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Posts in category 'Urban development'

2 July 2013

Notes on “Ambient Commons”, by Malcolm McCullough

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Malcolm McCullough is one the key thinkers and writers about the intersection of the network, digital media, and the urban and architectural. Dan Hill (who will speak here in Torino on Thursday) was asked to provide a testimonial for the back of McCullough’s latest book, “Ambient Commons; Attention in the age of embodied interaction,” which he reproduced on his blog, together with some choice excerpts.

“Ambient Commons is both a timely, if highly civilised, wake-up call and a hugely valuable guidebook to the new post-”digital” landscape of contemporary urban culture.

In suggesting we “take back our attention”, genuinely consider our surroundings, take notice of the world, McCullough argues for a radical rebalancing of our patterns of living, working, playing – not as a refusenik, but as engaged and critical designer and thinker, and backed up by building on a bravura free-wheeling whistle-stop tour through an “environmental history of urban information”.

As physical and digital entwine such that they can rarely be separated, the relationship between disciplines and perspectives becomes increasingly complex and interwoven too. “Ambient Commons” demonstrates how a book can strategically expand the perspective, toolkit and practical vocabulary of the designers, coders and architects who are helping produce the new soft city, but through its open, diverse and richly patterned reference points and positions, it will be engaging and insightful for anyone who wants to understand what’s going on on the street of today and tomorrow.

McCullough also demonstrates how important it is that we understand technology as culture, and that it is worthy of philosophical inquiry. He manages to convey these complex ideas such that they feel accessible, yet are rigorously researched, are instantly appealing, yet prompt considered reflection, stoking the engines on many trains of thought.

It is also, unlike most texts that pivot around technology, beautifully written. It is a critical book to have written at this point.”

2 July 2013

Urban sustainability: what will a smart city look like in the future?

Schuylkill River, Philadelphia

By 2050 there will be five billion urbanites but, with pressure on resources and climate disruption, how will cities cope? New technology and conceptual design will be vital, says Emma Stewart, head of sustainability solutions at Autodesk.

“If we play our cards right, the 2050 city will:

  • recognise its context, situated within a natural and agricultural ecosystem that provides its denizens’ abundant raw materials, free crop pollination, and genetic diversity;
  • be resilient, responding to long-term shifts through adaptive re-use and short-term shocks through high-tech smart devices and low-tech biomimetic designs;
  • be water neutral, drawing from its aquifers only as much as it can recharge, and the rest from the sky or recyclers now part of basic plumbing;
  • be inhabited by citizens who emit no more than one ton of greenhouse gases per person per year, due to their heavy reliance on efficient building design, decentralised generation, district energy systems, and multi-modal transit.”
2 July 2013

Four ways cities should be adapting to change

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The report “State of the City: 5 Trends Impacting US Cities,” issued by Living Cities, not only provides guidance about what issues are trending but also how cities need to act so they can successfully adapt to these trends.

Ben Hecht (CEO of Living Cities) highlights the four key ways that cities need to adapt to these powerful trends:
1. Identifying solutions to these complex problems will require the letting go of old ways of working.
2. Understanding the interdependent nature of these trends is critical to addressing them successfully.
3. Recognizing that no institution or sector alone can reverse the direction of these trends is an imperative.
4. Taking full advantage of innovations in financing and technology will accelerate change.

Hecht concludes: “Our State of the City Report confirms once again what Charles Darwin found 130 years ago: strength and intelligence matter but its adaptation that probably matters most”.

24 June 2013

Talking Design with Dan Hill

 

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We are pleased to invite you to the second in the “Talking Design” lecture series with Dan Hill, CEO of Fabrica.

On Thursday July 4th, designer and urbanist Dan Hill will speak about smart citizens, in his talk “The not-so-smart city”.

Talking Design lecture series
The “Talking Design” guest speaker evenings are part of our drive to bring the design world to Turin, by hosting a series of talks from global experts in the industry, to share their experience and knowledge with our friends in Turin. Initiated by Experientia, the initiative is now supported by four forward-looking Turin entities who together select the speakers, organize the logistics, and promote the event to our network: Cluster, Deltatre, Experientia and GranStudio.

