Hemment and Townsend (2013) argue that in the development and planning of ‘smart cities’ there is too much focus and attention given to the role of technology companies and governments in providing “top-down solutions – centralised proprietory systems:” (2013:iii). They identify the need to collaborate with citizens to ensure development, regeneration, and city planning is built upon a foundation of knowledge exchange. They do however recognise that ensuring the city is ‘smart’ and relevant, a democratic space servicing all, specifically creating opportunities for those without the means to participate is a challenge, but one which needs urgently addressing (Hemment and Townsend (2013:2-3).
Ratti et al (2013) consider a more optimistic, but less critical perspective recognizing the universalizing effects of globalization, where our towns and cities became standardized and generic, but argue we have entered a new phase of differentiation through what they term ‘networked specifism’. They suggest we are now empowered through connectivity and participatory platforms enriching and individually tailoring our experience of the ‘smart’ global city (Ratti et al 2013).
“Professional and amateur worlds have been radically disrupted by hyper-neutrality and cloud connectivity – whether as atomized networks of design professionals using synchronized digital tools to work together from across the globe or newly empowered citizen embarking on digitally-enabled participatory processes” (Ratti et al, 2013:20).
Yes, such access to participatory technologies ensures the potential for a ‘recursive public’ – “an open community that is both a result and a generator of networks” (Kelty, 2008:3 in Ratti et al 2013:20). However, does this actually ensure a more democratic, connected and collaborative public, which contributes to the development of smart city infrastructures that benefits the needs of all?
As Joroff (2013) points out “technological optimists puzzle over technologies failure to significantly impact major societal challenges such as income inequality, climate change and resource depletion” (2013:6). Why? Because such challenges are inherently political, economic and cultural, and until we witness a discursive shift which prioritises such issues, social change driven by such technological rigor will have limited impact (Joroff 2013:6).
Could ELLIOT (Experiential Living Lab for the Internet of Things) be considered an example of a more collaborative, participatory, development tool for the ‘smart citizen’?
“The ELLIOT (Experiential Living Lab for the Internet of Things) project aims to develop an Internet Of Things (IOT) experiential platform where users/citizens are directly involved in co-creating, exploring and experimenting new ideas, concepts and technological artefacts related to IOT applications and services. The project is expected to dramatically increase the adoption of IOT and to enhance the potential of collaborative innovation for the discovery of innovative IOT application/service opportunities in bridging the technological distance with users/citizens” (http://www.elliot-project.eu/node/3).
(Image from http://www.elliot-project.eu/node/14)
Rather than simply observing citizens/users during the research stage of new products and services, ELLIOT wants to engage and involve them in the development stage to ensure a more collaborative and reciprocally beneficial outcome, service and product is achieved for all parties. The obvious challenge of such a project is ensuring the citizen’s voice, and not just businesses and governments, is heard and equally prioritized to ensure citizen led projects are also developed.
Atelier. 2013. ‘[Innovative City] Involving Citizens as Researchers, Co-creators and Testers of the Smart City’ (Available at: http://www.atelier.net/en/trends/articles/innovative-city-involving-citizens-researchers-co-creators-and-testers-smart-city_422073 , Last Accessed 1/05/14)
ELLIOT ‘Experiential Living Lab for the Internet of Things’. 2010. (Available at: http://www.elliot-project.eu/node/1 , Last Accessed 01/5/14).
Hemment D. And. Townsend A. 2013. ‘Here Come the Smart Citizens’ In Hemment, D. And Townsend A. 2013. Smart Citizens, FutureEverything Publications (Available at: http://futureeverything.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/smartcitizens.pdf, Last Accessed 1/05/14)
Hemment D. And. Townsend A. 2013. ‘Smart Citizens – Introduction’, In Hemment D. And Townsend A. 2013. Smart Citizens, FutureEverything Publications (Available at: http://futureeverything.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/smartcitizens.pdf, Last Accessed 1/05/14)
Joroff, M, L. 2013. ‘The Tortoise Needs to Cross Many Chasms’. In Hemment D. And. Townsend A. 2013. Smart Citizens, FutureEverthing Publications (Available at: http://futureeverything.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/smartcitizens.pdf, Last Accessed 1/05/14)
Ratti, C. Claudel, M. Picon, A. Haw, A. 2013. ‘Networked Specifism: Beyond Critical Regionalism’ In Hemment D. And. Townsend A. 2013. Smart Citizens, FutureEverthing Publications (Available at: http://futureeverything.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/smartcitizens.pdf, Last Accessed 1/05/14)