digital nature

‘The impact that data has on the digital city and the choices we have in order to develop the digital city for the greater good ( Ferguson, J 2016)

It is this exploration of the collective input we have in the future of our cities that became a prominent area of interest for me during this module. From the areas that were explored, what seemed apparent (and a surprise to me), was the role that nature had to play within this,  the lovely utopian ideal of bringing together nature and technology to construct our cities of the future.


In particular 3D printing demonstrated this strong connection of utilising data within the context of the development of our digital cities. During one class the concept of the ‘breathing house’ was created, a perfect example of 3D printing, sustainability, and smart technology working together. This discussion in the class came from other ideas that we had explored in blogs about 3D printing – the creation of structures from nature, using natural design constructs to implement new forms of housing. As Juliet wrote in her blog ‘it also enables the creation of shapes and structures that only exist in nature, leading to exciting projects such as the 3D house created by the architect Enrico Dini’ (Ferguson, J 2016)

The sense of us empowering ourselves through smart citizenship to create these future cities is vital, particularly as it means reconnecting with our cities again. Community initiatives such as ‘Citi-Sense’, where citizens are shaping their cities by the data they are collecting and collectively interpreting is an important start to this process.

I went back to the first blog I wrote about the insect like drones flying silently around our cities, data imaging them. For me what was interesting was that this again demonstrated how we are developing and replicating nature in order to design the most effective drones for the future. This new dragonfly drone could be seen as a positive symbol of what is to come, an idea of us successfully bringing together nature and technology to create the digital cities of the future.



Lipson, H. & Kurman, M., 2013 Fabricated: the new world of 3D printing, Indianapolis: John Wiley: chapter 1,  chapter 5chapter 10 , chapter 14,

The Man Who Prints Houses. (2011). Directed by Jack Wake-Walker & Marc Webb. [Film Trailer]. Available at: [accessed 8 May 2016].

Citi-Sense video available at;

Mav Lab, Delft University of Technology  2015

Re-Work, The Connected Cities Event 2016



Goods On-Demand by Juliet Ferguson. Published May 2016

Future Homes From Ferns by Kate Mapes. Published May 2016

Our Data Driven Society  by Juliet Ferguson. Published February 2016

Insect Drones by Kate Mapes. Published February 2016

future homes from ferns?


The perceived difference between technology and nature has now been challenged by the development of 3D printing, as we are now witnessing that there is a ‘growing bond between nature and mathematical formulas’ (Lipson, H. & Kurman, M, 2013 pg 177). Even our homes and building structures are being influenced by this.

Using the mathematical algorithms to replicate nature at first seems incongruous.The design imperfection within nature and how ‘random patterns are stronger than regular patterns’ (Lipson, H. & Kurman, M. 2013 pg 268) seems to work against the mathematical calculations  that are utilised within 3D printing, something  that has developed from  natural designs becoming the basis of new structures.

Lipton and Kurman talk about the ancient mathematical concept called the Fibonacci series which is found everywhere in nature – ‘tree branches, ferns, artichoke flowers and ocean kelp’ (Lipson, H. & Kurman, M. 2013 pg 176) the Fibonacci series proceeds in a systematic manner where each number is the sum of the previous two, something that can be calculated relatively easily by a computer.

Working from natural design and construction, a team of material scientists have replicated natural bone formation by 3D printing two polymers (substances like nylon or Gore-Tex are polymers) at the same time, ‘in patterns that imbue it with more resistance than the sum of its parts’  –

Basically they are taking two substances that are found within the make-up of our skeleton (collagen and hydroxyapatite) and fusing them to create a new, stronger substance that will be used in the creating of a ‘bone like  substance’ to create a ‘3D printed, bone inspired house’.


ProtoHouse by Softkill Design

Lipman and Kupman discuss this in their final chapter of ‘Fabricated’, that the future of 3D printing is developing into a fusion of different properties to create new ones, substances that have become much stronger than the original ones that were used. Enrico Dini an architect and innovator in the 3D building of houses was a pioneer within this area, building his first 3D house in 2010 out of sand and a binding agent.