Following the success of the first lecture, with Todd Harple, anthropologist and experience engineer at Intel, we have planned this July lecture, and one for the beginning of September. All lectures are in English. They will be video recorded and posted online (where possible).

Dan Hill, CEO of Fabrica
Dan Hill is CEO of Fabrica, a communications research center and transdisciplinary studio based in Treviso, Italy. A designer and urbanist, he was previously strategic design lead for Sitra, the Finnish Innovation Fund, exploring how design might enable positive systemic change throughout society. Prior to Sitra, Dan was Arup‘s Foresight and Innovation leader for the Australasian region, as well as their lead on urban informatics and urban strategy. Before that, he had leadership positions at Monocle and the BBC. Dan writes the well-known blog “City of Sound“, and contributes regularly to “Domus” Magazine, where he is also Strategic Design Advisor.

We hope you’ll join us in this exciting new initiative to bring the design world to Turin. We are looking forward to seeing you.
The Talking Design Team

Date: Thursday, July 4, 2013
Time: 6pm
Location: Cluster, Via della Basilica 13, 10122 Torino
RSVP: Silvana Rosso, +39 011 812 9687

2 June 2013

The limits of Big Data in the Big City

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To be sure, big tech can zap some city weaknesses. But, argues Alec Appelbaum, many urban problems require a decidedly different approach.

“The answers that make cities run more smoothly only inadvertently end up being the ones that make cities run more equitably. Deep data can learn and display policy cues that used to flow from guesswork. What it can do less reliably is reflect democratic action.

For that, you need more people discussing issues with more equal information and franchise. And that can most easily come from decidedly low-tech, but widely accessible, technologies like Facebook pages and e-mail chains. After all, cities don’t have to buy “smart” software to get smarter.”

31 May 2013

Smart cities and smart citizens

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For future smart cities to thrive, it must be centred around people, not just infrastructure. This was the overwhelming message from a group of influential thinkers speaking at this year’s FutureEverything Summit. sustain’ went along to find out what smart-city planners can learn from bottom-up approaches.

“It seems global corporations and the large-scale technology platforms they offer and promote seem to be at odds with many of the localised, small-scale technology projects showcased at the Summit and, indeed, the interests of citizens themselves. And if there was one stark warning that emerged from the Summit for city leaders thinking about investing in smart-city technology, it was ignore your citizens at your peril. [...]”

The city is what it is because of the people. [...]

In many ways, social media has created a new interface for the city and how its citizens interact with it. Citizens have the opportunity to try something out, such as a pop-up café – and multiply it through social media and feedback via bespoke apps: physical activity and digital activity in harmony. Yet this appears to be contrary to the thinking behind many current smart systems which merely deliver information in order to change attitudes and behaviour. [...]

Citizens are quite obviously embracing new technologies – but it isn’t always for reasons of efficiency: it’s about sociability; it’s about transparency; it’s about culture; and it’s also about fun – gaming and entertainment. Furthermore, a one-size-fits-all approach to smart cities will not easily work in an age where, even at the most basic level, apps designed for specific spaces or cities are prevalent on most mobile phones. Bespoke solutions will be required.”

31 May 2013

The city as interface: an interview with Manuel Portela

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Hillete Warner of The Enabling City, an initiative started and guided by the very inspiring Chiara Camponeschi, interviewed interaction designer and an event coordinator Manuel Portela about about collective brainstorming, community-building and the power of 10.000 ideas.

One of your projects, 10.000 ideas, is a crowdsourcing platform to re-think urban livability in Latin America. What was the inspiration behind it?
My early design projects led led to an interest in the development of participatory maps and digital interfaces. One day, I came across New York’s ChangeByUs campaign and thought it was very impressive, though I found the conversation to be flowing mostly in one direction: there were ideas for one city directed to and curated by one administration. This inspired me to develop a similar platform, this time open to all of Latin America. In essence, 10.000 ideas is a repository of suggestions and solutions that anyone – whether in the public, private or civil sector – can share and implemenet with others. I hope to see more and more places for this kind of problem-solving ‘offline’ but, in the meantime, we can make the most of what the web has to offer.

I am curious to hear more about the Brazilian SmartCity Index to encourage citizen participation.

> Check other recent posts from Enabling City people.

