Week 11: 3D Printing

“Welcome to the future, where disabilities are superpowers,” reads OpenBionics‘ mission statement. This sounds like a line from a Utopian science-fiction movie (which would, inevitably, become a dystopian science fiction movie), or perhaps a quote from Professor Charles Xavier’s ‘School for the Gifted’. (Also now available as a science fiction movie / trilogy).

As it happens, Open Bionics themselves allude to making: “science fiction a reality,” (Open Bionics, [online resource], accessed May 2018).

Inspired to change the prosthetics industry, by the extortionate cost and relative inflexibility of essential replacement limbs, Samantha Payne founded Open Bionics (Sheppard, 2017). By using the modern medium of 3D Printing to create the limbs, OpenBionics can create a personalised ‘bionic’ hand for around one-sixth of the cost of those in the private sector, with the added USP of users being able to create them at home.

Lipson and Kurman highlight the availability of 3D Printing as a resource not just for those who may need its uniquely manufactured products, but even to those whose professional trades have not previously involved manufacturing (2012, pg.175). Samantha Payne and her business partner, before founding Open Bionics, worked in journalism and robotics engineering, respectively, prior to their award-winning enterprise (Sheppard, 2017).

Particularly with Joel Gibbard (said business partner, previously in robotics), they have been able to exploit the flexibility offered by 3D Printing to re-design an existing product, using new technology, and putting an affordable, essential solution into the health industry markets.

Lipson and Kurman state that: “patterns generated by algorithms, or equations, come in as many varieties as there are people,” (2012, pg.176). Highlighting the broad variety of shapes and patterns available to 3D Printing designers, who apply data and algorithms to their design, this is an ideal scenario for creating prosthetic limbs – which should ideally be custom fit for every user (Payne, in Sheppard, 2017):

“One of the most powerful applications of generative design is to apply computer algorithms to a particular problem to find the best, optimal solution. By crunching through rapid iterations and testing out possibly after possibility, a computer can generate design specs that when 3D printed, will create an object optimized to suit a particular person or environment.” (Lipson and Kuram, pg.181)

Strikingly, Open Bionics aim to keep all their product code open source, whereby anybody  in the interconnected world of Digital Cities can access and test the prosthetics (pending the availability of a 3D Printer at home). This allows for sharing, testing, and even feedback contributing to product development. Subsequently, this allows the company to keep their costs down, while their small team work collaboratively with people all over the world.

When also considering the environmental advantages of 3D Printing over traditional metal manufacturing techniques, it becomes clear that Open Bionics are doing incredible things in their industry. 3D Printing is already a ‘greener’ form of manufacturing, but with the addition of a significantly shorter supply chain – literally downloading the code, and printing the prosthetic – the carbon footprint left by the business, along with its cost to the consumer, is small (Lipson and Kuram, pg.203).

With the number of people worldwide requiring a limb set to double in the next 30 years (Oullier, 2018, [online resource] accessed may 2018), the cheaper and the greener the solution, the better for inhabitants of both today’s, and tomorrow’s Digital Cities.


Lipson, H., & Kurman, M., (2012). Fabricated: The New World of 3D Printing. Wiley.

Open Bionics (website). [online resource], accessed May 2018. Available at: https://openbionics.com

Sheppard, E., (2017). The entrepreneur behind a revolutionary 3D-printed robotic hand. Guardian [online resource], accessed May 2018. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/small-business-network/2017/may/03/the-award-winning-robotics-company-amputees-gender-equality-open-source-engineering

Assignment 2 Peer Review: outline


This essay will explore the challenges faced by advertisers and consumers as they interact within interconnected Digital Cities. The industry is trying to adapt and exploit the opportunities afforded them by the technologies essential to both everyday consumerism, and the infrastructure of Digital Cities themselves. Meanwhile, consumers are becoming more aware of how their interactions with digital technologies work simultaneously for and against them (Miller, 2011), leading to less responsive audiences who are constantly bombarded by instant, targeted advertising. With privacy the prescient concern amongst all involved, this analysis will highlight where the advertising industry is now, how it is adapting, and what the impact could be for both industry, and audience. 

Kurt Iveson’s: “Digital Labourers of the City, Unite!” (2017), is a call to action for consumers to ensure that digital technologies are used for their benefit, not exploitation. However, Mark Latonero (2018) highlights the influence of the tech industry within this debate, and how their industry has become essential to Digital Cities, and every sector that operates within them (Kourtit, etal, 2017). This has led to a collapse of the distinction between consumers and producers, and a more decentralised model of media production (Miller, 2011). 

