) economic and industrial processes such as modern farming methods (farmer’s relations with their animals; innovations in the industry; etc). Difficulties seem to arise when the rhythmic organization and time scales of nature are denied or ignored and when cultural constructions which work on the basis of different temporal principles are superimposed as alternatives not just on the everyday life of humans, but on the livestocks and crops associated with agricultural production. Industrial agriculture and its agricultural open space with its dependence on science, technology and global economics, and its emphasis on the times of science, machines and economic relations, is then a case in point. The ensuing clash of principles between these divergent temporal industrial-systems as opposed to the rhythmicity of life-means that their interactions and interpenetrations entail costs and losses that feed into environmental problems.

Thus these technological relations seem in turn to be manifested as problematic events (e.g., environmental disaster such as the collapse of the beef industry, and the suspension of fishing off the coasts; oil pollution and BSE) emerging in particular time-spaces. Thus a region with sources of income such as farming, tourism, and fishing is affected by these events.  However, the way we understand these technologies and their associated changes today, depends not just on who is presenting the argument on the basis of what interests but also on the temporal assumptions that are brought to the analysis. What needs to be understood and theorized is then the contemporary social and urban condition and the hazards that accompany the industrial way of life. It is in order to achieve this that we need to take time seriously.

Technology is then a very important dimension in the study of open space and related matters. On the basis of these technologies (such as industrial farming, genetic engineering; genetic modification; biotechnology, molecular biology, etc) people’s lives world-wide are going to be more thoroughly transformed in the early part of this new millennium than they had been over the past one or even two thousand years. The significance and extent of these changes, I want to suggest, is too important for our analyses of space[46].

A first question is then whether there are links between these symptoms of the industrial way of life (e.g., BSE) and approaches to time (as those at work in technological open space) that disregard the system-specific times and seasonal rhythmicity of the live-stock and land in the farmer’s care. There is then already at work in open space and in open agricultural land a conflict of temporal rhythms that needs to be investigated and reconciled.

And second, how can then one talk about the need to reconcile these temporal rhythms (through a renewed sensitibity to the natural rhythms of farm animals and their environment) in the conditions of a emotional –techno space, that is, in a situation in which, increasing yields in ever shorter time constitute part of farmer’s skills and temporal compression is a source of their pride and brings them respect in their farming communities, and at a time when the whole cash-flow system of say beef and dairy farmers has collapsed, when they can no longer sell animals to pay for feed and fertilizers, when their pattern of exchange-their daily, weekly, monthly and seasonal rhythms of buying and selling-, are no longer workable and when the debts mount proportional to the uncertainty not just of the immediate but also the long term future?

If so, how do we propose to establish/study those links? What are the time aspects of these problems? What kind of project (publication; conferences) is needed to bring to public attention scientific work and lay knowledge on these links? Such project on time may relate to agriculture, food, consumption, the treatment of water and soil, the changing pace of life, the economic perspective on the environment, the rhythmicities of nature and cities. Such project could put into practice a commitment to embodied knowledge and aesthetic appreciation. Through a combination of science, art, music and poetry it would present as an integrated whole what institutional knowledge and professionalisation have set apart: academic knowledge, practical activity, embodied sense experience, and aesthetic sensibilities (For more on this see the Booscoop Project),.



Open space (a fundamental element of the pair compact-city/open space) is not only a landscape as a medium of representation  that historically has been thought to be innocent of idols (and idolatry), even associated with an iconoclastic prohibition on graven images, an scape (land-scape) from figurative representation. Landscape is not only empty space, that is, it is not only that purified space described as a modern and western discovery, a revolutionary liberation of painting from narrative and ecclesiastical symbolism that can be dated in the 17th century[47]. Nor is open space only the postcard image of the city dweller (see Section, Below). Open space is not only a space flowed with the discrete objects and inner architectural and planning projects of its surrounding city that as an object of planning and design seems to have lost its clear borders (as in Price’s metaphor of the “fried egg”). Open space is then a space whose morphology can not best be viewed as a discrete structure. 

Open space is all this above and much more. Above all, contemporary socio-economic, scientific and technological transformations do not simply mean that space is compressed (as in “Honey, I shrunk the space”).

Thus in the current ‘post-normal’ phase of science and technology (On Post-normal science see, Funtowicz and Ravetz (1993)) the traditional experimental verification of hypotheses proves extremely difficult, if not impossible. Issues of extreme gravity must be addressed. Problems dominated by ‘epistemological’ uncertainty or indeterminacy – the relevant information is dispersed in an inextricable mass of data, the causal chains are open, etc. – or by actual ignorance – we don’t know what we don’t know (Wynne 1992). Typical examples are problems like AIDS, abortion, euthanasia, the disposal of nuclear waste, or gene technologies. Lacking in all these cases is a single description and connection

of the facts, a shared vision of the meanings of concepts and principles.

Let us take for example the controversy over agricultural gene technologies that now occupied the open space of agriculture.

