Blog 3 20.2.16 My Data Deals

Wk 3 Exploring the Big Bang Data Exhibition

The Big Bang Data exhibit ‘How can data improve our health?’ (Loder, 2016) on the subject of medical data, suggests ‘New research digitally enabled, patient led’ and that ‘new data is produced, owned and controlled by patients. So it will be accessed on their terms; as active participants rather than passive subjects.’ The view presented is of opportunities for advances in healthcare provided by types of data available from new sources. In addition to control and access, there is also suggestion of improvement in understanding of what the data means for an individual’s health status.

In ‘Who controls our data? Usman Haque debates the implications of the data explosion’. The focus encourages a critical view of motivations for data collection. Linking the two, could begin to consider issues in regard to health data. Historic usage of data from drug trials by drug companies in the development of treatments, which are then controlled by cost, has created inequalities. In terms of profit generated through use of personal data it is unlikely patients can have a clear understanding of this when signing consent forms. There is likely to be bias in terms of age, education and access to equipment.

Under the data and democracy theme ‘Florence Nightingale: A Data Pioneer How did Florence Nightingale use data to empower change?’ looks at how her recording and use of data was very significant in advances in medicine and healthcare. This was at a time when capitalism and commercialisation in control of data was in it’s early stages.

It would be interesting to consider whether there is potential for personal medical data to appear in ‘automated’ form and be manipulated through algorithm as described by Miller (2010). Drug companies who have access to data could potentially suggest treatment regimes generated impersonally and yet through an amalgamation of personal data.

The overall value of the exhibition is partly in providing examples of data collection which could lead to more informed choice in many social and political contexts, however this will still be dependant on technical knowledge and understanding.


Big Bang data 2015 Somerset House / An exhibition organised by Somerset House Trust, the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona – CCCB and Fundación Telefónica
Available at:
Accessed 20.2 .16

Loder, J. How can data improve our health? (2016)
Available at:

How can data improve our health?

Accessed 20.2.16

Florence Nightingale: A data pioneer (2016)
Available at:

Florence Nightingale: A Data Pioneer

Accessed 20.2.16

Who controls our data? Usman Haque debates the implications of the data explosion (2016)
Available at:

Who controls our data? Usman Haque debates the implications of the data explosion

Accessed 20.2.16

Miller, V. (2011) Understanding Digital Culture. In: Miller, V. Key Elements of Digital Media. Sage: pp 12-21.2012

Smarten yourself up Janet!

In defining elements of ‘Smart Cities’ Townsend (2013 p.15)) suggests this involves ‘places where information technology is combined with infrastructure, architecture, everyday objects and even our bodies to address social, economic, and environmental problems’. Additionally, local scale is considered important because of the engagement of citizens in identification of problems with more responsive, quicker results.

‘Smart’ management of technologies, which is the basis of ‘smart cities’, occurs electronically in response to data from sensors. In addition to the automated functions triggered by readings, Townsend also refers to interactive elements where people make management choices informed by electronic signage in the physical landscape. The overall view considers the importance of balancing civic management with ‘bottom up’ innovation, in support of environmental sustainability, with new technologically enhanced ways of living.

Creative media in digital format and can involve citizens in the creation of smart cities. Practical innovation is subject to academic analysis in the appraisal of design and impact. This could encourage a different kind of ‘smart’ in terms of learning from historic successes and limitations, and giving the opportunity for citizen ‘hacking’ at the design level.

Creative Media is perhaps therefore, more than other types of media and creative practice separately, suited to the development of smart city futures. Forms rooted in digital methods of creative expression have grown with the development of the technology. Redirection of methods into creative expression, will likely be a productive interface such as described by Sassen(2013), from which innovation towards the goals of efficient, sustainable cities can grow. Direct input from citizens though their use and hacking of designs, products and infrastructure, could inform development in more participatory forms with less risk of obsolescence than is likely through commercial drivers.

Re-work conference panellist Asa Calow is a creative technologist and founder of MadLab. Work is focused on the potential for community innovation through the delivery of creative technology workshops. This is of interest as it appears to offer the possibility of bringing together elements of community involvement which are referred to across the work of the authors referenced here.

The Pararchive, a Madlab open access story-telling project, is particularly interesting and had numerous partners such as the BBC, University of Leeds and individual creatives.