Subsequently, the classic philosophies of advertising (Haygood, 2016) are being challenged, and privacy itself has become something of a commodity (Papachrissi, 2010). This has led to new essentials of consumerism within Digital Cities; targeted social media advertising (Okazaki, 2013); dynamic advertising, including billboards (Lak, etal, 2015); and spreading incepted word of mouth (albeit via digital networks) recommendations through similar media (Fang, etal, 2016). Each of these new forms of advertising rely on the same technologies fundamental to Digital City policy makers, as they also track how their citizens / consumers behave (Kourtit, etal, 2017). 

Predicting how consumers may behave (Ham, 2016) is also essential for the advertising industry, but not an entirely new concept. However, adopting some of the classic ‘soft cell’ philosophies of traditional advertising for digital media is difficult. In some circumstances, businesses are being rebuilt based on the analysis of Big Data (Feldman, 2010). The proven emotive, creative metaphorical methods of classic advertising (Chang, 2016) are becoming more methodical, analytically based concepts, while advertisers find a way to make the technology itself adapt to the more psychological approaches to the craft (Prendergast, 2018). 

Advertising may be both an expected, and accepted form of media in modern Digital Cities, but like every other industry, it is racing to keep up with the technologies it has come to rely upon. This essay will ask where it is now, where it may be going, and how it will continue adapting and evolving, if it is to thrive in Digital Cities. 


Key texts and case studies as highlighted 

CHANG, C. 2018. Right metaphor, right place: choosing a visual metaphor based on product type and consumer differences. International Journal of Advertising, 37, 309-336. 

FAN, Y., TANG, K., LI., C. & WU, C. 2018
On electronic word of mouth diffusion in social networks: curiosity and influence. International Journal of Advertising, 37

FELDMAN, K. 2010. The Quantification of Advertising (+ Lessons from Building Businesses based on Large Scale Data Mining)   

HAM, C. 2017. Exploring how consumers cope with online behavioural advertising
International Journal of Advertising, 36, 632-658. 

HAYGOOD, D. 2016. Hard Sell or Soft Sell? The Advertising Philosophies and Professional Relationship of Rosser Reeves and David Ogilvy. American Journalism, 33, 169-188. 

IVESON, K. 2017. Digital Labourers of the City, Unite! Our Digital Rights To The City. Meatspace Press. 

KOURTIT, K., NIJKAMP, P. & STEENBURGEN, J. 2016. The significance of digital data systems for smart city policy. Socio-Economic Planning Sciences, 58, 13-21. 

LAK, P., KOCAK, A. & PRALAT, P. 2015
Towards Dynamic Pricing for Digital Billboard Advertising Network in Smart Cities
Dept. of Mechanical & Industrial Engineering, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada. 

MILLER, V. 2011. Understanding Digital Culture. Key Elements of Digital Media. London: Sage. 

Social media and international advertising: theoretical challenges and future directions. International Marketing Review, 30

PAPACHRISSI, Z. 2010. Privacy as a luxury commodity. First Monday, 15. 

PRENDERGAST, G. 2016. Trust in online recommendations: an evolutionary psychology perspective. International Journal of Advertising, 37, 199-216. 

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

Week 9, Drones: DelivAir, or Deliv-urgh?

There is a natural socio-cultural pessimism surrounding unmanned drones. The idea of a horizon filled with independently operated or completely unmanned devices, flitting absently from place to place while loaded with recording and communications devices (Graham, 2010, in Jensen, 2016, pg.69), hasn’t proved palatable enough amongst consumers, organisations, or governments to warrant becoming widespread.

Or at least not yet.

Links to surveillance (Jensen, 2016, pp.71-72) and targeted attacks in modern warfare, in particular, have created an atmosphere of distrust around these machines that seem to distance human action, and sometimes error, from reason and forethought (Gregory, 2011, pg.192).

However, the potential for drone technology stretches far beyond this limited, and often distorted outlook (as Gregory highlights, it often actually takes entire teams of service personnel to operate a single drone (2011, pg.194)).

Jensen states that: “one key issue when looking at the emergence of drone technologies is whether they will also hold empowering potential for institutions other than states, government bodies, commercial enterprises and organised crime,” (2016, pg.67), and here is where we will look at drones from a more everyday, practical perspective.

Large organisations such as Facebook and Amazon have been piloting (pun intended) the use of drone technology for social good (Facebook, which seems ironic, in the current climate surrounding the company) and to enhance the experience of consumers (Amazon). for some time. With individuals also having the access to purchase and deploy these machines, this creates: “a scenario of little attractiveness,” (Jensen, 2016, pg.67), whereby cities could become swarmed by hordes of remotely operated, or programmed machines, zipping around the skies with unregulated freedom and increasing social tension (see clips from an episode of South Park, below).

