16 March 2014

Why smart cities need an urgent reality check

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Responsive urban technology sounds enticing but citizens must not be disconnected from plans drawn up on their behalf, argues Gary Graham in The Guardian.

“It’s not clear at the moment whether future cities are strategic experiments for [large companies such as IBM, Samsung, Cisco and Intel], or if they are genuinely catalysing the regeneration of inner cities. To investigate some of these visions, I went to MIT in Boston for three months last year. The aim was to find out how people would get their goods and services in the city of the future, and how we we get everyone to engage with city plans.

We decided to test out some ideas with the inner-city communities of Boston in a series of workshops. We essentially combined science fact and science fiction by presenting them with a Boston set in 2037, based on current technological trends projected forward through several imagined scenarios.

We combined the traditional science fiction ideas of utopia and dystopia with realistic technological trends such as artificial intelligence, 3D printing and big data and asked Bostonians to come up with fictional stories about their life in these environments.”

And the answers were quite to the point:

“Workshop participants felt smart cities were rather utopian concepts growing from a vision put forward by one group of businesses. There was general agreement that there were often many visions for the city, but “at the moment it’s the rich and powerful who determine that future vision.”

Many were troubled by the notion that people would live in a city purely because of its technology capabilities and thought there were lots of other important social and cultural reasons influencing people’s decisions to live or work somewhere. Just because these urban centres could offer us new ways of living in the future does not negate the importance of the natural environment, history and legacy.”

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19 April 2015
Nudging to improve public policy, health care and our relationship with technology
On Nudging In Public Policy By Alon M. August, University of Redlands (USA) April 6, 2015 This thesis examines nudging, a technique aimed at making individuals act, choose, and behave in the ways deemed rational by policy makers. …
16 April 2015
Putting technology in its place
Kentaro Toyama is a former Microsoft Research Executive and now an associate professor at the University of Michigan. Toyama calls himself “a recovering technoholic”—someone who once was “addicted to a technological way of solving problems.” …
2 April 2015
The future of loneliness
As we moved our lives online, the internet promised an end to isolation. But can we find real intimacy amid shifting identities and permanent surveillance? A long read by Olivia Laing explores this blurring between …
30 March 2015
MIT Technology Review special report on persuasive technology
The MIT Technology Review has just published a special business report on persuasive technology, i.e. how technologies from smartphones to social media are used to influence our tastes, behavior, and even habits. Free registration is …
27 March 2015
Sharp methodological critiques on current Big Data practices
Two methodological critiques on Big Data that caught our attention: In the Financial Times, economist and journalist Tim Harford points out that sampling bias and statistical errors are, if anything, magnified in Big Data research, …
24 March 2015
Presentations online of IEA energy efficiency behaviour workshop
The 11th and 12th of March, the International Energy Agency [IEA] in Paris hosted a workshop on energy efficiency and behaviour in the buildings sector. The goal of this workshop was for representatives from IEA …
18 March 2015
The considerations and limitations of feedback as a strategy for behaviour change
The considerations and limitations of feedback as a strategy for behaviour change Garrath T. Wilsona, Tracy Bhamraa & Debra Lilleya, Loughborough Design School, Loughborough, UK Published online: 12 Mar 2015 - Taylor & Francis Design for Sustainable Behaviour …
18 March 2015
The smartphone society
Just as the automobile defined the twentieth century, the smartphone is reshaping how we live and work today. Boston University sociology lecturer Nicole Aschoff explores it aLL. Half way down her leftist criticism of how the …

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