Explore further about contemporary urban life!

A website full of blogs on initiatives for a flexible and fluid city


(Launched by Golfstromen, an agency for spatial development and communication: http://golfstromen.nl/. They also wrote a book called “Pop-up city; City making in a fluid world”)

A documentary of the VPRO on Silicon Valley, their way of living and future societies

Cybertopia: dromen van Silicon Valley
Men leest het evangelie volgens Steve Jobs, heeft ontzag voor Google en downloadt de nieuwste apps. Als ‘de masters of the universe’ in Silicon Valley de nieuwe mondiale machthebbers zijn, wat is dan hun ethos, hun heilstaat en hun politieke agenda? Wat zegt hun libertarische denken en gedrag over hun ideale wereld? VPRO Tegenlicht staat stil bij de vraag hoe de ‘serial entrepreneurs’, inmiddels allemaal multimiljonair, sociale kwesties zouden oplossen; hoe en met welke doelstellingen lobbyen zij in de richting van Washington DC, Brussel en daar voorbij? De eerste geluiden dat Silicon Valley zich wil afscheiden van de Verenigde Staten zijn misschien wel een voorbode van wat ons nog te wachten staat.


A book on the layers of Hong Kong

“Cities without grounds: A Hong Kong Guidebook”


(A blogpost on the book: http://popupcity.net/dont-touch-the-ground-in-hong-kong/)

A series of videos of a forum on ‘The Innovative Metropolis: Fostering Economic Competitiveness through Sustainable Urban Design’

On February 21, the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings and the Sam Fox School’s Master of Urban Design Program hosted an all-day forum which explored the intersection between sustainable urban design and economic growth while discussing the implications for design and practice. The event also highlighted policies that have enabled individual cities to become successful models of sustainability and examined specific design and policy issues through the lenses of economy, government, climate and social systems.


(Facts & figures on Hong Kong as their casestudy: http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/Events/2013/2/21-innovative-metropolis/Hong_Kong.pdf?la=en)

A research theme of the Royal Holloway University of London:

Identity, Place and Mobility
The Identity, Place and Mobility research theme is a vibrant hub for world class research and researchers. The research theme provides a platform for the development of interdisciplinary and the possibility of developing cross-curricular teaching. As the idea of the theme suggests the diversity and the researchers involved value the connectedness between individual disciplines, knowledge, principles, and/or values in a way that integrates and synthesises knowledge.


A website with designs for urban nomads
Architecture, clothes and other designs for everyone on the go by Winfried Baumann


His book: https://www.amazon.com/Urban-Nomads-Institute-Modern-Nuremberg/dp/3777422185?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=3777422185&linkCode=as2&linkId=WQK3SXWWB7TKKR4X&redirect=true&ref_=as_li_tl&tag=popupcity-20


Absence & Presence


With modern technology closing physical distances in a digitally connected sphere, definitions of “Absence” and “Presence” are being re-constructed and re-considered as we communicate. As we try to understand the personal, national and global relations that are being shaped by these technological advancements, we are also seeking direction: how should technology shape our experience? How do we to let ourselves be connected? What opportunities does this connectivity have to offer us? How is the physical nature of communication affected by digital connectivity?

Artists worldwide have worked with these questions. Considering the artwork as ultimately being a communicative space, advancements in technology offer new tools to convey the artistic message. Also, digital connectivity offers new opportunities for creation and diffusion: worldwide, audiences shift to artists when they are actively present in the creation process, but digital connectivity also offers opportunities for ‘resurrecting’ images, texts and interpretations of artworks and experiencing them subjectively.

The project of “Absence and Presence” aims to map the tensions between presence and absence in art by applying this philosophical theme to the process of creation and meaning-making in the digital age. Rather than approaching Absence/Presence as a binary, this project approaches absence and presence as an experience and as a dynamic space of which the boundaries are being reworked as we participate and reflect on advancements in modern technology.

Prezi photo collages

Hong Kong


The Netherlands




Report of collaborative events: Living like a refugee

IMG_5075The title refugees and education speaks to one’s imagination. In practice it can be implemented in two ways: educating society on refugees and educating refugees to integrate them in society. Discussing this subject in our project group we noticed differences in the refugee situation in Hong Kong and the Netherlands. While the refugee debate in the latter revolves around the rights and secondary needs of refugees the refugee issue in Hong Kong is still struggling to make itself visible to the bigger population. For this reason we have focussed our activity in Hong Kong on educating society on refugees and our activity in the Netherlands on educating refugees.