The environmentalist says: ‘People are involved in an experiment whose results will be known in twenty years’ time. Gene modification increases insect resistance to pesticides. Farmers will increasingly come to depend on the seed multinationals. World hunger is a problem of distribution, not of production. Patenting genetic sequences, as if they were industrial products, is unacceptable. The citizens should have the last word on the whole issue’.

The scientist replies: ‘Experiments offer excellent guarantees of safety. The use of pesticides is often radically reduced. Competition among producers  is beneficial to farmers. Increased productivity slows down deforestation in order to create farmland. Patents are necessary to finance research. A change-able, emotional public opinion cannot constrain a promising field of scientific and economic development’.

For the environmentalist viewpoint see e.g. Westra (1997); for an analysis of scientists’ discourse on gene technologies, Kerr et al. (1997).

The parties are unable to agree on an adequate language with which to handle the issue. Some of them may even deny that a problem exists or that something is actually happening, as in the case of climatic change (Schneider 1989).

These transformations mean then that open space is becoming a multi-temporal space inhabited by a multiplicity of reasons. There may not be universal reason at work anymore in open space. In contemporary open space it is not easy to find at work the idea of a unity of reason. Thus the myth of the best argument may not inhabit open space either. In other words, there may not be public reason-and not a single public sphere and thus no single public identity of citizen either-, at work in open space. There may be a plurality of public spheres (and thus perhaps an un-translatability of experiences) competing to define the topics worth of discussion in contemporary open space. Thus only the participants may be able to decide the topics worth of discussion and thus the nature of issues cannot be defined before hand. Thus such intractable controversies may be faced at the level of practices, looking for local contextual answers. As Techno-economic systems inhabit open space,  conflicts become deep-lying, principles and factual descriptions maybe profoundly different, and uncertainty becomes radical. The best argument cannot be found. There is no universal reason Thus, the question is then whether agreement may spring from the incommensurability of languages inhabiting what we for the sake of argumentation will still call “open space”. Can there be in open space a public sphere in which different identities are merged into a (political) community? It is then on issues of open space as a technological space, where the collisions among discourses and knowledge is today very conflictive if not extremely violent, that we should concentrate our attention, in an endeavour to understand whether and how social co-operation can spring from this plurality of reasons.

Thus the social economic and technical context of these spatial concepts above (Randstad-Groene Hart, open space etc) seems then to be changing dramatically.  There seems to be larger processes of social change and institutional transformation to which this system of key spatial concepts, assumptions, visions and images may not be able to respond. Yet this new context cannot be so easily captured by mono-casual mechanisms such as those implied in the notion of Information age and networked societies.

Carlos H Betancourth. Ontwerp Atelier. RPD-VROM. The Hague. The Netherlands. chbetanc@email.msn.com


[1] See, Betancourth, “Open space as empty holy landscape” 2001. Unpublished.

[2] (For more on this, see our papers on  landscape and time).

[3] Notice in passing that the ISoCaRP 2001 Congress refers to this context as “something”. It seems then as if the Congress is not sure as to whether this something ( later retranslated as “a fundamental change of the socio-economic system”) has already happened or not (“If so, this of course will deeply affect the way society is organising space”). One wonders whether this latent doubt and uncertainty as to whether the new context that is supposed to determine the organization of space and the planning practice should not make us realize that far from this context being a unitary causal mechanism (and it is indeed constituted as such unitary causal mechanism when this context is characterized as an “information age” (See “A Core Program with a New Format”. The ISoCaRP 2001 Congress'. www.isocarp.org)), it should be understood as the complex, emergent product of many different forces operating on many scales. Hence nothing can be explained in terms of the causal powers of this still unknown context.  This means that the topic of inquiry cannot just be “the new role of the planner and the new strategies for planning in the information age”. Instead this new context itself needs explaining in all its manifold spatio-temporal complexity.

[4] But see also Harvey’s concepts of time-space compression and time-space distantiation (1996); as well as his concept of 'socially necessary turnover time of capital' (1989). See also Sassen (1992; 1994; 1999; 2000))

[5] For more on this see Giddens 1984; Giddens, 1990 or Beck et al., 1994. See also, the burgeoning social theoretical literature on space and society over the last decade (Castells, 1989, 1996, 1997; Graham & Marvin, 1996; Harvey, 1989; Harvey (1990); Lash & Urry, 1994; Thrift (1990),  Urry, 1995; Amin, 1994).