31 May 2013

Are you ready for the era of Big Data?

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Business agrees with governments — the more personal information they gather about us, the more “helpful” they can be. Should we give in to this “harmless” new science of benign surveillance, asks Steven Poole in The New Statesman.

“Through Big Data analysis, the “cloud” comes to know an awful lot about us. Simply analysing a person’s Facebook “likes” can identify a person’s sexual orientation or history of drug use. Even just searching for things and filling out online surveys can lead to personal information about you being bought and sold by big marketing analytics companies. When the Big Data is data about you, privacy becomes a faint memory. And this is true not just on the web. The Data Privacy Lab at Harvard University recently managed to identify 40 per cent of individuals who had taken part (again, supposedly anonymously) in a large-scale DNA study, the Personal Genome Project.”

22 May 2013

Smart citizens make smart cities, a talk by Dan Hill

 

“We have the technology to do anything. To make things happen you need to turn to design and redesign the context, the decision making and the question.” – Dan Hill, CEO of Fabrica, figured out that smart citizens are necessary to make smart cities. The institutions are collapsing, we have to decide on our own!

He spoke about all this at the end of April at Next Berlin.

Dan Hill is CEO of Fabrica, a communications research centre and transdisciplinary studio based in Treviso, Italy. A designer and urbanist, he has previously held leadership positions at Sitra (the Finnish Innovation Fund), Arup, Monocle, and the BBC. He is strategic design advisor for Domus magazine, as well as blogging at cityofsound.com.

Dan Hill will be the second speaker at Experientia’s Talking Design lecture series now co-organized with three other companies and organizations: Deltatre, GranStudio and ITC-ILO. The talk will be at the beginning of July and we will announce it here very soon.

22 May 2013

Death, life and place in great digital cities

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At the heart of the Smarter Cities movement is the belief that the use of engineering and IT technologies, including social media and information marketplaces, can create more efficient and resilient city systems.

In an excellent blog post, Rick Robinson, an Executive Architect at IBM specialising in emerging technologies and Smarter Cities, explains why he believes that “we are opening Pandora’s box.”

“These tremendously powerful technologies could indeed create more efficient, resilient city systems. But unless they are applied with real care, they could exacerbate our challenges. If they act simply to speed up transactions and the consumption of resources in city systems, then they will add to the damage that has already been done to urban environments, and that is one of the causes of the social inequality and differences in life expectancy that cities are seeking to address.”

So, he asks, “as a new generation of technology, digital technology, starts to shape our cities, how can we direct the deployment of that technology to be sympathetic to the needs of people and communities, rather than hostile to them, as too much of our urban transport infrastructure has been?”

“The first step is for us to collectively recognise what is at stake: the safety and resilience of our communities; and the nature of our relationship with the environment. Digital technology is not just supporting our world, it is beginning to transform it. [...]

The second step is for the designers of cities and city services – architects, town planners, transport officers, community groups and social innovators – to take control of the technology agenda in their cities and communities, rather than allow technologists to define it by default. [...]

As well as technologists, three crucial groups of advisers to that process are social scientists, design thinkers and placemakers. They have the creativity and insight to understand how digital technologies can meet the needs of people and communities in a way that contributes to the creation of great places, and great cities – places like the Eastside city park that are full of life.”

20 May 2013

The secret life of data in the year 2020

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Brian David Johnson, Intel futurist, shows how geotags, sensor outputs, and big data are changing the future. He argues that we need a better understanding of our relationship with the data we produce in order to build the future we want.

“When you look to 2020 and beyond, you can’t escape big data. Big data—extremely large sets of data related to consumer behavior, social network posts, geotagging, sensor outputs, and more—is a big problem. Intel is at the forefront of the big data revolution and all the challenges therein. Our processors are how data gets from one place to another. If anyone should have insight into how to make data do things we want it to do, make it work for the future, it should be Intel.

[...] We will have algorithms talking to algorithms, machines talking to machines, machines talking to algorithms, sensors and cameras gathering data, and computational power crunching through that data, then handing it off to more algorithms and machines. It will be a rich and secret life separate from us and for me incredibly fascinating.

But as we begin to build the Secret Life of Data, we must always remember that data is meaningless all by itself. The 1s and 0s are useless and meaningless on their own. Data is only useful and indeed powerful when it comes into contact with people.