Many other small startups and scaleup businesses are also deploying the technology in ways that bridge the gap between consumerism and improving quality-of-life. Zipline, for instance, delivers medical supplies across the vast and often unnavigable terrain of Rwanda – the: “land of one thousand hills,” and soon-to-be home to the world’s first drone port (Flood, 2016).

In countries where terrain is usually easier to travel through and over, however, the same concept is being used. Developed by Cambridge Consultants, DelivAir is a drone delivery concept that puts products and services, directly into the hands of customers – wherever they are. Rather than deliver to an address, it delivers to people – including medical aides such as Epi-pens. In the words of Nathan Wrench, from Cambridge Consultants, DelivAir: “has the potential to revolutionise the delivery process, by removing the address restriction that other drone technologies are limited by. We are taking cloud retail to the next level, delivering out of the clouds and into your hand,” (Press Release, 2017).

So with the potential for drones as practical, even essential devices, transferred from war-zone / no-go zone, to hard-to-reach areas – into the lives of western consumers, will any of the pessimism fade?

Unfortunately not, according to Jensen: “Needless to say, the ethical issues connected to drone technology do not go away simply because we turn to domestication and naturalisation within cities that are not in war-like conflicts.” (2016, pg.68). As we see in South Park, albeit a parody, above: “The use of drones in non-combat settings may symbolically transform those sites to areas of agnostic engagement and further militarise domestic police departments and government agencies,” (Wall and Monahan, in Jensen, 2016, pg.69).

Jain (in Jensen, 2016, pg.70) suggests that the mixed feelings surrounding drone technology represent a wider school of thought, about how society could live with and amongst these and similar technologies in the future. While the opportunities afforded the everyday could be significant, so could the opportunities afforded corporate and governmental agencies, and the question remains as to whether such affordances will ever outweigh fears. While drone technology may currently thrive in ‘the land of a thousand hills’, there’s no guarantee, yet, that this will transfer to lands of several-thousand buildings.



Cambridge Consultants: press release (2017). The future of drone delivery. Cambridge Consultants [online resource]. Available at: https://www.cambridgeconsultants.com/press-releases/future-drone-delivery [accessed April 2018].

Flood, Z., (2016). From killing machines to agents of hope: the future of drones in Africa. The Guardian [online resource]. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jul/27/africas-drone-rwanda-zipline-kenya-kruger [Accessed April 2018].

Gregory, D., (2011). From a View to a Kill. Theory, Culture & Society. 28, 7-8. pp.188-215.

Jensen, O., (2016). Drone city – power, design and aerial mobility in the age of “smart cities”. Geographica Helvetica. 71. pp.67-75.

Links (chronological):





Week 8 – Digital Urban Gaming: Gotta Catch ’em All!

In July 2016, I was one of those people. 

Head down, mesmerised by my mobile, and trotting all over town hunting for animals from Niantic’s augmented menagerie. 

At the time, I was working evening shifts, and usually spent my mornings and / or afternoons studying, or in the gym – sadly, a Pokémon-free area. 

While the game didn’t disrupt any of my usual routines (other than my unusual state of alertness to the potential presence of said Pokémon), it did lead me to a range of areas I didn’t usually frequent. 

Curiously, one of the most active Pokémon gyms in my home town, a churchyard near the town centre, was already one of the most popular areas for daytime drinking. This resulted in an unexpected combination of the young, the young professionals, and the seasoned alcoholics arranging themselves in individual congregations around the churchyard. These people became my “familiar strangers”, in the sense of Hjorth and Richardson (2017, pg.5). 

One of the most fascinating aspects of being part of this ‘phenomenon’ was actually observing how people interacted with one another; schoolchildren on summer break challenging battles to office staff taking a prolonged lunch, and people going through a routine of waiting patiently, leaving solemnly, and suddenly rushing excitedly back to locations to catch who or whatever had appeared. It was akin to watching a band who’ve been around for decades; everybody was there for a different ‘affectation’, with various levels of emotional engagement, or ‘nostalgia’ (Hjorth and Richardson, pg.9). 

I can’t honestly say I was any more or less aware of what was going on around me, in what admittedly was a very short time, while playing the game. However, I certainly experienced my urban environment differently. If I was early for work, I’d spend time with a colleague hunting in nearby fields, or one of the many automobile showrooms near our office, pretending to look at cars while we were secretly routing out digital animals. It could be said that I was ‘reinvesting’ otherwise ‘wasted minutes’ with something active, and (at the time) productive (Foth, et al., 2016, pg.17). I communicated with people I would usually have no reason to, met new people I probably would have never encountered, and even bumped into an old friend at ‘the gym’. 

