Analogue policy in a digital city

On 28 April the Centre for Comparative History and Political Studies hosted an open seminar by Oleg Reut titled “Analogue policy in a digital city”.

  • Oleg Reut - Associate Professor of Comparative Political Studies at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration under the President of the RF (St. Petersburg); Senior Researcher at the Department of regional economic policy at the Institute of Economics of Karelian Research Centre of RAS (Petrozavodsk).

According to Oleg Reut, digitalization of urban space leads to the increment of new layers in the urban landscape, which previously did not exist. Therefore, the practices of powerful and social interactions in these new layers have not yet been detected or investigated.

According to Reut, these new layers start determining the circumstances of citizen’s activities and initiatives, forms of urban management, organization and transformation of a symbolic environment. However, at the same time Reut sees this approach to the new forms of urban reality as somehow contradictive because the phenomenological approach reveals extremely serious epistemological and methodological limitations. The main limitation is the descriptive fallacy, as there is no opportunity to find causal explanatory models and appropriate frames in the phenomenological variety of cases. Hence, the possibility for formulation of hypotheses and their empirical verification is quite limited.

Reut claims that the lack of mechanisms to identify cause-and-effect relationships in new urban reality is determined by the fact that theoretical constructs, which are the result of many studies, are quite often sketchy and extremely non-detailed. This leads to the next problem: the various stages of research work focusing on the political in a digital city are separate and almost unrelated to each other. Also, Oleg Reut noted that the objects in new urban areas are changing faster than research methods that might pin them down. This poses new challenges to those who study interactions between citizens and the authorities in urban areas as citizens’ user habits and types of communication are changing rapidly, and therefore it leads to changes in attitudes towards social and political activism too. Moreover, the transformation touches upon an infrastructure of urban public spaces, adapted to the mobile internet and the multi-format of wireless data networks.