[6] An indicator of this change in socio-spatial relationships is the rise in (individual transport) mobility that can be discerned all over the western world. Yet not only humans but also Genetically modified (GMOs) materials, are also mobile in a multiple sense: through reproduction, the food chain and pollination by wind and/or insects. This mobility means that, once released, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) cannot be contained within their intended boundaries and when herbicide-resistant crops cross-pollinate with weeds there is the potential for creating superweeds. Moreover, when boundaries between GM and non-GM crops cannot be maintained, choice is effectively eliminated for consumers. Farmers are also caught in the no-win middle, threatened with ruin either way – if they do not follow this latest competitive trend-e.g., GM food- and if they do. Organic farmers loose the very basis of their existence since the mobility of the genetically modified materials means that the clear boundaries between conventional, GM based and organic farming can be no longer guaranteed and maintained. And then there is also the need to understand the mobility of money (See for instance, Betancourth, The City as a Technological Site, 2001)

[7] For more on this notion, see, Nederland netwerkenland. Een inventarisatie van de nieuwe condities van planologie en stedebouw. Redactie Luuk Boelens. NAI Uitgevers Rotterdam. 2000. See also Fifth Nota. See,  Sassen, S, The impact of the new technologies and globalization on cities. In  Cities in Transition, The Stylos Series, ed. Arie Graafland. 010 Publishers, Rotterdam 2001. W.A. Wiersinga, T.J. Wams, H.J. van der Windt, Integratie van stad and natuur.In, Stedebouw & Ruimtelijke Ordening 2000 Nummer 2.

[8] How these flows are to be described empirically is something we will never know. On the problem of measuring these flows see Betancourth’s “The Empirical Issues Concerning the flows of information between cities”. LSE. 2000

[9] The so called ‘friction of distance’ (cf. Hagerstrand, 1970)

[10] Notice in passing that such a fast way to translate the information-age argument into spatial issues may make us overlook the possibility that such strategies of dispersal  need to be reconsidered in light of the recent Mond and Klauwzeer and BSE crisis in the agriculture sector. Indeed this crisis call for less animal transport and for closed and smaller chains and systems of production

[11] (See for instance, Spiekermann & Wegener, 1996. See also Castells, op.cit

[12] Such as financial networks of global stock markets (Amsterdam is an important node in this network); knowledge networks (the Leiden-DelftRotterdam Mega-univerity?), and global commodity value chains (the flower and tree production chains.).

[13] See Sassen, op.cit

[14] See Scenario: the small town and the problem of trust and risk. See also case Booscoop

[15] See, Urry, 1995.

[16] See, our ongoing reflexions on the making of place. This includes the following material: The Tourist as researcher, and, the role of individual in tourism.

[17] Notice that it is as if for the information-age approach there are not social relations but just individuals. As we are arguing in “The City as a Technological site” (Betancourth, 2001), important urban institutions (such as financial markets) are being transformed into techno-systems in which roles previously played by human beings have increasingly been mechanized and in which relations between human beings, as well as being conducted by voice and gesture, are increasingly mediated by automated systems. In such techno-systems relations are mediated by objects. 

[18] See Betancourth, 1993; Boomkens, 1998; Reijndorp et al., 1998a.

[19] As well as the disappearance of the countervailing power of the agricultural interests that basically controlled the countryside and kept other interests out. Yet-and as suggested in footnote above,this proposition needs to be problematized.

[20] We are referring to this condition as the “Grenzelose stad”. See in a separate paper, “the unbounded city”.

[21] See for instance our study area around Booscoop; a small town characterized by intense urban conditions localized right at the center of the Green heart.

[22] See, Gibson-Graham, 1996: 41.

[23] A first step in resisting the marginalization of place, maybe, provided by Lefebvre’s notion of place as a form of lived and grounded space and the reappropriation of which must be part of any agenda against spaceless and timeless globalization. See also the case of the Colombian Pacific and the recreation of place around issues of bio-diversity)

[24] See, Rajchman, 1991, p. 28.

[25] (See, Scenario Networked communities).

[26] See endnote ix below.

[27] These images have emerged from short informal interviews with young adults in Amsterdam and other cities of the Randstad. It may be interesting to supplement these informal conversations with an investigation of conceptualizations of nature in pupils of Dutch cities’schools.

[28] As argued above, the concept of the compact city aims at preserving and strengthening this contrast between city and country

[29] See, technology as collectivity of humans and artifacts. In, Borderless city. Forthcoming

[30] For more on this, see research on the meaning of landscape (e.g., the scopic on Museums)

[31] But a landscape doesn’t only remember; it also forgets. See research on the meaning of landscape: The holy-landscape.

[32] See thematic landscape.

[33] For a brief illustration, see next section

[34] Four-dimensional cities

[35] Most of these designs are invisible, undetectable for the ordinary citizen and vigorously marketed by their producers and designers. These designs (such as pesticides) have been an integral part of our lives.

[36]  This is a space marked by a technological dynamic that includes issues such as the Mond en Klauwzeer and BSE crisis, the collapse of the beef industry, the suspension of fishing; oil pollution; etc.