However, as Horta and Richardson pointed out, there were also negatives to my experience. Break times at work were spent training Pokemon, and talking about training Pokemon. This is where I understand their analogy of the Internet as a playground and a factory, when related to the game. Many of us, myself included were so consumed that our free time became thinking and planning for our extra-free time, when we could roam and collect (2017, pg.7). I found it interesting that the game had more of a hobby quality, than other online, multiplayer games I’d become involved in. I believe this was because the game was more of a talking point, rather than an experience of interacting with others. De Souza e Silva alludes to the actual lack of social connection within the game itself (2017, pg.22), and my own experience of this was that the game became a talking-point, as opposed to something I used to interact with other gamers. I did interact with people because of it, but not through it – even in the sense of talking to people who didn’t play it, about what it was and why I was so engaged by it. This is what Humphreys would call the ‘indirect facilitation’ of social interaction the game produced (2017, pg.16). 

Despite this, however, I would disagree with Foth, et al’s argument that it becomes easier to ‘stop partaking’ in one’s immediate surroundings, due to mobile games and technology (2016, pg.17). In the instance of Pokemon Go, at least, I found myself looking at my surroundings in new ways, and was more attuned to the world around me than I would have been were immersed in a Podcast or iTunes playlist. This is certainly a subjective, and intrinsic perspective, but my experience nonetheless. 

Similarly, and even though I received the odd curious glance from Darlington’s local drunks when I was hanging around their own ‘gym’, I didn’t encounter any of the ‘risks’ that Hjorth and Richardson describe (2017, pg. 9). Darlington is largely white-British community, and a small town in comparison to nearby Newcastle or Leeds. It is a place where one doesn’t feel out of place or particularly threatened in any one area (although, again, this could be subjective – I might feel different about his were I still the young teenager who partook in Pokemon for the 2nd generation Gameboy). 

I also don’t believe that a great deal of gamification, as described by Hjorth and Richardson (2017, pg.9) occurred within Pokemon Go. The game had no sinister qualities (other than the odd Psyduck materialising in my parent’s bedroom while they slept), and felt more like an opportunity to combine a forgotten childhood imaginary with modern technology. I prefer to look on the positive side of the game, and know that I spent one summer as a Pokemon-obsessed adult, more engaged with my urban environment, than I ever did as a Pokemon-obsessed child, for several summers and winters before. 


De Souza e Silva, A., (2017). Pokemon GO as an HRG: Mobility, sociability, and surveillance in hybrid spaces. Mobile Media & Communications. 5, 1, pp.20-23. 

Foth, M., Hudson-Smith, A., & Gifford, D., (2016). Smart cities, social capital, and citizens at play: A critique and a way forward. Research Handbook on Digital Transformations. Edward Elgar Publishing, UK. Pp.203-221. 

Hjorth, L., & Richardson, I., (2017). Pokemon GO: Mobile media play, place-making, and the digital wayfarer. Mobile Media & Communications. 5, 1, pp.3-14. 

Humphreys, L., (2017). Involvement shield or social catalyst: Thoughts on sociospatial practise of Pokemon GO. Mobile Media & Communications. 5, 1, pp.15-19. 

Week 6: City Dashboards & Open Data

If I’d happened to stumble through the internet a couple of years ago, and happened upon www.citydashboard.org/London, or any city dashboard for that matter, I would have presumed there was a problem with the webpage loading, and been unable to make sense of what I was looking at. Actually, even just a few short months ago, before MJM20, I wouldn’t have made that much sense of the page. 

However, now I know, from reading the work of academics such as Kitchin, et al, that this is their very purpose – to provide citizens, such as myself, with valuable information without needing to delve into the learning of how to handle the data, or any related software (2015, pg.7). 

Unable to previously understand what I was looking at (maybe apart from the weather report), I wouldn’t have been able to answer whether I thought the dashboard was an example of ‘open data’. Subsequently, The Open Data Institute wouldn’t have seemed like something I was interested in, at least until now. 

The ODI: “connect, equip and inspire peopled around the world to innovate with data,” (ODI.org). At the point of me writing this article, the ODI have trained nearly 10,000 people (including a potential great many ‘me’s) on how to use publicly available data to their advantage. By consulting with their customers, they create a tailored: “visual display of the most important information needed to achieve one or more objectives; consolidated and arranged on a single screen so the information can be monitored at a glance,” (Few, in Kitchin, et al, pg.11). 

