Fabian Ebeling

KU Eichstätt-Ingolstadt

Am Marktplatz 2

85072 Eichstätt

Fabian Ebeling holds a master’s degree in media and cultural studies which he attained at Bauhaus-University Weimar in 2012. His academic work examined the co-emergence of culture and media and how they impact knowledge formations in society.

After graduating, he co-founded Die Epilog – Journal on Contemporary Culture and moved on to work as an editor for Kulturastausch – Journal for International Perspectives, which is published by the Institute for Foreign Relations. After running Die Epilog as editor-in-chief for 7 years, he now co-publishes the magazine. Since 2015, he has been working as a journalist for taz – die tageszeitung, Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg and ZEIT Online, increasingly shifting his focus towards smart city developments and discourses.


His research focuses on how smart city discourses and technologies emerge and which impact they have on current medialities in urban environments.

Film, Skulptur, Plan: Eine Mediengeschichte der smarten Stadt 1.0

The concept of smart cities has gained momentum since the turn of the century. Often, these visions have been driven by tech companies who offer technological solutions to urban problems. On the one hand, such technologies are supposed to make life in cities more efficient, organized, and sustainable. On the other hand, there is criticism around how technologies can amplify racial bias, enhance public surveillance, and how they cater to the interests of big tech companies rather than the common good.

Based on a genealogical approach, my PhD thesis offers a different mode of understanding of smart city developments. In three case studies, the dissertation focuses on a neglected factor in the emergence of smart cities: a media historically and media aesthetically grounded approach. The case studies deal with cybernetic concepts that found expressions in film, arts and city planning. Through these case studies which are roughly situated between 1950 and 1980, the dissertation aims to work out a media historically grounded perspective which should add to the theoretisation and understanding of smart cities today.

Jean-Luc Godard’s film “Alphaville” imagines a cybernetically grounded, computerized regime of control which is set in the Paris of 1965. The potential capacity of the computer to integrate every place in the city into its circuits and processing conveys the notion of a heterotopian pattern of thinking. Through cybernetic sculptures and his thinking about “The Cybernetic City,” French-Hungarian artist Nicolas Schöffer worked towards the decentering of the subject – a core objective of cybernetics – to aesthetically educate and improve humankind. In the execution of the “Plan for Milton Keynes”, the Social Development Unit within the Milton Keynes Development Corporation implicitly implemented cybernetic notions of conversation which contributed to the emergence of this British New Town.

The cases bring to light in how far cybernetic principles were applied and how they found expressions to the media involved in each case. Through that, the dissertation connects the filmic image and practices of montage, cybernetic sculptures and notions of conversation to recent thinking and practices around smart, responsive and cognitive cities.