[37] As we will be arguing elsewhere, this space of emotions is closely related to a problematics of risks where risk is always a question of ‘purity and danger’, of some sort of ritual pollution. The danger can in turn be understood in terms of  a ‘who to blame’ logic. Studying open space as a space of emotions experienced in turn as a space of purity and danger requires studying risk and responsability, and implies that rather than looking for responsibility following from the real existence of risk, one must look first at whom risk cultures blame. We would come back to this later when we will introduce the notion of risk-cultures. The dangers and risks characterizing this emotional space should in turn be understood as inscribed in forms of life. That is, risk perception is subjective and could thus be liken to ‘aesthetic judgements’. Thus in regard to this emotional space (of environmental and other natural and/or bodily bads), we don’t judge objectively. We don’t subsume the event or the object under a given rule. Instead we judge the future event subjectively. We don’t have a given rule, but subjectivity must go in search of a rule to judge the object, to judge the event. Aesthetic and reflexive judgement in this emotional space are then estimations that are based on feelings and emotions of pleasure and displeasure but also on feelings of shock, overwhelmedness, fear loathing as well as joy. These reflexive judgements and estimations based in feelings and emotions take place through the imagination and through sensation and emotion (On aesthetic judgement See Kant, 1929, 1952; Lash and Urry, 1994)

[38] These meanings are not necessarily logical meanings or determinate judgements. They are more than just bads or damages coming under the calculations of insurance and some sort of insurance principle. Consider for example the role of the media and photographs. This is a different way of judging the bad, the event, the risk than subsuming it under a set of  statistics under probabilistic logic. The photographs can potentially open up a space of existential meaning. There are different ways if dealing with bads in the emotional space: through the realism of determinate judgement and through the construction of reflexive judgement. This raises questions as to whether we should develop spatial strategies for the management of uncertainty and risk. We will later explore scenarios as ways of developing ways to deal with risk (See Scenario: the small town as space of reflexion).

[39] Such a space could be said to share some of the characteristics of what has come to be known as “experience spaces” that provide consumers with new requirements and citizens-guests that seek emotional connection with products and services, personal relations with information, and environments that satisfy multiple areas of the cerebrum, with entertainment, education and culture.

[40] But contrary to what occurs in experience spaces, these spaces would not be only spaces for the celebration of innovations in culture and industry, that is, they would not be only places for projecting optimism about progress -as in the case of industrial festivals (world’s fairs such as the London Crystal Palace, Chicago’s World Exposition, Expo 2000 Hannover; etc)-, but they will be places for reflection on this very same idea of progress.

[41] "Honey, I shrunk the space" is the main title of the The ISoCaRP 2001 Congress' 

[42] For more on this social innovations of time, see Betancourth, C. H. The city as a technological site. 2001

[43] see for instance our studies in Boskoop

[44] See for instance, Belloni, C. and Bimbi, F. (Eds) (1997);  Belloni, M. C. (1984)

[45] In the Italian case, the most interesting spatial implication of what is now a long series of such time budget studies is that ‘free time’ is largely spent at home rather than at any of the public facilities that the spatial formulas had tried to nurture. The ‘average’ Italian above the age of three spends roughly 17.5 hours in his or her own home and another half hour in someone else’s home. If you focus only on those Italians who are employed outside their homes, they spend 56% of their waking hours each week at home, 4% at other people’s home, 14% in open space, 26% in covered space outside the home (ISTAT, 1993). Age and gender play an important role in shaping the spatial allocation of time. Open space often symbolically associated with freedom from constraints is used by men more than women; adolescents and young adults more than any other age group. Looked at another way, the temporal rhythms are most extreme for settings of both work and sport: they are heavily used in some moments and then, for long stretches, unoccupied. Many homes, in contrast, are virtually constantly in use.

[46] Thus, for example, in addition to establishing the potential space of contamination and the numbers of animals and the types of crops affected, the focus would move to questions about when trials are being conducted and over what period, so as to establish spatial and temporal patterns of both desired and potential undesired effects. There would be questions about whether or not the time-scale of the tests matches (and therefore is appropriate to) the time-scale of the potential threats involved.

[47] See, Betancourth, “Open space as empty holy landscape” 2001. Unpublished.

[i] Even though we will be returning to this later when we will propose to deal with the issue of open space in the context of risk and manufactured uncertainty, let us notice here in passing that the problem of open space is often too quickly defined by policy and planning as a problem of scarcity. Open space is a quantity that is disappearing. Open space is a diminishing quantity. It is defined as a landscape that is increasingly consumed by settlement (super-urbanization) and thus as an endangered species, a disappearing quantity, its back to the wall under the pressure of urbanization.  Even if this characterization makes some sense, it is a formulation that implies and anticipates a certain response: as a decreasing quantity,  it needs to be saved, preserved. As a scarce quantity it should be priced and/or taxed (See for instance, Groundbelied: Meeting VROM, 2/12/01). Open space should be protected (given its value as?) through clear boundaries and rules. If open space is a quantity that is disappearing then the natural response is to stop with a boundary the forces and pressures-such as super-urbanization-that are destroying that scarce quantity. We think it is important that we problematize these notions of “open space as a diminishing quantitiy” and its related notion of “scarcity”. A first step in this direction requires a brief review of the images of culture and nature that seem to in-form this notion of open space. We will come back to this later in a section entitled “Images of nature and culture in-forming the concept of open space.