In the future it seems we may continue to take and replicate more from nature, creating new man made structures. Maybe the houses we will develop in this way will not only be created from new nature inspired algorithms but also may adopt more organic, natural design.


Lipson, H. & Kurman, M., 2013 Fabricated: the new world of 3D printing, Indianapolis: John Wiley: chapter 1,  chapter 5chapter 10 , chapter 14,

Article available at;

Article available at;

Article available at;

Escape To Hollingbury Hill Fort?

thumb-Hill fort1 061-1

With the stark futures predicted by Elliot and Urry in the conclusion to the book ‘Mobile Lives’, an escape to the Bronze Age Hollingbury Hill fort situated above Brighton could be a possibility in the distant future. According to the future evaluations set out by them it could perhaps be either within a sustainable community, where the inhabitants will be living locally off the land ( Elliot, A  & Urry, J 2010,  pg  142), or a dystopian future of war lords barricading themselves into a gated and guarded community, protecting themselves from rising sea levels (Elliot, A & Urry,  2010,  Pg 144).

Either way with the development of our carbon dependent mobile lifestyle, climate change and the decline of cheap energy means that there are very stark possibilities in terms of how our societies will operate in this very uncertain world.


A more optimistic and (hopefully) realistic future vision from Eliot & Urry is that our societies will  develop around smart technology, helping us to shape our lives through sensors to help facilitate more sustainable, low carbon lifestyles (Elliot, A & Urry, J  2010,  Pg 147-48).

Small, cheap sensors are integral elements that connect us to utilising digital devices, and it is these sensors that are integral for the community to work together and create their own data. Citi- Sense is one of the initiatives at HackAir which facilitates projects that are working on participatory approaches to improving air quality globally. The UN’s division for sustainable development states that ‘allowing people to broadly engage in development policy making’ is an important element in the creating of a sustainable future, and an initiative such as Citi-Sense fits this framework. The premise is that the environment is analysed by both the data collected through the sensor and by the more subjective filling in of a questionnaire.  The data is then analysed in a workshop and discussed at a community level.

To avoid  some of the dystopian visions explored in ‘Mobile Lives’, we will need to adopt this smart, sustainable approach to the development of our communities, if not we may find ourselves following the other more bleak outcomes that were outlined in the book.


Elliot, A., & Urry, J. (2010). Mobile Lives. Oxford: Routledge: Introduction and Conclusion.

Citi-Sense video available at;

UN (n.d.) What is Sustainability?,


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:

Urban Gaming – The Future of Saturday Night TV?


Urban gaming has direct parallels and connections with the genre traditions of  ‘live’ entertainment shows on mainstream television. This quote from the Blast Theory website  about their urban game ‘I’d Hide You’, could be the strap line for a new prime time Saturday night television gameshow.

‘An online game of stealth and cunning and adventure. Jump onboard with a team of illuminated runners live from the streets as they roam the city trying to film each other’.

Television broadcasters are always hungry for new forms programme making, new ways of creating content. Could this new form of live, interactive entertainment possibly be part of our Saturday television schedule in the future ?

Hjorth talks about how a  a ‘key feature of Big Games is the way in which the game space interrupts the flows of everyday urban life. Colour, spectacle, and movement come together in Big Games within the urban environment’ (Hjoth 2011: pg 361). Urban gaming as reality television takes on the guise of ‘spectacle’ particularly in the case of ‘I’d Hide You’. In the video for the game the participants were broadcast ‘live’ roaming around Manchester city centre, interacting with the public, with a real sense that ‘anything can happen’. This sense of potentially edgy or dangerous reality unfolding did happen at the end of the video when the sounds can be heard of a possible drunken altercation on the street. Even the title of ‘Big Games’ conjures up a form of gladitorial type of entertainment, as well illustrating the often large geographical space of urban gaming.


It is no surprise that this interconnection of urban gaming with ‘live television’ has been noticed by television broadcasters. It is interesting to note that the BBC were one of the funding partners for the project .This combining of the ‘physical with the virtual ‘– (De Souza, 2009: pg 4) could be a new element of our broadcast television Saturday night entertainment. A new approach to programme making  which explores and challenges ‘conventions and routines that shape the cityscape’ (Hjorth 2011:  pg 358).

