City as Civilization: From Ecumenopolis to Res Communis
The study of cities purely as discrete objects—that begin and end in a bounded condition—is becoming increasingly obsolete. As Clare Lyster describes in her book, Learning from Logistics: How Networks Change Our Cities (2016), questions of the urban must now contend with a vast landscape of connected systems of exchange. Cities—no longer contained to their historical, political or territorial boundaries— are becoming increasingly enmeshed in a planetary-scale theater of material flows responsive to international geopolitics, regimes of extraction and consumption, and inertia towards the elaboration of what could aptly be described as an “ecumenopolis”—a “world city,” a term first conceptualized by Isaac Asimov (“Black Friar of the Flame” in the Foundation series, 1942), later re-articulated by C. A. Doxiadis (1967), reframed by Henri Lefebvre (La révolution urbaine, 1970), and updated to contemporary frameworks by Neil Brenner (Implosions/Explosions: Towards a Study of Planetary Urbanization, 2014). Simultaneously, moving in scale from the macro to micro will reveal cities today to be contending with a variety of challenges.
Building on this context, this research aims to ask a radical question: Can global materials flows be mined for opportunities for revitalization of the urban at a local scale? Or, worded differently, What planetary-scale movements and trends can be operationalized to choreograph and reinject new industry—and therefore vibrancy—into struggling cities? With the City of Calgary as a case-study, this paper will also present a series of graduate student-led data-driven geospatial visualizations articulated as videographic essays that explore the multi-scalar, networked relationships between various planetary movements and material flows and the static physicality of space that articulates how the global can inform the local.