[ii] Such spatial concepts and images of desired spatial developments are-together with the strategic plans they form-, the primary technologies for indicative planning. In the planning literature it is assumed that spatial concepts can be very powerful instruments especially in combination with visualization techniques (Kunzmann, 1996). The concepts guide spatial relevant policies.

[iii] Basic principles include: concentration of urbanization. Spatial level and scale include: local and regional. Object of policy includes: distribution pattern of urban functions. Most important spatial concepts include: Compact city as regards VINEX locations; ABC- policy; open- space concepts/ restrictive areas (buffer zones; Green Heart; Central Open Space). Notice in passing that one basic principle-such as ‘concentration of urbanization’-, could, over time, have different concepts such as: concentrated deconcentration, growth

centres, the compact city; the networked city; etc. Thus underneath the shifts in concepts one may discern a continued commitment to principles such as concentration of urbanization, spatial cohesion, spatial diversity, hierarchy and spatial justice. In addition to the Netherlands similar concepts are also to be found at work in other countries such as Sweden, England and Switzerland

[iv] Faludi’s work on the ‘planning doctrine’ in the Netherlands actually refers to two concepts Randstad and Green Heart, that for the best part of half a century dominated the planning debate. Peter Hall, argues that these concepts were robust to great changes in society because parts of both spatial concepts, going through the complex filters of history and politics, “can be subtly emphasised, de-emphasised or re-interpreted” (Hall, 1993, p. 44). This is indeed what happened: one might say that the term Randstad meant different things at different times. The Second Report on spatial planning of 1966 came with a perspective of urban regions growing together forming large urban conglomerates. This was subsequently replaced by an idea of the Randstad as dominated by well defined and spatially contained urban regions in which local and regional public transport and the bicycle would fulfill an important role in transportation. What is more, until then the scale of the Randstad was always considered as simply too large to be seen as one uniform whole. As the concept of the Randstad re-emerged in the late 1980s, it was precisely conceived off as an European economic core area to be compared to London, the German Ruhrgebiet or the Ile de France. Finally, in the present Fourth Report on spatial planning extra (1990, 1993), the Randstad-Green Heart ‘doctrine’ has turned into a somewhat rigid spatial perspective to consolidate the demarcation of ‘red’ and ‘green’. On request of the Dutch parliament the Green Heart even acquired its own demarcated borders not to be crossed by urbanization from the cities surrounding the Green Heart.

[vi] This is the information age, in which, we are told, biology is defined by a three-billion- letter instruction manual called the genome and human thoughts are analogous to digital bits flowing through a computer. And, we are warned, human intellect will soon be dwarfed by super-intelligent machines. All kinds of people, are happy to tell us information is the central metaphor, the best explanation of everything from biology to economics to aesthetics to child rearing, sex, you name it. Is this justified? Computer scientists themselves can not even agree on useful definitions of their field's most common terms, like "information" and "complexity," let alone the meaning and future of this revolution. Of course, one way of thinking about all of life and civilization is as being about how the world registers and processes information. Certainly that's what sex is about; that's what history is about. Humans have always tended to try to envision the world and themselves in terms of the latest technology. In the 17th and 18th centuries, for example, workings of the cosmos were thought of as the workings of a clock, and the building of clockwork automata was fashionable. But not everybody in the world of computers and science agrees that the computation metaphor is ready for prime time. Scientifically, the information age can be said to have begun in 1948 when Dr. Claude E. Shannon, a researcher at Bell Laboratories, proposed that information could be defined as the number of ones and zeros — bits — that it took to encode a message in binary language. His mathematical formulation of that implied a link between information and entropy, a measure of disorder that plays a deep role in many areas of physics, like heat, gases and black holes. Some scientists have suggested applying Dr. Shannon's definition of information to situations other than the sending of messages, to things like the human genome or even the universe. According to one interpretation of recent theories in high-energy particle physics, the universe can be portrayed as nothing more than a vast network of information flow — that is to say, as a computer. Urban theorist such as Castells applies similar definitions in the field of social change. Indeed for Castells the socio-economic universe can be portrayed as nothing more than a vast network of information flow or his 'space of flows', which we might think of, by analogy, as 'placeless place'. Castells (1996). This vast network of information flow is a feature of the globalizing network economy. In principle, a piece of metal or an orange could be said to have an information content and the object's behavior, rusting or ripening, could be thought of as a computation. But physics have not yet been constructed on those grounds and scientists themselves have no idea if they will be able to. In addition, Dr. Shannon's definition of information, based on counting bits, may not give a meaningful result in every situation. For example, if you have two copies of a book, you have twice as many bits and thus twice as much information, but you are not necessarily better informed. Not all bits are equal, after all. The words "I do," spoken in one context, say, by the participants in a wedding, have a much larger consequence than if spoken elsewhere. An article on the front page of a newspaper receives more attention than one of equal length inside. The recently completed sequencing of the human genome furnishes another example of the futility of counting bits. The first analysis revealed far fewer genes than expected. The potency of the genome, biologists are saying, arises from relationships among the genes and from their interactions in the environment of a womb, rather than their sheer number. The different parts of the genetic code are, in effect, able to turn one another on and off. Such effects, in a long computer code or in the various contexts of real life, "create lenses" that magnify some bits while the rest are lost in statistical noise and never affect the world. How to distinguish and quantify the bit that have an impact? The ambiguities in the meaning of information make it even more difficult to define a way to measure another much bandied-about concept in computer science, namely complexity. Which is a problem, because without a quantitative definition of complexity, scientists have no objective way to evaluate the intelligence of a new robot or a computer program or of the process that created them.