De Souza e Silva, A, and D. M. Sutko, eds. (2009) Digital Cityscapes: Merging Digital and Urban Playscapes. New York: Peter Lang: 1-17

Hjorth, L. (2011). Mobile@game cultures: The place of urban mobile gaming. Convergence, 17(4), 357-371.

BBC Charter 2015. Available at:

Blast Theory. Available at:

Filming the Fort

As the smart phone has become an extension of ourselves or ‘intimate technology’ (Ritchie Pg 5 2014)) so we can see how the idea of locative art (Behrendt et al pg 6 2015) within different environments and within different contexts has become a much more viable part of our digital cities.

Netparks are interesting areas to develop digitally as developing this community public space into ‘the 21st Century’ (Behrendt et al Pg 30 2015) using smartphone technology feels like a natural continuity. Netparks can become fluid, changing spaces, and as digital parks can continually be changed and updated as there are no physical structures to knock down and re-build (recreational or art based)

Newhaven Fort could be a digital environment or netpark based on an historical buildingScreen Shot 2016-03-13 at 09.27.53

The key purpose of my Actionbound app  is for the participants to develop a creative interaction that connects them to  this environment and its history. The mission would be an educational experience and is focused on students from Year 9 through to Higher Education who are studying subjects such as English, History or Media Studies. The idea is that they not only have they to find their particular location or story but they also have to think of an interesting way to represent it through moving image, either as a news item, a (very)short drama, or in a more experimental way using image and sound. These locations are all highlighted on the Newhaven Fort website and will need to checked out on the field trip to see if they are viable

Screen Shot 2016-03-13 at 09.30.06

Where my concept might not be right for the Actionboound is that I feel it has predominantly one major outcome, that of creating an interesting video, rather than fully engaging with GPS and the scanning of the code. This will be explored for viability on the field trip where I will see how I can incorporate it more seamlessly.Screen Shot 2016-03-13 at 09.30.33

Interaction is a really important element in helping develop engagement and I feel this would encourage this, in particular in developing ideas of the best way to represent and communicate these different historical locations.


(Behrendt F, Doughty K, Poulter S, Bailey C, Reid J (2015) NetPark. Research and Development Report.

Ritchie, J. 2014. The Affordances and Contraints of Mobile Locative Narratives. In The Mobile Story. Narrative Practices with Locative Technologies, ed. J. Farman, 53–67. Oxon: Routledge


Exploring Fiveways


I have begun to develop Actionbound as my interactive sound and visual exploration app. I wanted to start to produce a creative, interactive, educational experience for primary school children who live in this area of Brighton. There are three large primary schools in this area and the children are often out on school trips to discover more about their local environment.

The purpose of the Actionbound mission would be that the children in small groups (with a teacher) would need to find the landmarks indicated on the app – Once located the children will need to think about evidencing their ‘find’ both with audio and with visual images


(moving image or photographic) The purpose of this will be to help them to think about how  to creatively illustrate each place visually and audibly. – creating their own ‘placed sound’ (Behrendt pg 5 2015) and image for that place.

For example one location for them to find is the Preston Park velodrome – What can they think of to illustrate this with audio? and where can they find the sound? They might decide they need to find or replicate the sound of a bicycle bell or the sound of the whoosh as the bike whizzes past – How will they do this?  This will also be the same for the visual representations – instead of taking a straightforward picture of the velodrome how else can they represent it creatively or differently?

As well as giving the children an insight into their local history and connecting into their  environment, the purpose of this app will be about developing the way they see and represent it, how image and sound work together and also finding new ways to represent or illustrate their ‘finds’. Behrendt (pg 11 2015) illustrates concisely how moving and walking around our environments helps us to engage with it creatively – she writes “we listen with our legs” – to understand why, just start walking – “see, everything sounds different now, doesn’t it?”.



Behrendt, F. (2015) Locative Media as Sonic Interaction Design. Walking through Placed Sounds. WI Journal of Mobile Media. (Travel Guide App) (Echo-Map Sound Installation)

Data as part of our public space..