This can be found at:



Calow, A
Manchester Digital Laboratory is a not-for-profit grassroots digital innovation organisation
Manchester, UK.
Available at :
accessed 18.2.16

Sassen, S.
Urban Age Electric City: Saskia Sassen – Urbanising technology
available at:
accessed 14.6.16

Townsend, A. 2013 Smart Cities Big Data, Civic Hackers, and the Quest for a New Utopia
New York: WW Norton

Space as Social construct

Throughout history, humans have moved to cities to connect, for social and economic reasons. The search for employment and wealth has attracted people to cities. As Townsend (2013) proposes “cities accelerate time by compressing space” (p.1), and it is this binary relationship between space and time that we may suppose composes the digital city. While previously, the home was the connecting digital space to the network; mobile devices have now taken such a communicative endeavor onto the streets of the city through the mobile web in a “symbiosis of place and cyberspace” (Townsend, 2013, p.6). Such a mobility dominates life in the city and does indeed “compress space” while hastening time. What Townsend calls “a metropolitan nervous system” (p.3) is the social body of digitally connected people in the urban space of the city, linked to the global mobile web. In digital cities with our dependence on smart mobile devices the barrier between biological beings and the networked digital world is broken down. This is the result of the Internet of Things; wherein “the lines between person and network get even more blurred when identifying gadgets are paired with sensors that tune in to the human body’s status, monitoring it in the same way sensors monitor mechanical devices” (Tossell, 2014).

Through digital interfaces people interact with and immerse themselves in the city in different ways. Such information technology combined with the surrounding elements of the city is what Townsend (2013) defines as the smart city. Though she cautions about the consequences of technology on the city, it is technology itself in the smart city that combines with the body addressing “social, economic, and environmental problems” (Townsend, 2013, p.15). Allison Dring, speaker at the Connected City Summit, designed such an environmental solution called Prosolve. Prosolve, a decorative façade module that reduces air pollution in cities, is an ideal example of smart technologies acting on the environmental impact of industrialization on the digital city.

Gaston Bachelard in the Poetics of Space, with what he alludes to as the space of the house, we can attribute to the networked digital space of the city: “inhabited space transcends geometrical space” (1969, p.47). Tarantino and Tosoni (2013) bring forward the idea of space as a context for social interaction, and further give importance to the construction of urban space “mediated” (Tarantino and Tosoni, 2013, p.1). Thus the study of urbanization is paralleled to that of the “media cities” (Tarantino and Tosoni, 2013, p.1).



Bachelard, G., 1969. The Poetics of Space. Boston, Massachusetts: Beacon Press.

Tarantino, M. & Tosoni, S., 2013. Introduction: Beyond the Centrality of Media and the Centrality of Space [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 10 February 2016].

Tossell, I., 2014. On the Internet of Things, your body is the next thing to be networked [online] Available at: < technology-news/the-internet-of-you/> [Accessed 10 February 2016].

Townsend, A.M., 2013. Smart cities: big data, civic hackers, and the quest for a new utopia [pdf] Available at: <> [Accessed 10 February 2016].


What is a Smart City?

Many claims are being made for how technology will determine the future of the city – the technologically driven smart city – that in the words of Sassen (2003) ‘talks back’.

Promises range from the achievable: facilitating the flow of traffic and greater efficiency in energy consumption to the more extreme; allowing the survival of our species. There is also the somewhat controversial claim, given our reluctance to move away from the consumer society, that thanks to technology, climate change and limited resources do not mean having to cut back (Townsend, 2013, ppxii-xiii).

And while Townsend talks about grassroots movements with activists and citizens leading the way, it is still the large corporations that hold sway. New technologies have to work with existing infrastructures and cities designed for quite different times. Comparisons are made to the construction of roads in the US in the twentieth century, but further comparisons could be made a century before that with railway construction in the UK (Odlyzko, 2010).

The idea of city’s talking back is not a new one; the work of Dr John Snow to trace the source of a cholera outbreak in London relied on the gathering, processing and interpretation of information (Johnson, 2008) gleaned from the city. Technology allows us to speed up this process, gives us new tools to solve existing problems, opens these tools to a wider audience and can help us react to the results at far greater speed – often in real-time.

Street map showing deaths from in Soho in 1853

Street map showing deaths from in Soho in 1853

At the Networked Cities event in 2012, Roland Busch, gave the examples of how his company, Siemens, is working with city mayors, using technology to solve existing problems – in Berlin by creating energy efficient buildings and in London though a ten-year upgrade to the transport system.

