Do Din, a two-day event, aims to use technology and art to explore how people and institutions experience and understand the city.

Cities are like living, breathing organisms. They are born, sometimes organically, sometimes by design. Some cities are said to have a faster pulse than others. There are cities that sleep and ones that don’t. Cities grow, cities thrive and, like organisms, cities are held together by a complex set of central and supportive systems. Most importantly, cities are in a constant state of change. But change is not new to 400 year old Hyderabad. Bazaars which once sold pearls from Chandanpet, now also sell footwear from China. The city that was once the stronghold of an empire is now the centre of political unrest. Early migrants from rural Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra are joined by those from all parts of India and the world. This rapid, overwhelming change is part of what urban geographer Anant Maringanti of Hyderabad Urban Lab (HUL) calls an ‘explosion of space’. To unravel this explosion HUL is organising Do-Din, ‘a community driven techno-arts event’ featuring workshops, discussions, exhibition and performances, all revolving on urban themes. HUL is involved in community engagement and multidisciplinary research on urbanisation and the event is part of their mission to understand and study cities.

“As India enters a new era of urbanisation, our extant systems of knowledge and infrastructure are no longer useful because the place itself has come apart in various ways,” he explains. “For instance, mobility in the Sixties was largely to the public sector undertakings and government offices; schools and shops would be a short walk away from home. But jobs are no longer in public sector enterprises, thousands of women work late in shopping malls – what spaces do they navigate through?, paramedics work odd hours in far away places – how do they get back home?, newcomers to the city can’t read bus numbers as they are in Telugu - all sorts of new connections are happening.”

The explosion can result in many dangers as well, like the increased number of assaults on women. “We can’t say these are just assaults on women because that is happening in a particular social and spatial context and a particular time. We didn’t see these 50 years ago, and it is not happening so much in a small town like Karimnagar, it is happening here, now; which means we have to get to the smaller details to understand the broader picture,” says Anant. “For this we need people who have an understanding of the situation and are willing to experiment.” Do- Din will be dedicated to tackling such issues within the context of cities, and focusing on rebuilding old institutions and rekindling lost social connections that can help make use of this knowledge in the new and complex urban scenario.

Unlike at most conferences, the sessions at Do-Din cannot be classified into specific categories. The event will follow a template of six themes — water and waste, mobility and safety, housing and planning, violence, memory and negotiation. Geo hackspace, a mapping workshop will bring together designers, hackers, data scientists, geoactivists to find innovative ways to use open source mapping to solve urban problems like mobility. Economist and mapper Sumandro Chattapadhyay says, “Open data and maps have the potential to produce unorthodox narratives of how urban spaces are experienced and these narratives are crucial to understanding any city and are hence fundamental for any political action towards democratisation of the city.”

Talk space will have people sharing their experiences on various urban themes - Debashish Nayak, Director of Heritage Centre, Ahmedabad University will speak about heritage conservation; Lubna Sarwath, Convener, Save our urban lakes will talk about her work and G.V. Ramanjaneyulu will shed light on urban agriculture. There will also be film screenings revolving around urban themes and photo exhibitions that include pictures sent in by citizen photographers. Sutradhar will stage a version of ‘Biryani and Haleem’ set in Bholakpur, the centre of Hyderabad’s scrap market.

The aim of the conference is to attract people who are experiencing and thinking about urban life and giving them the tools to organise their knowledge. Harsha Devulapalli, who has worked on a map to visualise bus transit in the city will be able to take his project to the next step through interactions with experts in the field. Munavar Chand, a social worker from Bholakpur on the other hand is expecting to learn more about gathering spatial data and using it to portray the complexities of his locality.

The event will be held across Hyderabad on December 14 and 15. For more details, log on to do-din.org.