Dr Agnieszka Leszczynski

Agnieszka Leszczynski is an Associate Professor in the Department of Geography & Environment at Western University in Canada. She is an editor of Dialogues in Human Geography, Environment and Planning F: Philosophy, Theory, Models, Methods, and Practice, and a former editor of Big Data & Society. Her current work focuses on the intensifying integration of digitality and cities.

Platforms transforming urban place

This talk considers how platforms are transforming places in cities. It does so by engaging with how traces of platfomization materially ‘show up’ and ‘touch down’ in cities, and where. Drawing on a range of empirical instances from North American cities, I situate and trace urban platform materialities in three registers: aesthetics, glitchy spatialities, and amenitization. Docked bikesharing infrastructure in Vancouver comprises a serialized aesthetics increasingly coimplicated with what gentrification ‘looks like’ in place at the sub-neighbourhood scale in cities. An e-bike sited above a tent encampment in San Jose and the ‘emoji house’ in Manhattan Beach, California, appear as aesthetic ‘glitches’ in our conditioned desires for orderly city places and Instagrammable architectures. And finally, informed by the results of a spatial analysis of the locations of platform-based presences in Canadian cities, I draw on collaborative work to position platforms as a novel urban amenity class, establishing how and why this matters for our understandings of place-making in cities. Read across these registers, platform materialities emerge as vectors of significant urban platial transformation foregrounding where platforms locate in cities – an aspect of platform urbanism as yet unexamined in the key literatures beyond short term rentals. Drawing on a geocoded dataset of visible, material traces of platformization collected across a random sample of neighbourhoods in three Canadian cities (Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal), we consider the influences that characteristics of urban environments – including existing amenities (e.g., restaurants and bars, parks and green spaces, public transit stations/stops, etc.), urban morphology (e.g., street type and density), and area-level socioeconomic factors (education, household income, and racial/ethnic diversity) – have on platforms’ material locations. On the basis of a Poisson regression of these covariates, we find that it is the presence of existing urban amenities that most strongly explains the presences of material traces of urban platformization on the cityscape at the city block scale. Positioning platforms themselves as a novel amenity class that extends emplaced (site-specific) utility and lifestyle functions to urban denizens, we contend that the platformization of urban landscapes constitutes a form of ‘splintering amenitization’, wherein (platformized) urban amenities co-locate with other (traditional, existing) urban amenities, to the exclusion of amenity-poor areas. This, we argue, is important, as city neighbourhoods’ abilities to attract amenities are central to how enclaves both position themselves within and compete for status in urban spatial hierarchies.

Dr Juliane Czierpka

Juliane Czierpka is an Assistant Professor in the Department of History at Ruhr-University Bochum in Germany. She published books and articles on regional industrialisation and de-industrialisation in Europe. Currently, her work focuses on the Ruhr area and its relationship to the European Coal and Steel Community and its transformative period since the 1960s.

Women and places in transformation – the role of women in the deindustrialisation of the Ruhr area

The Ruhr area was dominated by its steel and coal industries right into the second half of the 20th century. Within these sectors, workplaces for men could be found in abundance, while women were employed in smaller numbers for administrative tasks, lighter manual work or in health care. More often they tended to the house, where rooms were rented out to lodgers, and the attached gardens, where they grew vegetables, thus making sure the family was able to survive on the men’s wages. In the history of the Ruhr region – in the popular narration of the past as well as in the historiography – women are often left out or only seen as mothers, wives, or daughters of the main characters of the story, namely the coal and steel workers. In my talk, I would like to shed some light on the role of women during the process of industrialisation in the Ruhr region. I’m going to show how the region’s specific economic structure and the national economic policy influenced the perspectives for women on the transforming job markets and how women reacted to and dealt with the closure of pits and steel works and the variegated way how these closures impacted on housing, infrastructure, and everyday lives in the region.