Open data itself, however, depends on the licensing of the specific data. Quite simply, if the data has an open license, it is entirely open. If it is ‘limited’, there are naturally limitations to its access (and subsequent usage), and so forth (see diagram below from ODI.org). 

As the image shows, data such as bus timetables is entirely open (and this is reflected in the city dashboard featured image, above). From the London City Dashboard, it would appear that this goes for almost all forms of public transport, at least in England’s capital. Four of the dashboard’s individual data sets (or single indicators) are comprised of public transport data; buses, the underground, and two related to bicycles.  

Curiously, if we add the Air Pollution (DEFRA) window to that , almost 30% of the available data relates to elements of Mayor of London Sadiq Khan’s ‘vision’ for the city; creating: “a future that is sustainable … in which travel is accessible and affordable, [and] the air is clean,” (London.gov.uk). In terms of Kitchin’s ‘critical appraise’ (2015, pg.7) of city-benchmarking and real-time dashboard, with so much ‘Good Service’ on the Tube Lines, positive (or at least, green-coloured) pollution and travel data everywhere else, London’s open data is displaying, or at least framing Khan’s vision as one which is being achieved, and appears to be sustainable. 

However, Symons highlights the importance of public service data in the identification of adverse and, pertinently here, potential pressures on such services in the future: “Where multiple data sets about the same people of issues can be combined, there is even greater ability to isolate the root causes … This kind of analytics is gaining sophistication and can now provide granular detail about the dimensions of future service demand, helping councils to allocate scarce resources more efficiently,” (Symons, 2016, pg.26). 

So, although framing a city to appear a certain way, perhaps to appease the public, it is certainly in the interest of the public and public services to keep this data open. Doing this helps the unskilled data analysts of the world, yours truly included, understand what’s going on in our local communities; allowing us to make better decisions, use data, and manage, or at least anticipate, its harmful impacts (ODI.org).


Khan, S., (2015). Cited in – Mayor sets out his vision for the future of London as population rises. London.gov.uk [online resource, accessed March 2018]. Available at: https://www.london.gov.uk/press-releases/mayoral/mayor-sets-out-his-vision-for-the-future-of-london

Kitchen, R., Lauriault, T., & McArdle (2015). Knowing and governing cities through urban indicators, city benchmarking and real-time dashboards. Regional Studies, Regional Science. 2:1, 6-28.

Open Data Institute [online resource, accessed March 2018]. Available at: http://www.theodi.org

Symons, T., (2016). Wise Council: Insights from the cutting edge of data-driven local government. Local Government Association. Nesta.

Week 5: Locative Narrative & Actionbound: Finding me @ work

Firstly, I struggled with this.

However, the purpose of my ‘bound’ was to ensure that others (namely, my step-kids), would not. With work experience at school imminent, I thought it would be useful for them to not only discover exactly what I do for a living, but simultaneously how to make their way from home, to my studio, without (human) assistance. With the potential to learn a couple of things on the way, and get an idea of what it’s like to commute and work in a city, I set up a basic bound so that they could find their way to me, rather than travel with me in the morning and have to spend their entire day in work.

The bound itself is simple; navigate your way from the house to one train station, and then from another train station to my studio (via a stop for a sandwich). From experience, I know that both step-kids would be initially apprehensive about travelling from Darlington to Newcastle on their own. Not only would the journey itself take them out of their comfort zone, but so would buying the ticket for a train and navigating their way around Newcastle, upon arrival. The concept of a bound seemed like a reasonable solution; providing them with something akin to a ‘mobile game’, in order for an element of their regular comfort zone to be with them at all times.

From a technical point of view, I struggled with the two mobile versions of Actionbound at my disposal; both iOS (iPhone and iPad) didn’t function as bound ‘builders’. I was stuck in a constant loop between downloading the bound app, and registering to use it. Subsequently, I created and edited my bound solely on my MacBook (which I tend not to carry with me, given that I own two more useful mobile devices, and its limited battery). A did manage to implement each required process, however, although the scanning of QR codes along the route may rely heavily on the live technology of Newcastle station and Virgin Rail (below).

However, after making the journey and considering how I would feel making it for the first time, again, I considered the process(es), and sketched out a basic step-by-step process. Including a couple of historical pieces of information finding; one which they should already know as lifelong residents of Darlington (below), and one which could well pop up in a pub quiz one day (second below), I ended the navigation with a plaque from my building; proof of why I fully support(ed) the UK remaining in the EU (third below) (which would hopefully solve any further teatime politics at home).

