Week 10: Sustainability, Sensing Cities & Socratic Methodology

The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are are set of 17 ‘universal calls’ to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure citizens enjoy peace and prosperity (UNDP, 2015). Focussing on ‘green’ initiatives, moral values and future-proofing sociocultural change, the SDGs aim to secure the livelihoods of future generations, all over the world (UNEP, 2015).

However, de Lange alludes to the unemotional, or at least un-emotionally engaging nature of sustainability: “relations between people and between people and the urban environment are strictly utilitarian,” he states (2013, pg.3)

Like ‘green’ before it, and ‘progressive’, sustainable has become something of a buzz-word; something to aspire to, and maybe progress towards, but never really understand how to fully achieve, in reality. While the SDG’s have sustainable, or green concepts alongside more personally motivating issues like equality and education – which reinforces their significance – what they essentially provide are targets to meet; a deadline of 2030 to meet them, and a call to action for global citizens to reach them, together.

What the SDGs do reinforce, particularly well, is reminding the world of what is really important, wherever one happens to be. However, that doesn’t mean that everyone can and will be engaged. Technological and political situations will inevitably effect some, but there are also a growing number of people living ‘mobile lives’ who are unfortunately more focussed on on living life in the more short-term (Elliot & Urry, 2010, pg.5) as they travel between digital cities.

This is where applications like Socratic come in.

Socratic is a creative intelligence platform, providing users with a collaborative space where they can engage with, share, create and develop innovative solutions to achieve these crucial, global targets. With complex, computerised systems leading to people living more ‘byte-sized’ lives, Socratic has used these very systems to tap into the ideologies of the SDGs (ironically, or strategically, tapping directly into the 9th SDG – Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure!).

Using gamification techniques, and using social network data to monitor and challenge its own impact on (really) progressing towards the SDGs. By giving its audience the opportunity to collectively select and implement the most promising ideas created on its platform, Socratic is encouraging the more emotionally unattached traveller, who perhaps spends as much time away from ‘home’ as they do within it, to take an interest in, and take responsibility for the SDGS – providing routes, not just concepts, towards a more sustainable world.

And it could be an essential move. Elliot & Urry (pp.141-143) suggest two tangible scenarios that could occur, as a result of the energy production and consumption that has been ramped up, globally, since the 20th Century. If the trend of escalation continues, the only way to alleviate the environmental damage sustained could be to enforce a return to more localised economies and communities. However, if solutions are found that allow for the current escalation to continue, i.e., alternative, clean fuels and even more reliance on intelligent, mobile devices, we could end up with a ‘hyper world’; one in which individuals are constantly on the move, and constantly connected, albeit digitally.

Whether either of these scenarios are where we end up, or whether it’s somewhere completely different, or even a nice, sustainable equilibrium between the two, applications like Socratic will help us make the right decisions, together.



Elliot, A., & Urry, J. (2010). Mobile Lives. Routledge. Oxon.

de Lange, M. (2013) The smart city you love to hate: Exploring the role of affect in hybrid urbanism. In The Hybrid City II: Subtle rEvolutions, edited by D. Charitos, I. Theona, D. Dragona and H. Rizopoulos. 23-25 May 2013. Athens, Greece.

UNDP (2015). Sustainable Development Goals. Online resource, accessed April 2018. Available at: http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/sustainable-development-goals.html

UNEP (2015). Integrating the three dimensions of sustainable development. Online resource, accessed April 2018. Available at: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/3782unep2.pdf

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