This brings up some interesting questions and fascinating problems to be solved from an engineering standpoint. When we are architecting these algorithms, when we are designing these systems, how do we make sure they have an understanding of what it means to be human? The people writing these algorithms must have an understanding of what people will do with that data. How will it fit into their lives? How will it affect their daily routine? How will it make their lives better?”

20 May 2013

The too-smart city

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We’re already building the metropolis of the future—green, wired, even helpful. Now critics are starting to ask whether we’ll really want to live there. Courtney Humphries reports for the Boston Globe.

“As political leaders, engineers, and environmentalists join the smart-city bandwagon, a growing chorus of thinkers from social sciences, architecture, urban planning, and design are starting to sound a note of caution. [...]

Behind the alluring vision, they argue, lurk a number of troubling questions. A city tracking its citizens, even for helpful reasons, encroaches on the personal liberty we count on in public spaces. The crucial software systems and networks that underlie city services will likely lie in private hands. And the more successful smart-city programs become, the more they risk diverting resources into the problems that can be solved with technology, rather than grappling with difficult issues that can’t be easily fixed with an app. [...]

The orderly, manageable city is a vision with enduring appeal, from Plato’s Republic to Songdo, an entirely new smart city constructed near Seoul. But there’s an equally compelling vision of the city as a chaotic and dynamic whirl of activity, an emergent system, an urban jungle at once hostile and full of possibility—a place to lose oneself. [Dan] Hill points out that efficiency isn’t the reason we like to live in cities, and it’s not the reason we visit them. Tourists come to Boston for the bustling charm of the North End, not the sterile landscape of Government Center. In a city where everything can be sensed, measured, analyzed, and controlled, we risk losing the overlooked benefits of inconvenience. It’s as if cities are one of the last wild places, and one that we’re still trying to tame.”

25 April 2013

Jan-Christoph Zoels on interfaces at UNStudio during Milan Design Week [video]

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Jan-Christoph Zoels, an Experientia founding partner, was one of the panelists at the UNStudio Platform Dialogues during the Milan Design Week and a video of his discussion with Markus Benz (CEO Walter Knoll) and Birgit Lohmann (Associate Editor-in-chief Designboom), is now online.

Experientia and UNStudio, the famous Dutch architectural design studio led by Ben van Berkel and Caroline Bos, have previously collaborated on the design of sustainable buildings, environments and behavioral change.

The dialogue explored explored the current and future possibilities of Interfaces with each other and through materiality Whether it is as a portal to the World Wide Web or active nano-technologies, the communication between users and materials is no longer only one-way. The surfaces and objects through which we communicate and design provide new tactile and virtual feedbacks.

The UNStudio Platform Dialogues webpage also features the videos of the two other talks:

DESIGNING (FOR) CO-CREATING
How can architecture and product design contribute to co-creation? Is co-creation a romantic idea driven by the democratisation and customisation of the consumer industry, or a true reflection of contemporary working practices? What are the potential benefits of co-creating within architecture and product design? This session investigates the importance of materiality at the human scale of design. Jurgen Bey, Ben van Berkel and Leo Schouten invite design critics and writers to actively share their opinions concerning the future of co-creation. Sharing an interest in encouraging dialogue, innovation and creative exchange through design, they will discuss the process of co-creating within their own practices, as well as the designing of spaces for the accommodation of co-creation.
Panelists:
- Ben van Berkel, Co-Founder/ Principal Architect, UNStudio
- Jurgen Bey, Director/ designer Studio Makkink & Bey and director, PROOFFLab
- Leo Schouten, Founder / director, PROOFF
- Moderator: Christine de Baan

MATERIAL ATTAINABILITY
Every day we strive to find new materials and novel uses for old ones to discover inventive, effective and sustainable solutions. In the context of this Dialogue, ‘attainability’ is the combination of research and sustainability in the pursuit of advanced materials. For this dialogue we will explore what materials can do now, and what we want them to do tomorrow.
Panelists:
- Gabi Böhm, Senior Architect/Project Manager, Premier Composite Technologies
- Micol Costi, Director of Materials Research, Material Connexion Italia
- Giammichele Melisz, Associate Director, Buro Happold
- James O’Callaghan, Director, Eckersley O’Callaghan Structural + Facade Engineers
- Federica Sem, Managing Director, Permasteelisa Interiors