2016-01-28 14.25.01Image: Internet Machine Timo Arnell Big Bang Data Exhibition 2016

To give a sense of how digital ‘space’ has been ‘challenged and re-defined by media (pg 5 Berry et al 2013) Timo Arnell’s vast installation depicting a data processing plant whirring away with huge quantities of data within it is a good example. This relatively (for the impact it has) small physical space that is imbedded with vast amounts of data from probably hundreds of thousands of peoples lives, illustrates the physical reality of the way in which data is being processed. Arnell talks about how viewing the ‘materiality of these cold, hard digital spaces refutes the idea that they are intangible’. The abstract space of data, code and software becomes real.

The ‘profound influence of software’ (Kitchin and Dodge, 2011:x) and the reality of how data is impacting on our lives is no more apparent than in our digital cities – living, breathing examples of how we are shaped by software and algorithms. The once private domestic space of our lives has now become public, creating a continuous public space in our cities filled with our multitude of digital devices.

The public digital space our cities now inhabit blends into one with our once domestic space. With our ‘boundariless media’ Berry et all talk about how public space functions as a connection between the virtual and the real, between public and private, between work and leisure. Our private space has definitely become public with the access to our data and this can make us and our smart cities vulnerable. Smart cities are built on software and if this software becomes hacked or damaged the city would stop, no traffic control, no public transportation, no city management systems, no smart grids,… (Priya Anand 2016)

With the private becoming public the vulnerabilities of our smart cities are all to apparent, all that vital data that supports us and our cities enormous infrastructures whirring away in these warehouse like spaces.


Berry, C., Harbord, J. & Moore, R.O., 2013. Public space, media space, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan: 1-15 (Introduction). Berry et al (2013) public space, media space

Kitchin, R. & Dodge, M., 2011. Code/space software and everyday life, Cambridge, Mass.: MITPress: ix-xi (Preface) 3-22 (Introduction), 23-44 (Chapter 2: The Nature of Software

Priya Anand January 2016 faces-from-cyber-attackers-2016-01-04

Big Data As Everyday Life



It’s like when you walk in the street and our faces, bodies, movements, actions and behaviours are constantly captured and transformed into digital data, even if we don’t realise it.’ (Persona Non Data 2016).

The sheer volume of data that is produced in a city such as London is difficult to comprehend and it this vast amount of digital information that is created everyday  that is one of the major themes explored within the Big Bang Data exhibition. Tekja’s London social media data stream represents ‘live’ data visually as it is created throughout the city and Persona Non Data takes our data live throughout the exhibition and attempts to visualise it – a data generator within the exhibit.

This vast amount of data created raises questions regarding how it is used, who uses it and how it can be democratised. Miller (2011 Pg 15)  talks about how data can be manipulated far more than traditional forms of media like broadcast as  it can be ‘compressed and decompressed’, and easily copied. This subjectivity relating to how data can be used is explored in Persona Non Data’s interview regarding their installation where they discuss the importance within their work in encouraging people to question how, why and where their data is being used and raising the question of ‘can I have a say in the process?’

In Usman Haques talk (2016) he raises this concern with the example of the data from a device measuring air pollution that was installed near a device which limits air pollutants within a certain area – Data is controlled and manipulated and cannot be simply ‘read’ Miller talks about how the ‘model of communication’ here is a ‘hierarchical one’ with those in positions of power ‘creating hegemony through the ownership and distribution of a popular culture’ (Miller 2011 Pg 13)- the way our data is controlled can be seen in this way.

Data has revolutionised our experience as humans to such an extent that we are are only at the start of how it will shape our lives. Persona Non Data sums up the sheer volume of data that we are continually creating ‘Data is part of everyday life. You turn on a light on in your flat, you buy a tomato at the supermarkets, you walk along a sidewalk and, somewhere, a line in a database changes’ (2016).


Miller, V. (2011) Understanding Digital Culture. In: Miller, V. Key Elements of Digital Media. Sage: pp 12-21.

Persona Non Data Interview Feb 2016

Tekja Video Feb 2016

Usman Haques Feb 2016 Talk

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