As mobile locative narratives go, it is simple, but the motivation for its perceived ‘audience’ (albeit two teenagers) is one to motivate their personal growth, and allow them more freedom. The audience would certainly be constrained by their inability to venture too far from the route itself (although in this instance, from the ‘creator’s’ POV, this would certainly be an affordance – in that I wouldn’t want them to wander in any case) (Ritchie, 2014, pg.54); the idea being that either child would be familiar with the process of following instruction on their mobile device, despite being unfamiliar with their surroundings.

Physically, in the absolute sense of the word, they would be unbound to explore Newcastle as they desired, but their more mental limitations would dissuade them from doing so – particularly if they were encouraged by the Actionbound app to simultaneously navigate both the digital and physical space of the route (which I added a navigational arrow to, after my initial test) (Ritchie, pg.65). Step 6 on my bound provided them with the option of sandwich shops to choose from, and cunningly invited them to bring me a sandwich too, which would hopefully encourage them to remain on the navigated path, but in essence does limit their physical journey (again, after testing, I added the task of uploading a photo of said sandwich, proving their arrival would be imminent).

Queueing and buying said sandwich, in an unfamiliar location, as well as purchasing a train ticket for the journey, in Step 3, are the sort of ‘face-to-face’ activities I see both children most daunted by in everyday life as they turn into young adults. These ‘bodily encounters’, that they will try to avoid at all costs, if either myself or my partner are around, are the sort of small elements of personal growth I believe they would feel more comfortable with, were they merely part of something akin to a mobile game. If following a simple bound turns these perceived ‘perils’ into ‘pleasures’ (Berry, et al., 2013, pg.3), then I sincerely support the use of locative narratives in not just the finding of information, but the development of essential physical, mental and corporeal attributes in people who have grown up with, and subsequently rely upon, digital technology in all aspects of their lives.


Actionbound. [online resource: accessed March 2018]. Available at http://actionbound.com

Berry, C., Harbord, J., & Moore, R., (2013). Public Space, Media Space. Palgrave Macmillan

Ritchie, J., (2014). The Affordance and Constraints of Mobile Locative Narratives. The Mobile Story: Narrative Practices with Locative Technologies. Routledge. pp.53-67.


Week 4: Code / Space

Laura Adler published SimCities: Designing Smart Cities through Data Driven Simulation in August, 2016. The article focuses on innovative new software such as ‘CityScope’ and ‘UrbanSim’ which are helping urban planners to simulate the impact of their Smart City development programs; in order to create the” new horizons for cultural activity,” that Kitchin and Dodge predict in ‘Code / Space’, (2011, pg.1), as a result of contemporary, constantly developing software.

Adler writes: “The most fundamental benefit of simulation is the ability to mitigate the problem of ‘unintended consequences’.” The coded sim programs show the potential effects of how improvements to one aspect of infrastructure could impact on another, or several, or all, in the real world. As Kitchin and Dodge state, code has the capability to ‘evaluate situations’, and can: “exhibit some of the characteristics of being alive,” (pg.2). Now an ‘indispensable tool’ for urban planners (Adler, 2016), the simulations are just like the surface temperature models in Kitchen and Dodge (pg.30), in that; “the models analyze the world and the world responds to the models.”

An extremely positive reaction by the urban planners is that the simulations allow for a new level of participation by citizens in their projected designs. Residents can voice their opinions online, and urban planners can utilise their ideas for the input of future simulations (Adler, 2016). The residents are effectively affecting the design of their future environment(s).

And it is not just through simulations run by urban planners and local governance that can impact the design of Smart Cities either.  Emerson College created an interactive multiplayer game called: Participatory Chinatown (below), that engages its players to create avatars and start an online life in a digital version of Boston’s Chinatown, the results of which are used to: “generate urban planning priorities to guide city officials,” (Adler, 2016). The game, and the simulations, are effectively capturing and enacting: “knowledge about the world … in order to augment, mediate, and regulate people’s lives.” (Kitchen and Dodge, 2011, pg.26).

However, as Berry, et al states: “Public space is a corporeal affair,” (2013, pg.4), and the idea of computer-generated sprites generating the: “visible and tangible,” effects that Kitchen and Dodge predict does not seem to fit (2011, pg.2). Questions remain about what to include in the programs; how far do the urban planners go in creating a realistic version of a city, before predicting how it will develop? Can the programs account for the ‘historic legacy’ of certain areas, building, or existing communities? (Adler, 2016). This is also a consideration of Berry, when weighing up the opportunities of how new media might impact urban public space(s) with: “particular historical, political and social configurations,” (pg.7).

