The digital revolution has impacted the evolution of cities, changing urban spaces and city life. Dr. Art Blake, Associate Professor in History, is examining how digital technologies are affecting urban centres. He currently leads the Canadian Cities Initiative (CCI) at Ryerson's Faculty of Arts that brings together faculty and students with city partners, such as the Toronto Public Library (TPL), to fill contemporary urban needs, such as neighbourhood regeneration and educational outreach.
Libraries play an integral role in urban community building, offering access to a public space with learning tools and work stations for collaborations. Dr. Blake, his faculty colleagues, and his students are providing an evaluation of TPL’s two Digital Innovation Hubs, helping the TPL determine how to improve access to new technologies and meet community needs in a digital, vertical, and global city.
“People who have grown up with the internet and social media are rethinking urban life,” Dr. Blake proposes. “Digital innovation has offered new ways of making connections in an urbanized world.”
Libraries are evolving with cities by providing education and entertainment not just through books, but also through digital tools and technology to meet urban needs. The services that TPL provides are particularly important for city building. Its Digital Innovation Hubs provide access to high-tech tools such as coding software, 3D printers and scanners, and audio/visual editing equipment without any cost, helping community members of all ages adapt to our changing world. The CCI research will help TPLs stay relevant and maximize benefit to the communities they serve.
Dr. Blake’s current research also looks at the history and growth of "maker spaces" and the "maker movement" in Canada and the U.S. These spaces — similar to the TPL’s Digital Innovation Hubs — offer cheap access to 21st century "DIY," offering digital technologies as well as traditional tools.
“People from different physical or cultural communities have found each other online through shared interests but are now meeting in person to work on live collaborations,” says Dr. Blake. “For an urban historian like me, it is a fascinating time to see how people combine technology and creativity to build real-time urban connections.”
The digital revolution has impacted the evolution of cities, changing urban spaces and city life. Dr. Art Blake, Associate Professor in History, is examining how digital technologies are affecting urban centres.