He explained how they work to solve specific problems, but that a truly ‘smart city’ needs integration. Local councils should stop thinking in silos – transport, energy, education – but instead consider these as a whole, integrating services, and exploring, for example how transport can be connected with energy efficiency using ICT.

Johnson, S (2008). The Ghost Map: A Street, an Epidemic and the Hidden Power of Urban Networks. Penguin.

Odlyzko, A (2010). Collective Hallucinations and Inefficient Markets: The British Railway Mania of the 1840s. [accessed 14 February 2016].

Sassen, S (2003). Urbanising Technology, Urban Age Electric City. [accessed 11 February 2016].

Snow, J (1855). On the Mode of Communication of Cholera. John Churchill.

Townsend, A (2013). Smart Cities: Big Data, Civic Hackers, and the Quest for a New Utopia, ppxii-xiii. WW Norton & Company.

Urban Age Electric City, Event London (2012). Busch, R. [accessed 11 February 2016].

Sustainable Architectures for Smart Cities

Smart Cities are cities were technologies work together with the actual space in order to improve citizens’ lives. The democracy of information accessibility in a smart city allows every dweller the possibility of shaping the future of the city. Using smart technologies consents a rediscovery and a re-invention of governments in a “more open, transparent, democratic, and responsive model”. (pg.10, Townsend, 2013)

At The Connected City Summit ( ) this year, Allison Dring is presenting elegant embellishments, a decorative architectural module used as façades outside buildings, which has the power to reduce air pollution in cities. The architectural modules has been used on the wall of a hospital in Mexico City and results say it is decreasing the equivalent pollution of 1000 cars per day.

As Mexico City Environmental Secretary Tanya Muller states in the video, is that such a project needs to be tried not only by one city in one building but on a larger scale, letting it become mandatory in the construction of new building in cities. Architecture alongside the use of information technology provides thus a better sustainably. Living in such a smart city is the valuable expression of what it could mean combining infrastructures and everyday objects “to address social, economic and environmental problems”. (pg.15, Townsend, 2013)

A smart city is in constant change and being able to build future cities that might auto-sustain themselves against climate change, to name one great issue, would be fundamental. A dialogue between urban architecture and planning could lead to a better efficiency if coordinated by media. It would be interesting to see some resolutions, for example, on how “ICT’s diffusion challenged the urban/countryside dichotomy, driving towards a phase of new “urban identities”. (Tarantino and Tosoni, 2013) Could similar projects being thought also for rural environments?



Tarantino, M. & Tosoni, S., 2013. Introduction: Beyond the centrality of media and the centrality of space. First Monday, 18(11). Available at: [Accessed February 7, 2014].

Townsend, A.M., 2013. Smart cities: big data, civic hackers, and the quest for a new utopia, New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company: pp cover,  xi-xiv preface

Re-Work, The Connected Cities Event 2016

Elegant Embellishments [online], [Accessed: 13 February 2016]

CNN, 2013, Mexico’s Smog Eating Building, Available at: [Accessed: 13 Febraury 2016]




Hello everyone,

I am very happy to finally have a standard course (meaning seeing people in class!); the one I took last semester was merely online.

My name is Caterina, I am Italian and I am currently doing the MA Creative Media part-time. Meanwhile I am assisting a photographer here in Brighton, using different analog cameras as well as the digital.

I finished my undergraduate degree in Italy called Sciences and Technologies of Communication two years ago. My final thesis was on Urban Sociology and it was called “Fashion&The City”. It was based on how fashion influenced cities (particularly the four fashion capitals: NYC, London, Milan and Paris) and vice versa. Studying the territory from a social perspective has always had a great appeal to me.

I was very interested in the fashion field (I worked one year in that business last year in Milan) only to discover my deepest interest was linked to photo-shoots and the power of images. Moreover, places and big cities are fascinating to me because I grew up in the Italian countryside, far away from that vibrating energy of creating something new.

That’s why I am happy to have undertaken this course and I am curious to learn more about how to team up new technologies with sustainability. I would be really interested to know if a smart/digital city can help or not in developing the small local places, from small villages to the actual countryside. Or whether they could somehow work together.

See you in class and have all a good week end.