Adler confirms that challenges remain in using simulations in urban planning. Without the ‘human’ characteristics built into their design, do the simulations really consider public space ‘as place’, in the sense of Berry, et al? (pg.9). Kitchin and Dodge believe that: “Space is not simply a container in which things happen; rather, spaces are subtly evolving layers of of context and practices that fold together people and things and actively shape social relations,” (pg.13).

This sounds similar to what the simulations intend to recreate, so in some ways the spaces the simulations are designed to develop, and the programs themselves, have similar capabilities and intentions. Adler believes that the key to their combined success lies with the very people their social symbiosis will affect: “Only with simple, accessible simulation programs can citizens become active generators of their own urban visions, not just passive recipients of options laid out by government officials,” (2016).



Adler, L., (2016). SimCities: Designing Smart Cities through Data-Driven Simulation. [online resource, accessed Feb 2018, via http://www.scoop.it/t/the-programmable-city]. Available at: https://datasmart.ash.harvard.edu/news/article/simcities-designing-smart-cities-through-data-driven-simulation-893

Berry, C., Harbour, J., Moore, R., (2013). Public Space, Media Space. Palgrave Macmillan. Hampshire.

Kitchin, R., and Dodge, M., (2011). Code / Space. MIT. Massachusetts.



Week 3 – Critical Perspectives on Data and the Smart City

For me, the headline of the BBC article encapsulates the general mood of excitement-verging-on-anxiety currently surrounding both the conceptual and physical nature of Smart Cities. There exists an ambivalence towards their current value as opportunities for new freedoms, communities and chances for a sustainable future:

“Tomorrow’s cities: Just how smart is Songdo?” (Williamson, 2013) sums it up; a statement, backed up by the technology that created it, followed by a hesitancy to commit fully to its promise (the word ‘but’, right in the middle of the two, would fit well).

As Sadowski and Pasquale state: “Calculating the costs and benefits of the innovation is a Sisyphean, and deeply ideological task,” (2015, pg.2). The mood is the same throughout many similar case studies on Smart Cities and Smart City Technology. From the likes of the aforementioned researchers, even: “experts are divided on whether it will spell doom or salvation for the environment,” (Lewis, 2016), and citizens who have had a tangible glimpse of the modern smart city still feel the same. After visiting a Singaporean Smart City, Wired journalist Sara Watson concluded: “the model is compelling in theory, on the ground the reality is not seamless,” (2017).

The purpose of Watson’s case study was to see if the anxiety of Brexit Britain might be assuaged by the promise of the Smart-City future – could one unconnected island nation thrive as an interconnected hub? The comparison is intriguing. Sadowski and Pasquale see cities “getting smart” as solutions for austerity, urban system management, and generating a new flow of capital; the motivations of doing so being of a political economic nature (2015, pg.3), much like Britain’s decision to leave the EU.

Funnily enough, it is the very sort of empowerment that many Brexit voters believe(d) they would be rewarded with that may be essential for the skepticism surround Smart Cities to disappear. Shaw and Graham write in depth about Henri Lefebre’s ‘right to the city’ philosophy; “a powerful conceptual weapon for the collective good – it can represent the right to change ourselves by changing the city,” (2017, pg.5). They discuss an ‘informational right’ to such cities; a movement that demands transparency about the technologies of Smart Cities and the massive amounts of data they collects from their citizens: “a rallying call for snatching back power from the political and technical elites who reconfigure the city as a platform for corporate smartness,” (pg.11).

So, while new communities can certainly be built, connected, and the potential for empowerment exists, these cities still have to be built by someone, or some-bodies: “These new cities, like Eko Atlantic in Lagos in Nigeria and Waterfall City (South Africa), bring a new model where urban governance is shared between the private and public sector,” says Mira Slavov (cited in Giles, 2018), from the London School of Economics (the potential sharing also between ’empowered’ citizens exempt from her statement). Slavov was referring specifically to African Smart Cities, including Vision City, where the average price of a property is beyond the majority of the country. And if empowerment is still only available only to those who can afford it, then surely it doesn’t exist (?).

Confusion certainly does exist, however, over the sustainability of Smart City Technology. Lewis (2016) writes about two ends to the eco-friendly spectrum; low-power, low-data transmitting devices existing side-by-side with energy-hungry, data-gobbling surveillance systems – ironically gathering the very information that feeds into the monetary industries that fund the cities’ growth (Shaw & Graham, pg.8).

It seems clear that as Smart Cities develop, the belief in their development is itself a work in progress. Simultaneously interpreted as ‘Tomorrow’s Cities’, while being quizzed on their real capabilities and underlying intentions, the potential of freedom, community and sustainability remains open. As Charles Taylor states (in Sadowski and Pasquale, pg.10); “interpretation ‘is an attempt to make clear, to make sense of an object of study’ that is in ‘some way confused, incomplete, cloudy, seeming contradictory – in one way or another, unclear’.”