[vii] 'Globalization' is a polyvalent, promiscuous, controversial word that often obscures more than it reveals about recent economic, political, social, and cultural changes. This contribution has three main aims, which are pursued at progressively greater length. It can also be argued that the spatial emphasis associated with the interest in the globalization of capital may have been overdone and that a re-focus on the temporal dimension may be overdue. For time and temporality are at least as important as, if not more important than, space and spatiality in the logic of economic globalization. For more on this, see Carlos H Betancourth, The City as a technological Site. 2001

[viii] it is still widely believed that the Internet would help undermine authoritarian regimes, reduce governments' abilities to levy taxes, and circumvent all kinds of local regulation. The Internet is still supposed to be a parallel universe of pure data, an exciting new frontier where a lawless freedom prevails. But it now seems that this was simply a glorious illusion. For it turns out that governments do, in fact, have a great deal of sovereignty over cyberspace. The Internet is often perceived as being everywhere yet nowhere, as free-floating as a cloud—but in fact it is subject to geography after all, and therefore to law. The idea that the Internet was impossible to regulate dates back to when its architecture was far simpler than now. All sorts of new technologies have since been bolted on to the network, to speed up the delivery of content, protect networks from intruders, or target advertising depending on a user's country or city of origin. All of these technologies have mundane commercial uses. But in some cases they have also provided governments with ways to start bringing the Internet under the rule of local laws. The same firewall and filtering technology that is used to protect corporate networks from intrusion is also, for example, used to isolate Internet users in China from the rest of the network. A recent report on the Internet's impact in China by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP), a private think-tank based in Washington, DC, found that the government has been able to limit political discourse online. Chinese citizens are encouraged to get on the Internet, but access to overseas sites is strictly controlled, and what users post online is closely monitored. The banned Falun Gong movement has had its website shut down altogether. By firewalling the whole country, China has been able to stifle the Internet's supposedly democratising influence. Similarly, Singapore and Saudi Arabia filter and censor Internet content, and South Korea has banned access to gambling websites. In Iran, it is illegal for children to use the Internet, and access-providers are required to prevent access to immoral or anti-Iranian material. In these countries, local standards apply, even on the Internet. To cyber-libertarians, who had hoped that the Internet would spread their free-speech gospel around the world, this is horrifying. Yahoo! is appealing against the French decision, because it sets a precedent that would require websites to filter their content to avoid breaking country-specific laws. It would also have a chilling effect on free speech, since a page posted online in one country might break the laws of another. Enforcing a judgment against the original publisher might not be possible, but EU countries have already agreed to enforce each other's laws under the Brussels Convention, and there are moves afoot to extend this scheme to other countries too, at least in the areas of civil and commercial law, under the auspices of the Hague Convention. It is true that filtering and geolocation are not watertight, and can be circumvented by skilled users. Filters and firewalls can be defeated by dialling out to an overseas Internet access-provider; geolocation can be fooled by accessing sites via another computer in another country. E-mail can be encrypted. But while dedicated dissidents will be prepared to go to all this trouble, many Internet users are unable to change their browsers' home pages, let alone resort to these sorts of measures. So it seems unlikely that the libertarian ethos of the Internet will trickle very far down in countries with authoritarian regimes. The upshot is that local laws are already being applied on the Internet. Old-style geographical borders are proving surprisingly resilient.