23 April 2013

“CasaZera” opens, with Experientia smart meter design (incl. slideshow)

 

In a decommissioned industrial zone in Turin, a single bright yellow apartment stands out in the shell of an old factory. This is “CasaZera”, a sustainable living housing prototype, which was officially opened on the 18th April 2013 by local officials, and the project partners. Experientia consulted for project partner DE-GA, designing a tablet-based solution to enable the residents to access information and systems about energy use in the apartment, as well access to local services. Experientia senior design Renzo Giusti was on-hand to showcase Experientia’s contribution.

The Experientia-designed interface shows monthly energy consumption and production for electricity, heating, cooling and water.
Click on image to view slideshow

CasaZera is part of the ECOstruendo program, funded by the Region of Piedmont, and promoted by Polight, the innovation centre for sustainable construction at the Turin Environment Park. The apartment is an inhabitable prototype, demonstrating ways to utilise decommissioned industrial areas for residential use, and adhering to five main precepts: zero consumption of soil, zero waste of resources, zero time, zero energy and zero project errors. The apartment itself is a fully-designed and equipped residential unit, which has been integrated into the framework of an old factory, instead of creating new zones for residential construction.

The apartment is around 30 square meters, with a bedroom, living-room/kitchen and bathroom. It contains state-of-the-art technology for home automation and resource management, with 75% of the energy used in the apartment produced by renewable solar, photovoltaic and biomass sources. Experientia’s role, as consultants to DE-GA S.p.A, was to employ human-centred design methodologies to make this cutting-edge technology easily usable for the everyday people who will live in the unit. The tablet-based solution Experientia created allows people to interact with key functions for controlling the home appliances and heating and cooling systems, and shows simple visualisations of how the energy in the home is being used – a “living room” view of the household consumption.

As part of Experientia’s holistic approach to enabling more sustainable lifestyles, the final solution also helps connect the residents of the apartment to local services. This includes information on frequency and time of local public transport, bike sharing availability, and locations of local markets, stores and pharmacies.

The apartment systems will now be tested for 10 days with the unit empty, to gather feedback on how systems are working. After this time, two students from the Turin Polytechnic will move in, and will test the apartment systems over the course of the next year. The students will provide an in-depth look at how well the system performs in the long run, and how easy it is to use for people who are not specialists or involved in the system development, but are representative of the people who will eventually live, work and study in similar constructions.

Turin council member for the environment, Enzo Lavolta, was present at the opening, praising the initiative as a “concrete example of a smart city”. Giorgio Gallesio, DE-GA S.p.A’s managing director, and head of the project, and Matteo Robiglio from the architectural partner Tra, also spoke. Much of the debate of the day centred on how affordable the solution is, and the vibrant possibilities for urban renewal it offers, reclaiming existing urban areas for residential use, without waste. The project aims to be an Italian example of a new mindset, and demonstrate an innovative method to create zones for rental property.

Experientia senior designer, Renzo Giusti, who helped implement Experientia’s contribution to the project, also spoke about Experientia’s vision for sustainable, high quality urban development, and how this was channelled into the final solution.

Experientia’s work on this project was as consultants to DE-GA S.p.A. The other partners in the initiative were: Tra architects, experts in social and co-housing; Confortaree, experts in housing fixtures and fittings; Habicher Holzbau, specialised in wooden residences; Teclmp for heating and cooling fixtures; Golder Associates, environmental and energy consultants; Onleco consultancy service; and Tebe, research group on energy technology for construction.

22 April 2013

Low2No smart services workbook by Experientia

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As part of Experientia’s involvement in the award winning Low2No project in Helsinki and in particular its strategy towards demand management and behavioral change, we are proud to announce that Dan Hill (former ARUP and Sitra, now Fabrica) has just reminded us of last year’s long review (and a download link) of the Low2No smart services workbook created by Experientia and ARUP:

“This aspect explores the potential of contemporary technologies – particularly those increasingly everyday circling around phrases like social media, “internet of things”, “smart cities” and so on – to enable residents, workers, visitors and citizens in general to live, work and play in and around the block in new ways. These are predicated on the same low-carbon outcomes that drives the Low2No project in general, but also a wider “triple-bottom line” approach to sustainability, which might include beneficial social and economic outcomes, as well as environmental. We’d had this element in from the start, from the Arup-led consortium’s original competition submission in 2009, and today we’re sharing some of the work-in-progress as it developed, in the form of the “informatics workbook” developed by the design team, as a tool in the design process.”