This is where we appear to be with Smart Cities. They may be for ‘tomorrow’, but they have not truly been accepted, yet, today.


Giles, C., (2018). African ‘smart cities:’ A high-tech solution to overpopulated megacities?. CNN. [online resource, accessed Feb 2018]. Available at: https://edition.cnn.com/2017/12/12/africa/africa-new-smart-cities/index.html

Lewis, D., (2016). Will the internet of things sacrifice or save the environment?. Guardian. [online resource, accessed Feb 2018]. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2016/dec/12/will-the-internet-of-things-sacrifice-or-save-the-environment

Sadowksi, Pasquale, (2015). The spectrum of control: A social theory of the smart city. First Monday: 20: 7: 6.

Shaw, J., Graham, M., (2017). Our Digital Rights to the City. Meatspace Press.

Watson, S., (2017). What the UK can learn from Singapore’s smart city. Wired. [online resource, accessed Feb 2018]. Available at: http://www.wired.co.uk/article/sara-watson-singapore-smart-cities

Williamson, L., (2013). Tomorrow’s cities: Just how smart is Songdo? BBC. [online resource, accessed Feb 2018]. Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-23757738


Week 2: Smart Cities & Digital Culture

For the purposes of this blog post, I will explain how concepts from Townsend’s 2013 ‘Smart Cities’, and Miller’s 2011 ‘Understanding Digital Culture’, relate to Future Catapult’s 2014 ‘Cities Unlocked: Realising the potential of people and places’ project.

The primary purpose of the Cities Unlocked project was to use an ambitious combination of smart city data and technology to provide social solutions to the challenges faced by people with sight loss. Creating more opportunities for more people people to safely, confidently and comfortably engage with their environment acknowledges not only Townsend’s prediction (pg.2) that up to 8 billion people could be living in cities by the end of this century, but that: “Smart cities need to … preserve opportunities for spontaneity, serendipity, and sociability,” (pg.16).

Townsend also states that: “smart cities must bee viewed holistically,” (pg.15) – and this is the exact approach that Future Cities Catapult took with their research (2014, pg.7); using a combination of existing mobile technologies, used and tested by the very people the research sought to benefit, in order to develop a headset which communicates with mobile applications and the environment to create a 3-D, augmented reality soundscape.

Although the development of the headset was the focal point of the research, fundamental to its success were the use of, and diversity of a range of decentralised, but networked devices (Miller, 2011, pg.15). These devices influenced choice, decision-making, and the design of future route-planning and associated technology that will be required to fully realise the project.

Subsequently, the headset was developed during by utilising the same symbiosis between cities and information that Townsend acknowledges has existed for thousands of years (2013, pg.4).

Looking at this process closely, we can even see Miller’s three major themes of digital media developing; the ‘technical processes’ are the building blocks of mobile technology and sensory communication required to make the project possible; the cultural forms are the way they are used in the environment by the test subjects with sight loss, and the immersive experience is the 3-D soundscape created to enhance their quality of life (2011, pg.14). The project also taps substantially into Miller’s second and third themes of ‘interactivity’; the sociological and psycho-socially orientated aspects of how this interactivity with digital media benefits the user (2011, pg.16). Future Cities Catapult even highlight that physical, emotional and even spiritual wellbeing are all aspects of life the project was created to improve (2014, pg.18). Along with the ‘holistic’ methods they used in undertaking the research, I find the acknowledgment of a more ethereal human trait – spiritual wellbeing – a pleasant surprise, when we’re essentially discussing the use of innovative digital technologies.

Townsend states that Smart Cities: “need to be open and participatory, but provide enough support for those who lack the resources to self-organize,” (2013, pg.16). Cities Unlocked is a project that gives partially-sighted people an invaluable resource to organise their lives on a larger scale, providing them with the opportunity to: “see, touch and feel [cities] in completely new ways,” (Townsend, 2013, pg.9).

489 Words


MADDEN, P., LEAMAN, R. & CORRIGAN, N. 2014. Cities Unlocked: Realising the potential of people & places. In: CATAPULT, F. C. (ed.). [online resource] accessed February 2018. Available at http://futurecities.catapult.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/CUReport_WEB.pdf
MILLER, V. 2011. Understanding Digital Culture. Key Elements of Digital Media. London: Sage.
TOWNSEND, A. 2013. Smart Cities: Big Data, Civic Hackers, and the Quest for a New Utopia. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.