The Good City: Urban Transformation, Comparison and Value
From 18-20 April, the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Urban Transformations (UT) network hosted an international conference in Oxford offering a gathering space for researchers focusing on issues of comparative urbanism across Global, European and UK scales. The conference aimed to summarize UT’s work, and then benefit from the range of experiences to outline new methodologies and vocabularies for conducting comparative and future-oriented urban research.
The central focus of this conference was on how scholars and policy makers can talk across cities and times (past, present and future) in normative but non-homogenizing ways. We therefore structured sessions to address the relationship between desirable values in urbanization and co-existing diverse themes (whether based in reality or perception) of the city. This approach embraced new efforts to quantify cities and catalogue comparative indicators for global urbanism, while also being critical of the dangers in setting universal standards. When pairing together desirable values for setting goals for urban futures with different themes for structuring urban comparison – documenting and narrating such values across time and space – we aimed to account for multiple appropriate forms of urban life as well as universal aspirations for every context: what should your city be and become? Based on what principles and priorities? How can these principles and priorities be shared with other cities to set tailor-made goals and paths to meet those goals?