The Fifth Annual Conference on Global Urbanism

Mobilities in Cities: From Visible to Invisible

April 11, 2014 • 10:00AM – 6:00PM

Columbia University, Avery Hall, Wood Auditorium

The fifth annual conference on global urbanism brought together theorists and practitioners from architecture, civil engineering, technology, the social sciences and more. The focus was on the very diverse ways in which mobility is constituted in today’s cities across the world – from visible cars and walking crowds to invisible digital and mechanical networks.

Mobilities in Cities was hosted by Saskia Sassen, then co-chair of the Committee on Global Thought (CGT) and now member of the CGT. Her most recent book, Expulsions: Brutality and Complexity in the Global Economy, will be published by Harvard University Press in May 2014.

This conference was part of a larger project on Urbanizing Technology supported by the Audi Urban Future Initiative and contributed to the Signature Research Project Urbanizing Technology: The Mobility Complex.


Urbanizing Technology, The Audi Urban Future Initiative

  • Saskia Sassen, Robert S. Lynd Professor of Sociology, Committee on Global Thought, Columbia University

Today’s Mobility Spaces and Beyond

  • How Motion Came to Dominate Urban Space: Richard Sennett, University Professor of Humanities, New York University and Professor of Sociology, London School of Economics and Political Science
  • Urban Form, Transport Networks and Travel Demand: The Accessibility Nexus: Eric J. Miller, Professor, Department of Civil Engineering and Director, University of Toronto Transportation Research Institute, University of Toronto
  • Moving beyond the ‘Car’: John Urry, Author of Societies beyond Oil (Zed 2013) and Offshoring (Polity 2014)

Watch Sessions I here.


  • Toward Transmobility: Adam Greenfield, Founder and Managing Director, Urbanscale and Senior Urban Fellow, LSE Cities
  • The Future of Urban Mobility in China: Xuefei Ren, Associate Professor of Sociology and Global Urban Studies, Michigan State University

Watch Session II here.

Measuring, Making, Subverting Urban Futures

  • What does the Global Power City Index 2013 tell us about Mobility in New York, Tokyo and two other cities?: Hiroo Ichikawa, Dean, Graduate School of Governance Studies, Meiji University and Executive Director, Mori Memorial Foundation, Japan
  • Moving Bits: Assaf Biderman, Associate Director, SENSEable City Lab, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Bogotá: Urban Space for a New Mobility: Diana Barco, Co-curator, Bogotá Urban Interactions and Future Mobility, Audi Urban Future Initiative, and Doris Tarchópulos, Co-curator and Co-director, Bogotá Urban Interactions and Future Mobility, Audi Urban Future Initiative

Watch Session III here.

Programming Mobility

  • Reprogramming Mobility: Greg Lindsay, Visiting Scholar, NYU Rudin
  • Modes of Mobility: Restricted, Imposed, Ignored, Opened or Hacked: Claire Roberge, Researcher, Urbanizing Technology: The Mobility Complex
  • Comparative Political Economy of Sustainable Transport: Walter Hook, Chief Executive Officer, Institute for Transportation & Development Policy, New York

Watch Session IV here.

Closing Remarks: What is next in this research project?

  • Saskia Sassen, Robert S. Lynd Professor of Sociology, Committee on Global Thought, Columbia University

Diana Barco is a Colombian architect (M.Arch. from Columbia, B.S. in Management and Design from MIT). She worked with Rogelio Salmona before establishing her practice - research on low-income housing, design of mausoleums and interventions in historic buildings in Cartagena and Bogota, for which she received awards at international Biennales. Research on Salmona's architecture led to curating his retrospective exhibition, creating the Salmona Foundation and developing the Salmona Latin-American Prize for Architecture that generates public space. Presently she is Co-curator of the AUFI Bogota project on mobility and urban fabric. She is also an activist/advocate in global arenas for sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Assaf Biderman is a technology inventor, author, and entrepreneur. He teaches at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he is the associate director of the Senseable City Laboratory. Assaf has background in physics, design, and computing. He holds multiple patents and has co-authored over 50 publications and book chapters. His work has been exhibited in museums worldwide, and features in over 3000 media publications. In 2012, Assaf founded Superpedestrian, a venture that develops lightweight networked vehicles that offer alternatives to cars and connect drivers, riders, and sensors with the built environment in new ways. Superpedestrian commercializes the Copenhagen Wheel, Senseable City Lab's award winning project.

Adam Greenfield is founder and managing director of Urbanscale and Senior Urban Fellow at LSE Cities. Between 2008 and 2010, he was Nokia’s head of design direction for service and user interface design. He is the author of Everyware: The dawning age of ubiquitous computing (2006), Urban computing and its discontents (2007, with Mark Shepard) and Against the smart city (2013).

