Humanizing Digitization: The city of Linz's Approach Towards a Digital City

The city of Linz, located in Upper Austria, has been hosting one of the most important festivals for connecting art, technology, and society since 1979; the ARS electronica festival. Ars Electronica was initiated by four visionary (artist) citizens and is, after 43 years, one of the world's most prominent stages for digital art today. Having large industrial factories, Linz was known as an industrial steel city. For transforming from an industrial city to a digital city, Linz has its unique approach linked to its identity. ARS Electronica is the nucleus of Linz's digital program.

The transition toward a digital city

Many cities are branded as smart or digital these days. Even though adopting an attractive and trendy brand is currently a common policy, little do the branding practices credibly and go beyond the policy to implement it. Transforming a city into a smart city not only requires a systematic development process but also requires convincing different stakeholders to participate in this process. The transition towards a digital city in Linz is constructed through historical and cultural discourses, and local knowledge, and influenced by its fields of strengths. Martin Giesswein, the advisor for Digitales Linz shares that “Linz focuses on those fields, where it is strong;  Art and Culture, Industry, and  Startups and Innovators”. Linz was selected as the European Capital of Culture in 2009, a city with a cultural heritage in art and technology. One of the large factories in Linz, the tobacco factory (Tabakfabrik), was acquired by the city council and transformed into a showcase for European best practices for a public-private partnership where today is a place for more than 250 creative businesses, companies, and organizations. Tabakfabrik is now a hotspot of the creative industry and is known as a factory of the future. 

Photo credits: Innovationshauptplatz der Stadt Linz

Humanizing Digitization for inclusive and sustainable cities

The value proposition of the digital Linz program communicated to the different stakeholders, including the town's economy, NGOs, administration, civil society, citizens, and scientists, is based on culture and creativity, demonstrating its competitive advantages for future development and future ambitions. Linz’s attitude to digitization is to be committed to the values of humanity through humanizing digitization to make the city inclusive, safe, and sustainable. ARS Electronica festival, with more than four decades of history in its effort to discuss the digital revolution and its possible consequences on society, evokes the centrality of human factors in Digitales Linz. The festival hosts people interested in digital art from around the world.

Photo credits: Negar Noori

Welcome to Planet B

This year, the festival’s theme is ‘Welcome to Planet B’. 'Planet B' refers to a different way of living on this planet through changing ourselves as individuals and addressing urgent questions of how should our life on this planet look like to prevent ecological disaster? What actions must we take, and what consequences must we accept? In order to respond to these questions, ARS Electronica asks artists to reflect on them and brings the dialogue to the community. ARS Electronica is a showcase of community-based initiatives for empowering citizens in critical reflection on digital technologies.

Bottom-up and participatory decision-making

Linz has a bottom-up approach and participatory decision-making process for its digital program. The city’s participation platform provides citizens the opportunity to post their ideas. The platform was established about a year ago, and so far, 60 ideas have been filed by citizens to gain votes in two months. Those Ideas with more than 30 approvals from the community through votes were invited to the expert round table meeting and have been examined. The approved ideas will be executed.

This news article is written by Negar Noori.

ARS Electronica Festival