Thank you, Dan.

20 March 2013

Book: A History of Future Cities

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A History of Future Cities
by Daniel Brook
W. W. Norton & Company
2013 – 480 pages
[Amazon link]

The new book A History of Future Cities looks at the attempts of places like Dubai, Shanghai, and Mumbai to create Western-looking areas in an attempt to create a sense of modernity.

Abstract

A pioneering exploration of four cities where East meets West and past becomes future: St. Petersburg, Shanghai, Mumbai, and Dubai.

Every month, five million people move from the past to the future. Pouring into developing-world “instant cities” like Dubai and Shenzhen, these urban newcomers confront a modern world cobbled together from fragments of a West they have never seen. Do these fantastical boomtowns, where blueprints spring to life overnight on virgin land, represent the dawning of a brave new world? Or is their vaunted newness a mirage?

In a captivating blend of history and reportage, Daniel Brook travels to a series of major metropolitan hubs that were once themselves instant cities— St. Petersburg, Shanghai, and Mumbai—to watch their “dress rehearsals for the twenty-first century.” Understanding today’s emerging global order, he argues, requires comprehending the West’s profound and conflicted influence on developing-world cities over the centuries.

In 1703, Tsar Peter the Great personally oversaw the construction of a new Russian capital, a “window on the West” carefully modeled on Amsterdam, that he believed would wrench Russia into the modern world. In the nineteenth century, Shanghai became the fastest-growing city on earth as it mushroomed into an English-speaking, Western-looking metropolis that just happened to be in the Far East. Meanwhile, Bombay, the cosmopolitan hub of the British Raj, morphed into a tropical London at the hands of its pith-helmeted imperialists.

Juxtaposing the stories of the architects and authoritarians, the artists and revolutionaries who seized the reins to transform each of these precociously modern places into avatars of the global future, Brook demonstrates that the drive for modernization was initially conflated with wholesale Westernization. He shows, too, the ambiguous legacy of that emulation—the birth (and rebirth) of Chinese capitalism in Shanghai, the origins of Bollywood in Bombay’s American-style movie palaces, the combustible mix of revolutionary culture and politics that rocked the Russian capital—and how it may be transcended today.

A fascinating, vivid look from the past out toward the horizon, A History of Future Cities is both a crucial reminder of globalization’s long march and an inspiring look into the possibilities of our Asian Century.

Fast Company review

The four are as much “ideas” as places, he argues–Eastern cities in agrarian backwaters that copied the West architecturally in hopes of borrowing their modernity. To whatever extent they’ve succeeded, they point the way forward for the next urban billion.

14 February 2013

First outputs from Intel research centre on sustainable connected cities

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The Intel Collaborative Research Institute for Sustainable Connected Cities – a cooperation between University College London (UCL), Imperial College London and Intel – was launched in May 2012, which a focus on how to enable future cities to be more connected and sustainable. Their activities entail investigating, developing and deploying adaptive technologies that can optimize resource efficiency, and enable new services that support and enhance the quality of life of urban inhabitants and city visitors. Their approach is interdisciplinary, combining methodologies from computer science, the social sciences, interaction design and architecture to improve how cities are managed and maintained in order to ensure and enhance citizen well-being.

The Institute is directed by Duncan Wilson of Intel, assisted by Charlie Sheridan. Other people involved include David Prendergast (Intel senior researcher and anthropologist), Yvonne Rogers (UCL Professor of Interaction Design and Director of the UCL Interaction Centre), Licia Capra (UCL Reader in Pervasive computing), and Johannes Schöning (professor of computer science with a focus on HCI at Hasselt University, Belgium).