Walter Hook is one of the foremost experts in bus rapid transit and non-motorized transport planning. Throughout his career, he has worked to make transport more environmentally sustainable and equitable. He has worked with large international financial institutions such as the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, and various UN agencies to redirect hundreds of millions of dollars in transport funding to more sustainable transport projects. Dr. Hook has been at the helm of ITDP since 1993. Under his leadership, he has transformed the organization from a small advocacy nonprofit to a leading international organization with over 70 staff and offices in every region of the globe.

Hiroo Ichikawa is currently Dean of the Professional Graduate School of Governance Studies at Meiji University in Tokyo, Japan and Executive Director of the Mori Memorial Foundation in Japan. Professor Ichikawa specializes in urban policy, urban and regional planning and policy for foreign aid. He is cross-appointed as an Adjunct Professor at the School of Science and Engineering at Waseda University in Japan. He is also a member of the steering committee and a chairman of the working committee for the Global Power City Index (GPCI).

Greg Lindsay is a visiting scholar at New York University’s Rudin Center for Transportation Policy & Management, where he is part of “Re-Programming Mobility,” a year-long investigation funded by the Rockefeller Foundation. He is a senior fellow of the World Policy Institute — where he directs the Emergent Cities Project — a contributing writer for "Fast Company", and co-author of the international bestseller Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next.

Eric Miller is Professor of Civil Engineering and Director of the Transportation Research Institute at the University of Toronto. He has BASc and MASc degrees from the University of Toronto and a PhD from MIT. Professor Miller is Chair of the Transportation Research Board Committee on Travel Behavior and Values and past-Chair of the International Association for Travel Behaviour Research. His research interests include: analysis and modeling of urban form - travel behavior interactions; agent-based microsimulation modeling; and sustainable urban transportation planning.

Xuefei Ren is Associate Professor of Sociology and Global Urban Studies at Michigan State University. She is the author of Building Globalization: Transnational Architecture Production in Urban China (2011, University of Chicago Press, Best Book of the Political Economy of the World System Section, American Sociological Association) and Urban China (2013, Polity Press, Outstanding Academic Titles Award from the Choice magazine, 2013). She has been a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC and is currently writing a new book on urbanization and governance in India and China.

Claire Roberge has been a researcher on the Urbanizing Technology: the Mobility Complex project. Her original research interests were in the transnational networked practices, specifically of actors from a diversity of countries and cultures. The case study led to a theorization of the passage looking at 19th century technological advancements as part of new architectural developments in the city and furthering the analysis to include contemporary digitized networks. From 2007 to 2011, Dr. Roberge was Outreach Specialist of a hub of research on issues and controversies in media, technology and culture, based at McGill University and, supported by the Canadian Beaverbrook Foundation.

Saskia Sassen is the Robert S. Lynd Professor of Sociology and Co-Chair, The Committee on Global Thought, Columbia University. Recent books are Territory, Authority, Rights: From Medieval to Global Assemblages (Princeton University Press 2008), A Sociology of Globalization (W.W.Norton 2007), and the 4th fully updated edition of Cities in a World Economy (Sage 2011). She is currently working on When Territory Exits Existing Frameworks (Under contract with Harvard University Press).  Her most recent book, Expulsions: Brutality and Complexity in the Global Economy, will be published by Harvard University Press in May 2014.

Richard Sennett has explored how individuals and groups make social and cultural sense of material facts -- about the cities in which they live and about the labor they do. He focuses on how people can become competent interpreters of their own experience, despite the obstacles society may put in their way. His research entails ethnography, history, and social theory. Most recently, Mr. Sennett has explored the positive aspects of labor in The Craftsman (2008), and in Together: The Rituals, Pleasures and Politics of Cooperation (2012).

Doris Tarchopulos is an architect, PhD in Urban Planning and Extraordinary PhD Award from the University Polytechnic of Catalonia and has a Master degree in Housing from the National Autonomous University of Mexico. She worked as an architect in the office of Miralles Tagliabue Architects Associates and has extensive experience in teaching and research in urban planning, housing and urban growth forms. Presently Tarchopulos is Associate Professor and Director of the Master in Urban and Regional Planning at the Architecture School of the Javeriana University. She is also Co-curator and Co-director of the research project "Bogotá Urban Interactions and Future Mobility" sponsored by Audi Urban Future Initiative.

John Urry is Distinguished Professor of Sociology at Lancaster University and a Founding Academician of the Academy of Social Sciences. He chaired UK RAE Panels (1996, 2001), has been a science expert on a UK Government Foresight Programme (2005-6), was a member of the Science and Engineering Review of DfT (2009), and is co-author of Electric Vehicles (Royal Academy of Engineering 2010). He has published c40 books and special issues including Mobilities (Polity 2007), Aeromobilities (Routledge 2009), After the Car (Polity 2009), Mobile Lives (Routledge 2010), The Tourist Gaze 3.0 (Sage 2011), Climate Change and Society (Routledge 2011), Societies beyond Oil (Zed 2013). The new book Offshoring (Polity 2014) will be published April 2014. He is founding co-editor of the leading journal Mobilities (Routledge). Twitter @johnurry