Astana hosted a lecture titled ‘A Gotham City, Infinite Poem’ by David Gersten Nov. 20.  A professor at the Cooper Union came from New York to give the lecture in the Kazakh capital for the second time.

Gersten’s lecture focused on continuous transformations cities are going through in the age of technology. He spoke about how humans impact cities and vice versa as well as how turning points or technologies define both. Gersten gives Gotham city as a primary example to discuss cutting edge transformations in human history. Gotham is a fictional American city, mostly known as Batman’s home. However, Gotham became a popular nickname of New York City in the 19th century which was one of the birthplaces of iconic innovations.

Human population growth has become one of the strongest elements causing changes in urban settings. According to the chart of global population growth presented by Gersten, the population doubled from 3.6 billion in 1969 to 7.5 billion at present day by increasing at a rate of nearly 200,000 people a day. The population growth causes transformations in all areas and accordingly, the cities confront new models and face complex challenges. 

Gersten claims these simultaneous transformations are measured by cities. The city offers a site or location to create the transformations.  “The city mirrors us, contains us, moves to us and includes us. We are in the city and the cities are in us. We are co-constructing each other. As we grow the city grows,” David Gersten explained. The professor elaborated on this with “the city and civilization itself exist in a continued state of change and constant emerging.”  Cities are living systems that tell about transformations in human history. They offer insight into who we are and how we have lived and a glimpse of what future may hold.  In Gersten’s words “Gotham speaks to the city itself as a poem, unlimited and infinite.”

According to Gersten, within this unlimited and infinite poem, there are a number of hinges or turning points that define the transformations.

One of such constellation moments was an invention of an elevator in the mid-19th century in New York. The elevator was one of the amazing stories and a hinge moment that had dramatic impact on humankind. Another turning point that happened relatively at the same time was a transcontinental railroad which connected the East and West coast of the North American continent. These vertical and horizontal transformations changed the concept of space and time by creating new geographies and destinations.

Other remarkable moments include inventions of telegraph, film and photography and the Internet. These moments are so important that they can define not only the changes but also us, the humans, Gersten explains.

During his first visit to the Kazakh capital, David Gersten observed that Astana is an Instagram city because visitors of the international exhibition EXPO 2017 took thousands of images of the city which are now spread out across the world through the application. Furthermore, he stated that Astana is more than an artificial city because he questioned the very artificiality of Instagram. He said “Is Instagram artificial or is it a real experience? By posting pictures we double ourselves instantly. Mechanical reproduction links to biological reproduction and both have the same will to reproduce by biological or technological means,” Gersten concluded. 

By Makhabbat Sadykova