According to an initial overview article, the focus of the Institute is to be human-centred:

“Our perspective in the Sustainable Connected Cities Institute is to be human- centred. We have wide-ranging expertise and background in user experience, interaction design, ethnography, together with research in the built environment, commerce, engineering, anthropology, the arts, and social psychology. We also work as inter-disciplinary teams that can make a real change to enrich and extend city dwellers lives.” [...]

We will develop and exploit pervasive and sensing technologies, analytics and new interfaces, putting humans at the centre of technological developments. Our approach is to address four main themes:

  • City Experience: How do we enhance the City Experience and communicate services?
  • City as a Platform: How do we create the digital platform of the city from sensor/edge to cloud?
  • Sustaining Sustainability: How to sustain behavioural change?
  • Connecting the Invisible City: How do we visualize the Human-Environment Interface?”

Meanwhile the Institute has published its first research papers and articles:

Toward a real-time city health monitor
A common metaphor to describe the movement of people within a city is that of blood flowing through the veins of a living organism. We often speak of the ‘pulse of the city’ when referring to flow patterns we observe. Here we extend this metaphor by hypothesising that by monitoring the flow of people through a city we can assess the city’s health, as a nurse takes a patient’s heart-rate and blood pressure during a routine health check. Using an automated fare collection dataset of journeys made on the London rail system, we build a classification model that identifies areas of high deprivation as measured by the Indices of Multiple Deprivation, and achieve a precision, sensitivity and specificity of0.805, 0.733 and 0.810, respectively. We conclude with a discussion of the potential benefits this work provides to city planning, policymaking, and citizen engagement initiatives.

Smart Citizens in the Data Metropolis
Article with some insights on the discussions around smart citizens and community engagement. It was original published in the website of the Centre of Contemporary Culture of Barcelona.

Reflecting on the Institute, Mandeep Hothi, programme leader at the Young Foundation, writes:

“Much of the institute’s outputs will be relevant to local government. For example, a recent study shows a link between measures of multiple deprivation and patterns of passenger flow on public transport in London.Researchers propose that this data could become an early warning system for identifying areas of high deprivation, helping local government to better target its resources.

Data sensors such as Oyster card readers are becoming ubiquitous and the availability of real-time data is going to vastly increase.

It is important that the applications that emerge are co-created with local citizens, using ethnography and design as the starting point. Not only will this maximise usefulness, it should ensure technologists and officials respect issues such as personal privacy and autonomy.”

7 February 2013

Book: Beyond Smart Cities

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(Wow, it covers Turin!)

Beyond Smart Cities: How Cities Network, Learn and Innovate
Tim Campbell
Routledge, 2012

The promise of competitiveness and economic growth in so-called smart cities emphasizes highly educated talent, high tech industries and pervasive electronic connections. But to really achieve smart cities — that is to create the conditions of continuous learning and innovation — this book argues that there is a need to understand what is below the surface and to examine the mechanisms which affect the way cities learn and then connect together.

This book draws on quantitative and qualitative data with concrete case studies to show how networks already operating in cities are used to foster and strengthen connections in order to achieve breakthroughs in learning and innovation. Going beyond smart cities means understanding how cities construct, convert and manipulate relationships that grow in urban environments. The eight cities discussed in this book — Amman, Barcelona, Bilbao, Charlotte, Curitiba, Portland, Seattle, and Turin — illuminate a blind spot in the literature. Each of these cities has achieved important transformations, and learning has played a key role, one that has been largely ignored in academic circles and practice concerning competitiveness and innovation.

With Forewords by Dr Joan Clos, Executive Director, UN-Habitat, and Wim Elfrink, Executive Vice President and Chief Globalization Officer, Cisco

CONTENTS
1- Overview
2- The Slow Emergence of Learning Cities in an Urbanizing World
3- Cities as Collective Learners: What Do We Know?
4- A Gamut of Learning Types
5- Light on a Shadow Economy: City Learning in 53 Cities
6- Informal Learners—Turin, Portland and Charlotte
7- Technical Learning: Curitiba and City Think Tanks
8- Corporate Styles: Bilbao, Seattle and Others
9- Clouds of Trust in Style
10- Taking Stock: Why Some Cities Learn and Others Do Not
11- Turning the Learning World Upside Down— Pathways Forward in Policy and Research