[ix] For Castells (first volume on “The Information Age”, The Rise of the Network Society (1996), the rise of a new technological paradigm based on information, electronic and biological technologies is resulting in a network society in which “the space of flows” overtakes the “space of places”, and where “no place exists by itself, since positions are defined by flows…”Places do not disappear but their logic and meaning become absorbed in the network…structural meaning disappears subsumed in the logic of the metanetwork” (p. 412). In this new situation, places may be switched off, leading to their decline and deterioration; people and labor are fragmented in the space of places, as places get disconnected from each other (“elites are cosmopolitan, people are local”, (p. 415). Global culture overpowers local cultures, and the resulting world is one of pure Culture and no Nature, which amounts to the true beginning of History. While Castells seems to maintain a certain nostalgia for places where face to face interaction and local actions count (such as the Paris quarter of Belville who saw him come of age as a young intellectual), it is clear that for him the new paradigm is here to stay. Yet there has been a certain asymmetry in these debates. As Arif Dirlik argues (Dirlik 1998, 2000), this asymmetry is most evident in discourses of globalization, where the global is often equated with space, capital, history and agency, and the local with place, labor, and tradition. Place has dropped out of sight in the “globalization craze” of recent years, and this erasure of place has profound consequences for our understanding of culture, knowledge, nature, and economy. It is perhaps time to reverse some of this asymmetry by focusing anew — and from the perspective afforded by the critiques of place themselves — on the continued vitality of place (Reaffirming the vitality of place would be one of the goals of the 4dstad research-design programme. We will return to this later) and place-making for culture, nature, and economy. Restoring some measure of sym-metry, as we shall see, does not entail an erasure of space as a domain of resistance and alterity, since both place and space are crucial in this regard, as they are in the creation of forms of domination. It does mean, however, a questioning of the privilege accorded to space in analyses of the dynamics of culture, power, and economy. Thus for instance, Casey’s “region of places” is the opposite of Castells’ (1996) “space of flows” that is seen as characterizing today’s Network Society.

[x] The agricultural sector has changed dramatically too. In the past there was a—in some cases fierce—resistance to give up agricultural land for other functions. It could be argued –from  the point of view of an analytical perspective that looks at the problem of open space as a problem of scarcity (for more on open space and scarcity, see “open space; scarcity and uncertainty” (C.H. Betancourth, in preparation)-, that as a result of higher productivity and the European market a smaller area of land is now needed for direct agricultural production in the Netherlands. This could mean that the defence of rural areas because of sectoral policies and interests could become less firm. What is more, as agriculture becomes more industrial in its appearance, the result may be a more ‘urban’ outlook of the countryside in many areas. Yet and as we will suggest later,  the defence of rural areas is becoming stronger and its open space is becoming more emotional. In addition, The Mond en Klauzeer and BSE crisis means that the agricultural sector may need to shift (in Europe) from a model of high productivity to a different model. Such alternative models may include: biological agriculture; the multi-functional agriculture where the peasant also function as teacher of skiing and manager of recreation; not to mention the idealistic and romantic small family producing enterprise put forward by The (Green) Germans and that may end up transforming the open space of the agricultural sector into a romantic museum from where modern technology is excluded. For more on this models (see scenarios).

[xi] Fostering the competitive position of the Netherlands has been the predominant goal of spatial strategic thinking for nearly a decade. The Fourth Report on spatial planning of 1988 identified the main spatial economic structure, formed by the Randstad and the urban regions of the neighbouring provinces. A key spatial concept is the mainport-the idea of a mainport strategy being the idea of a priority area for economic development, the main spatial economic structure-, referring to the essential role of the Rotterdam harbour and the Schiphol airport in the Dutch economy. As a consequence, large investments in mainport and transport corridors (the latter one without official status of spatial concept) are made to attract new (foreign) businesses. The country proves to be remarkably successful in this regard especially in the sector distribution, logistics and transport. More than 50% of the European Distribution Centres of American and Japanese firms is located in the Netherlands (Ministerie van Economische Zaken, 1997a). In fact so many foreign companies have located in the Netherlands that the European Commission has become suspicious over the possibility that the Dutch government uses secret funds to attract these companies (NRC-Handelsblad, 17 April 1998).

[xii] INVESTIGATING LANDSCAPE. The question that interest us can be stated as follows: How do people construct narratives and practices of home in a world of movement[xii]? Are, the sense of belonging and of movement or displacement relationally produced?. Such view of home may entail an historical intensification of disembededdness (the tearing apart of space away from place that Giddens has identified as a paradigmatic feature of modernity, 1990).  This feature,  would seem to push people to invest place and home with personal agency to counter these tendencies (See, Our working schema: design/techno-socio/economic systems. See also design approach: searching for roots/ past secure from turbulent time. See below). We propose to start to address these issues by first investigating different perspectives on place consumption (See separated paper: perspectives on place consumption). From here we will move into an investigation of Places as one pervasive component of leisure and tourism. Leisure and tourism include encounters with place. Encounters with other people and material things, imagination and memory occur in places. In social science increasing attention is being given to the human individual as productive in everyday practices, as producer rather than consumer (Places, leisure and tourism).

Finally, it becomes important to theorize landscapes in terms of people’s very different understandings and engagements with the world. This amounts to acknowledge that different forms of dwelling are linked to differential empowerment and to the suppression of view-points by dominant ways of seeing. By looking at the case of the sea, landscape as contested, and the holy landscape, as well as “The cultivation of emptiness:The history of landscape as seen from the train and the stations”, we are trying to develop a sense of how people appropriate and contest both landscape and the past, developing in the process a sense of identity and an understanding of their world. Landscapes emerge from here as always living sites that recreate their pasts in different ways, as continually being renewed[xii].Persons and their environments, places and identities, are thus mutually constituted (Harvey, 1999)[xii].

