[URBANTH-L]CFP: Modeling Spaces - Modifying Societies

Angela Jancius jancius at ohio.edu
Thu Apr 23 09:54:53 EDT 2009

Call for Papers

"Modeling Spaces - Modifying Societies"

Conference organized by the graduate program Topology of Technology of the 
Darmstadt University of Technology
To be held at the Fraunhofer IGD, Darmstadt, Germany, 7-9 October 2009

Phenomena recognized as spatial arrangements are complex-thus we need tools 
to cope with them. Models can serve as tools for researchers and 
practitioners alike. There are two distinct yet interwoven aspects of 
models, both of which will be addressed by this conference: models as 
analytical devices and models as a reference for intervention. Models and 
other forms of abstract representations are generated to organize findings 
and to simulate options. In decision-making processes models have an 
enormous impact in that they provide guidelines for implementations as well 
as legitimation in situations of conflict, even though they are also 
increasingly understood as constructions.

Out of the great variety of spatial phenomena, climatology is a good example 
to show how models are constructed and affect society. They are used to 
analyze spatial patterns theoretically as well as to legitimize intervention 
in the political sphere. Global climate models are approximations of complex 
physical processes and enable researchers to simulate the climate system. 
The General Circulation Model allows predictions of various scenarios. Such 
scientifically-based statements simplified the implementation of the Kyoto 
Protocol. They increased public awareness and led to a growing market for 
renewable energy. Similarly, the case of modernist urban planning highlights 
how the analysis of problems was recast in plans for action. Population 
densities and the variety of space usages in the industrializing cities were 
perceived as the root of various social deficiencies. Subsequently, abstract 
models based on the ideals of dispersion and the separation of functions 
shaped cities throughout the latter half of the 20th century.

Both examples show that the status of models depends significantly on the 
contexts in which they are developed and employed. First, the nature of any 
model is determined by the goal to be achieved; modeling is always designed 
to serve a particular aim and can take on many forms. Still, the 
applicability of models is related to the specific conditions under which 
they are designed, proposed and tested; therefore, the transfer of a model 
from one area to another is not always justified. And, furthermore, the way 
in which models are perceived often endows them with considerable normative 
power. Is it perhaps the case that model-building in research and society 
are deeply problematic in that such abstractions may develop into 
self-fulfilling prophecies? Moreover, models govern planning and simulation, 
processes which are in many ways interwoven with model-building. Hence, 
models do not only provide systematized information, but are also explicitly 
directed at the future. While it is beyond doubt that models create 
instrumental knowledge, the distinctive spatial dimension of models is open 
to discussion. Are there specific ways of modeling three-dimensional spaces, 
for example particular forms of visualization? Do spatial arrangements offer 
specific kinds of information for analysis and intervention-as is probably 
the case in logistics and architecture? Is a model more forceful if it 
refers to certain localities, because attachment to place gives rise to a 
feeling of involvement or concern-as in the rapidly growing interest in 
Geographical Information Systems (GIS)? Or is the spatial distribution of 
researchers and practitioners themselves an issue that reflects on model 

This conference aims to increase our understanding of the power and 
limitations of models, their construction and effects in the sciences and in 
fields of practice. It provides a forum for the discussion of qualitative 
and quantitative models composed of verbal propositions, numerical 
abstractions, and visualizations. Of particular interest are issues that cut 
across established scientific disciplines and analyze the boundaries between 
science, technology, society, and politics. A preliminary list of subject 
areas comprises:

- architecture and social work
- urban planning and policies
- system sciences and management
- the history and future of infrastructures
- sustainability science and resources management
- climate science and emission regulations
- geography (incl. GIS and GPS and their commercial application)
- behavioral sciences and human health
- philosophy, ethics and spatial order

The conference explicitly aims at bringing scientists and practitioners from 
outside the academy together. To simplify discussion and the exchange of 
information and experience, plenary speeches will be complemented by smaller 
workshop-like sessions. Keynote speeches will be held by:

- Paul N. Edwards (University of Michigan): "Versions of the Atmosphere: 
Climate Models, Data Models, Global Space and Time"
- Amy Hillier (University of Pennsylvania): "Mapping Social Patterns: The 
Making and Unmaking of Inequality"
- Roland Scholz (ETH Zürich): "Transdisciplinarity, System Sciences, and 
Prospective Modeling in Regional Transformation"
- Oskar von Stryk (TU Darmstadt): "Models and Simulation in Engineering: 
Dynamics of Motion and Robot Intelligence"

The conference is organized by the graduate program Topology of Technology 
of Darmstadt University of Technology and is financed by the German Research 
Foundation (DFG). The interdisciplinary graduate program focuses on the 
interdependencies of technology and space.
The conference will take place at the Fraunhofer IGD, Darmstadt, Germany, 
7-9 October, 2009. Darmstadt is situated 30 kilometers south of Frankfurt am 

We invite proposals that include an abstract of no more than 2,000 
characters and a brief CV. Deadline for submission is May 31, 2009. 
Proposals should be submitted to the conference website at 
www.modelingspaces.com. Applicants can expect approval by July 15. The final 
program will be advertised in the second half of July.

Accommodation will be provided for accepted presenters and their traveling 
costs will be covered up to 150? for participants from Germany, 300? for 
participants from within Europe and 600? for oversea participants. The 
conference fee amounts to 130? (applications for a fee waiver may be filed). 
For further information please visit our website at: www.modelingspaces.com

Professor Mikael Hard
Dept. of History
Darmstadt University of Technology
D-64283 Darmstadt
Phone: +49 6151-163097
Fax: +49 6151-163992

Email: hard at ifs.tu-darmstadt.de
Visit the website at http://www.modelingspaces.com 

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