THE AUTHOR
Tim Campbell has worked for more than 35 years in urban development with experience in scores of countries and hundreds of cities in Latin America, South and East Asia, Eastern Europe, and Africa. His areas of expertise include strategic urban planning, city development strategies, decentralization, urban policy, and social and poverty impact of urban development. He is chairman of the Urban Age Institute, which fosters leadership and innovation between and among cities in areas of strategic urban planning, urban policy and management, sustainable environmental planning, and poverty reduction. Campbell retired from the World Bank in December 2005 after more than 17 years working in various capacities in the urban sector. Before joining the Bank, he worked for over 13 years as a private consultant and university professor. His consulting clients included private sector firms, governments, and international organizations. He taught at Stanford University and the University of California at Berkeley. He lived in rural and small town Costa Rica for two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

2 February 2013

Dan Hill’s critique of the smart cities movement

fabrica

Dan Hill (of CityofSound, ARUP, Sitra and now Fabrica fame) is not only extremely prolific, but his writing is also very much to the point.

His latest Smart City (or better “Smart Citizen”) manifesto is a case in point. Weighing in at 10,000 words, it is a “cleaned up” and “stitched together” version of two separate pieces he wrote for the London School of Economics and Volume magazine, which he is now sharing on his CityofSound blog as “one single critique of the smart cities movement”.

The goal, he says, is entirely constructive, and to shift the debate in a more meaningful direction, oriented towards the raison d’etre of our cities: citizens, and the way that they can create urban culture with technology.

The essay surveys three types of activities, and scenarios, demonstrating active citizens, noting some issues along the way, and then critiques the opposite—the production of passive citizens—before asking a couple of questions and suggesting some key shifts in attitude required to positively work with the grain of today’s cultures, rather than misinterpret it.

“The promise of smart sustainable cities is predicated on the dynamics of social media alloyed to the Big Data generated by an urban infrastructure strewn with sensors. Feedback loops are supposed to engage citizens and enable behaviour change, just as real-time control systems tune infrastructure to become more energy efficient. Social media dynamics enable both self-organisation and efficient ecosystems, and reduce the need for traditional governance, and its associated costs.

Yet is there a tension between the emergent urbanism of social media and the centralising tendencies of urban control systems? Between the individualist biases inherent within social media and the need for a broader civic empathy to address urban sustainability? Between the primary drivers of urban life and the secondary drivers of infrastructural efficiency?

And in terms of engaging citizens, we can certainly see evidence of increased interest in using social media for urban activism, from crowdfunding platforms to Occupy Everywhere and the Arab Spring. Yet does it produce any more coherence or direction for the new cultures of decision-making required in our cities, or simply side-step the question of urban governance altogether? And what if the smart city vision actually means that governance becomes ever more passive, as it outsources operations to algorithms or is side-stepped by social media, whilst citizens also become passive in response to their infrastructure becoming active? Or might they be too distracted to notice as they’re all trying to crowd-fund a park bench?”

Bruce Sterling’s reaction:

“*After reading this I feel that I understand myself better: I like *other people’s* cities. I like cities where I’m not an eager, engaged, canny urban participant, where I’m not “smart” and certainly not a “citizen,” and where the infrastructures and the policies are mysterious to me. Preferably, even the explanations should be in a language I can’t read.

*So I’m maximizing my “inefficiency.” I do it because it’s so enlivening and stimulating, and I can’t be the only one with that approach to urbanism. Presumably there’s some kind of class of us: flaneuring, deriving, situationist smart-city dropouts. A really “smart city” would probably build zones of some kind for us: the maximum-inefficiency anti-smart bohemias.”

20 January 2013

Book: Ethnography and the City – Readings on Doing Urban Fieldwork

ethnography_and_the_city

Ethnography and the City: Readings on Doing Urban Fieldwork
Richard E. Ocejo (Editor)
Routledge, 2012, 272 pages
(Amazon link)

The only collection of its kind on the market, this reader gathers the work of some of the most esteemed urban ethnographers in sociology and anthropology. Broken down into sections that cover key aspects of ethnographic research, Ethnography and the City will expose readers to important works in the field, while also guiding students to the study of method as they embark on their own work.

> French book review by Daniel Cefaï