[xiii] John Perry Barlow (1996), an Internet activist, published a “Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace”. It was a well-meaning stunt that captured the spirit of the time, when great hopes were pinned on the emerging medium as a force that would encourage freedom and democracy.

[xv] For more on the logic of the return, see, Freud (1953-64,[1919]); Gelder and Jacobs, 1998) and Derrida, (1994). See also Gordon, 1997; and Thrift, 2000; Simmel, 1959The logic of the return is also at work when for instance, the water we thought we have had already under control starts to return in an unexpected manner (See for instance, the case of the new tunnel in The Hague)

[xvi] As we will argue on a separate paper, the risks at work in this space are also the result of our failures as consumers to create conduits of disposal (If we fail to honour the debt to the ghost, to continue to think that we have disposed of it effectively by leaving it on the library shelf when we haven’t, it will not rest but will continue to haunt us). Thus, the social relations of consumption involve consumers not only as shoppers, gourmands, and car drivers but also as doorkeepers. We attend on the door as a conduit of disposal in order to know when to allow admittance and in which direction and when to keep the door closed. We do this in order to keep the unsettled spirits of our past consumer lives at bay. Failure to do this effectively can mean more than feeling spooked, it carries risks with it as the ongoing cases of unmanaged unfinished disposal in AIDS, global warming, the removal of organs from bodies in autopsies in British hospitals and BSE illustrate.

[xvii] In studies of time in work and organization, for example, social time tends to revert to the neutral medium in which events take place and on the basis of which economic exchange is possible (Balbo and Nowotny (eds) 1986; Blyton et al. (eds) 1989; Carlstein et al. (eds) 1978; Melbin 1987; Schor 1992; Zerubavel 1981; Young and Schuller 1991). That is to say, the neutral, decontextualized, empty time of calendars and clocks remains the unques-tioned medium and the parameter within which socio-environmental activities are experienced, constructed, recounted, recorded and commodified. However, ‘this neutral medium’, as Ermarth (1998: 357) insists, ‘is achieved not found.’ It is a ‘particular convention’, a construction of industrial culture that has been ‘naturalized’ and ‘universalized’ to become time per se. The problem has been that the theorizing generally stops short of a thorough analysis of the conventions by which we maintain this ‘time’ as a neutral, homogeneous medium extending infinitely and ‘in’ which mutual relevance can be measured. This notion of time belongs to a fairly unique phase of Western culture: one in which Euro-pean humanism underwrote empirical science and its technologies, just as it underwrote representation in politics and art. (Ermarth 1998: 356)

[xviii] Joffre Dumazedier writing in 1973 dismissed the false leisure of time devoted to family care, religion, politics and friends. ‘Free time’, he argued, must be chosen freely for individual expression and self-achievement; it is essentially disinterested, hedonistic and personal. Marxist theorists warned that the specious freedom of leisure time could not remedy the alienation embedded in capitalist production relations. Herbert Marcuse observed that capital controlled amusement activities: radio, motion pictures and television were all mechanisms of ideological manipulation. Mass consumption was necessary to keep the capitalist system from giving way to its own contradictions. For Marcuse, cultural ‘massification’ could not avoid alienation. Planning circles joined in those (now little remembered) debates. The 1970 “Grand prix international d’urbanisme et d’architecture”, in Cannes, had as its theme: “Le loisir dans la ville nouvelle”. Sociological studies and theoretical debates suggested to city planners that a new city could be designed in which working time played a reduced role. (The office towers of the central business district (CBD) would be displaced by amusement parks and mementos of times past.). Entries at the Prix were firmly grounded in the contemporary debate over leisure. A Marxist city planner, Luigi Cosenza (Cosenza & Moccia, 1987, p. 228), proposed to free every urban function from fixed time constraints. All time, he argued: “must be free in its essence, and there is only one way to make it so, and this is to consider it as continuous. It is not possible to undergo exploitation on the working place, alienation in the habitat, and then isolate a time in the space with a function of regeneration, dissociation, acquittal ”. It is difficult to imagine any concrete proposal that would satisfy Cosenza’s criterion. That mind-set discouraged physical innovations that might be suspected of constraining ‘free time’. In fact, the Prix did not exhibit any great innovation in urban form. Most of the winning entries proposed mega-structures in which work, home, school, recreation and shopping were accomodated by high densities and internal movement systems a modernist vision of living over the store.

[xix] This in turn makes the political quest for accountability futile. Not accountability but generalized personal responsibility should legally be imposed on scientists, company executives, shareholders and politicians. As creators of potentially hazardous futures they are inescapably implicated irrespective of whether or not causal proof can be established between their activities and time–space distantiated outcomes. There is no objective outsider position. Involvement in this technology is an inescapably moral and political issue.