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Ancient Romans posited a strict correspondence between the city as a physical concept - what they called urbs - and the society that inhabited it - the civitas. This conceptualization rested on an assumption that went largely unchallenged for centuries: most people live where they belong. What happens, then, when the social and technological conditions of the contemporary world severs these ties? Tourists criss-cross the planet seeking leisure, high-powered workers extend their careers across continents, and migrants flee their homes in search of new opportunities. To rebuild a coherent notion of urban citizenship, one that allows communities to flourish, this perspective article sketches a model of “variable citizenship,” that could account for different categories of people who have been cut off from conventional modes of belonging. With this new, flexible model of citizenship, supported both by digital tools and design projects that reclaim the importance of physical, shared public spaces, we can reconnect the urbs to the fast-moving civitas of our time.
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