Insect Drones



The ‘Connected Cities’ event explored how we can use visualisation to make sense of DATA in our new smart cities. The event looked at how important location is to be able to help us to join everything together to understand this space in relation to ‘our world of sensors and IoT’

One of the speakers was Bart Remes who is the project manager of the TU Delft  micro aerial vehicle lab that  is involved with the development of miniature drones.His mission statement stated how owning one of these miniature drones in the future will be as commonplace as owning a smart phone

It is interesting to think how these drones would be used on such a major scale. This new drone is very light, quiet, and has wings like a dragonfly  You can imagine these small, delicate insect like drones quietly flying over our digital cities. This zen new order where there is a ‘quiet connection between digital devices’ (pg xi Townsend 2013) becoming a physical reality. The companies website gives the example of one of its uses being in the construction industry within building inspection, but could it also be used to shape and design our cities?

Tarentino and Tostino (pg 1 2013) discuss how media has become more more embedded in our everyday life and more central ‘in the production of our space’.Consider that the media collated by this army of drones will play a part in this ‘production’,  helping to physically shape our cities as well as document them. Rather like media helping to shape architecturally the infrastructure of cities such as the Juventus Stadium (Tarentino and Tostino pg 3 2013) where the design of the building had a direct correlation to its use.

Think how this army of miniature drones would impact on our urban spaces  – the city’s design reflecting  the fact that it has been captured by constantly moving, high flying imaging systems.


Tarantino, M. & Tosoni, S., 2013. Introduction: Beyond the centrality of media and the centrality of space. First Monday, 18(11). Available at: [Accessed February 7, 2014].

Townsend, A.M., 2013. Smart cities: big data, civic hackers, and the quest for a new utopia, New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company: pp cover,  xi-xiv preface

Mav Lab, Delft University of Technology  2015

Re-Work, The Connected Cities Event 2016



Hi all,

Lovely to meet the new people as well as see some familiar faces (and meet Kate in person rather than virtually). I’m looking forward to this module and to working with you all.

So, about me, my name is Juliet and I’m studying, full-time on the MRes in Arts and Cultural Research. I took the Networked Societies module last year as well as Research Skills. My other module this year is Ethics.

I live in London and work part-time at the Centre for Investigative Journalism (CIJ). I am a guest lecturer for City University, teaching data journalism to the MA Investigative students, thankfully just in the autumn term, and I occasionally teach workshops in data journalism for the CIJ – especially if I can combine it with a few day’s holiday!

A few years ago I studied a PgCert in Photography at St Martin’s, and far from the arty medium format photographs I thought I’d take, I ended up spending hours in front of my computer screen looking through the lenses of CCTV cameras. While it wasn’t what I’d expected, I found this an interesting area to pursue, especially since there are overlaps with my work at the CIJ – hence my returning to study.

Although the photography has taken something of a back seat to books over the last few months, I’m glad this module has a practical element and hope I’ll be able to produce some interesting images.

Looking forward to seeing you again next Tuesday and have a good weekend.


Janet Jones Obsolescence

Digital cities Week 1 Blog

Hi everyone here on the digital cities module, my name is Janet and here’s a bit about me. Professionally and personally my background has little direct link to the concepts of digital cities. Since medical retirement from professional work, my interest has grown in forms of digital literacy, communication and storytelling. Personal and community narratives recorded in different media formats such as film, audio and photographs is something I would like to explore within the ‘digital cities’ context.

In 2004 at a literacy conference in the UK, I developed a friendship with a Canadian writer and teacher who lives in the city of Vancouver. We have been in contact ever since, initially by email then by Skype and other video calling as the software has developed. In conversation this week, she described how she was unable to purchase ink for her printer because at 8 years old, whilst still basically functioning, it was too old to obtain cartridges. This could be an example of what is described by Sassen (2013) as ‘digital obsolescence’. The speed of technological development of digital infrastructure in cities presents a risk of obsolescence but also the associated inequalities as communities and people are unable to keep up.

This leads me to wonder about some issues which face development of digital cities. Having moved 3 times in 2 years whilst studying in Brighton, I now have what I call my remote control, telephone and data wires graveyard in plastic boxes at the bottom of a wardrobe! The thing which unsettles me most is the sheer waste of raw materials and finance. Technical obsolescence is something which will be difficult to outrun. On this subject, Sassen (2003) also refers to ‘hacking’ at the interactive interface, as a creative means of avoiding death through obsolescence of the digital city.

I am not at a stage yet where I am clear about module topics but digital literacy and storytelling remain most consistently of interest and I look forward to the learning journey.


Sasses, S ( 2003) Urbanising Technology, Urban Age Electric City, YouTube video, available at: