Signing Up for Smart Citizenship


The idea that the ‘Smart City’ is shaped by the ‘providers of big technology’ (Hemment, D & Townsend, A  2013; Pg 1) is being challenged by our developing ideas of what a smart citizen of the future will be. Net Commons is an initiative to develop and promote community networks so that there is a workable infrastructure to create ‘a sustainable alternative, to the global Internet’s current dominant model’. (Net Commons Project Summary; pg 1) This bottom up approach is a key part of current thought regarding the role of the smart citizen and how we can empower ourselves with developing not only our access to data, but our role in shaping it too.

The Smart Citizen Kit was created as a Kick Starter campaign to develop an open sourced environmental monitoring platform which allows you to to monitor your city environment; CO2 and NO2 levels, temperature and humidity, light intensity and sound levels.The companies website talks about how this device creates a ‘community-powered system for collecting, visualising, and sharing environmental data as measured in our own backyards!’ This idea of citizen empowerment, by collecting our own data, indicates a shift from our data being controlled  by the ‘network gatekeepers’ (Castells, M 2011: pg 1) who are influenced  by commercial or political interests, to having access to, and controlling our data for ourselves.

But to be able to develop this concept there needs to be citizen responsibility as well as empowerment. As the Net Commons initiative demonstrates, this needs to work at a grassroots community level in order for it to be able to be implemented and to succeed. This means we need to take on a collective responsibility in becoming the stake holders in our future environments. Within the ‘Future of Everything’ Frank Kresin has created a ‘Manifesto for Smart Citizens’. Which states the following; ‘We, citizens of all cities, take the fate of the places we live in into our own hands. We care about the buildings and the parks, the shops, the schools, the roads and the trees. But above all, we care about the quality of the life we live in our cities’. (Kresin, F (Hemment, D & Townsend, A) 2013; Pg 33).

If this is to be more than a utopian vision, there does seem to be the need for a structured, collective approach in order for the digital citizen to play a key role in developing future smart cities and communities.


Castells, M 2011 ‘A Network Theory of Power’ International Journal of Communication 5 (2011), 773–787

EC-funded ‘Collective Awareness Platforms’ Available at;

Environmental Monitoring Platform. Available at;

Hemment, D. & Townsend, A., 2013. Smart Citizens – FutureEverything. Available at:

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