The 11th of April we left for Hong Kong and after an interesting debate on digital identity forming and an eye opening tour through the city it was our turn to host an activity. In cooperation with photographer Emmanuel Serna, Human Rights Lawyer Patricia Ho and justice centre representative Rachel Li we organized a photo exhibition on refugee living conditions. Serna presented his photo’s made in the Hong Kong slums after which Rachel provided insight in the relationship between the refugees living in these slums and society. The refugees in Hong Kong are often intentionally forgotten because in the slums they have more living space than Hong Kong natives in their houses. Housing is a big problem in Hong Kong with big families living on a few square meters. Human rights lawyer Patricia  is committed to helping the refugees in this situation. She explained to us that people with refugee status can never be naturalized and are not allowed to work. Money they receive from the government to sustain themselves is not transferred to them but to the owner of the plot they rent. Having refugee status also prohibits the refugee to leave the country. This way the refugee will never be able to make a better life for himself.

During the period in which the students from Hong Kong University visited The Netherlands, between May 29th  and June the 4th , we continued our research regarding refugees. In cooperation with the B.A.K. (Basis Actuele Kunst) we organized a debate between Karin Boelhouwer (a member of the environmentalist party Groen Links), The Publisher (an organisation that created a platform for refugees to publish their art and other forms of expression) and students from the Hong Kong University and the University of Utrecht. Instead of a debate, a joint conversation arose in which the different parties were able to clarify their perspectives and add to the way we look at refugees in the Netherlands. Is the Dutch government actively forestalling the integration of refugees by creating complex and bureaucratic rules regarding asylum?  How does the general Dutch public respond to the arrival of refugees with other believes and worldviews in their neighbourhoods?

The results from the conversation, combined with the knowledge gained during the week in Hong Kong, was drawn on the walls of the B.A.K. Central themes where theories about colonialism, otherness, xenophobia and education. By combining students perspectives from both Universities, we came to new insights that will hopefully accompany us for the rest of our academic and personal lives.

Report of collaborative events: identity formation of refugees in the digital age

Group photo at the final presentation in BAK

When a number of refugees residing in a Dutch asylum center were given a smartphone with internet connection for a social experiment, the younger refugees instantly browsed to Facebook. Interestingly enough, they did not log in to their old Syrian Facebook-account, but rather made a new one. They filled in all their personal information, but changed one essential thing: their country of origin. The very first thing they did was construct a new identity for themselves. When asked about their actions, they simply answered: this will help us make new friends here.

Why do those kids believe their Facebook-account to be so essential for social connection? And what exactly is an identity? What makes you you? Would you consider your Facebook profile to be a component of your identity, or rather a (distorted) reflection of your true self?

To explore these questions, we have organized an interdisciplinary debate in Hong Kong including  students and professors from both Utrecht University and Hong Kong University. Consul General Wilfred Mohr of the Netherlands was also present during our opening and invited us later that week to the Dutch Consulate in Hong Kong. During our activity a presentation was given by a representative of the Christian Refugee Association of Hong Kong, followed by an extensive discussion of a selection of debate motions. Emphasis was put in particular on the role of digital media in identity formation and the possible function of digital media in the bridging of culture gaps. Interestingly enough, results of the debate were very skeptic on the power of digital media in global issues. The overall sentiment seemed to be that social networks should be used for social purposes and have little function in greater purposes, although several powerful counterarguments were given.

At the Dutch Consulate in Hong Kong with Consul General Wilfred Mohr

During our weeks working towards our second week of events in Utrecht we saw this point of view evolving, slowly gaining more awareness about the impact of digital media on the construction of identities and at the same time on the way identities are displayed. Articles about refugees on different media are hardly ever completely objective. A certain stance on their situation always shines through, and in particular the remarkable cases are highlighted instead of the normal cases. Even though there are a lot of organizations active in helping the refugees and giving them more say, the question remains if these organizations that function as mediators always display the refugees in the way they would display themselves. Do these organizations really speak for and from the refugees? Or does the level of dependence on the side of the refugees give these organizations more freedom in displaying their case?

These questions have led us to our collaboration with The Publisher during our week of events in Utrecht. The publisher is an independent, nonprofit digital platform for stories and artistic work made by refugees. Through their website they give refugees a platform where they can show their work (poetry, art, story, food and film) to the world without any adjustments. Opposed to other refugee organizations that mostly show the bad circumstances under which the refugees live, The Publisher shows refugees on a more positive note, by showing their talents and values. Of course they still function as a mediator, but they distinguish themselves by giving the refugees the chance to share their story without any interference of the platform or any adjustments to their pieces. This way of collaborating with the refugees aroused our interest and inspired us to invite one of the founders of this digital platform; Jöran Zeeuw to our event. During our event Jöran gave a presentation about The Publisher and took place in a fruitful debate with Karin Boelhouwer, representative of the political party Groen Links of the municipality of Utrecht.
We look back at two great events, which have produced a lot of interesting perspectives on the subject of identity formation of refugees in the digital age, which will certainly add new dimensions to our research.

Marijn Smid & Melodie Zöllner

(In collaboration with Sheela Ganesh and Gayatree Joshi)