What is interesting and relevant about smart cities?

Mirror City Timelapse from Michael Shainblum on Vimeo.

Before the main text for this week I wanted to include this video, which visualises a ‘sci-fi’ type image, which invades my thoughts about ‘smart cities’, and also draw your attention to the pinterest board I have started for this module, where I have been posting various links I have thought relevant to the module. My intention is to keep populating this as the weeks progress. Feel free to click through for a visit.


Tarantoni and Tosoni ask how media impacts on space and what the implications are of these processes? As they see “urban space as an irredeemable patchwork”, 2013, p. 3, meaning it is made up of many different, often opposing features therefore they are interested in a multi-perspective approach to studying cities. They state that, “[o]ur age is characterised by urbanization and mediatisation: most of us live in cities and most of us have access to the media” 2013, p. 1, this left me thinking about the digital divide and what this means for those who do not fit within the majority. That a multi-perspective approach must include those who are disenfranchised, without a strong presence within the dominant system and whose needs may get overlooked by planners. I generally find myself gravitating towards the individual nature of people, and how it is easy to look at a city and think about the masses rather than the few.

Townsend suggests that “Smart cities are places where information technology is wielded to address problems old and new”, 2013,  p. xiii,  where the problems are things like shortages to resources and climate change and the infrastructures of smart cities are versatile and adapt in real-time to changes of information.

Pavegen Projects Showreel from Pavegen Systems on Vimeo.

He sees ordinary people being part of this process, saying, “We are witnessing the birth of a new civic movement, as the smart phone becomes a platform for reinventing cities from the bottom up.” 2013, p. xiv

This idea of civic involvement is interesting as my initial concerns about smart cities are how much control is given over a small number of large corporations in the running of the infrastructure of cities. Where this could create a strangle hold on political systems and edge ordinary citizens out to the edges of the power systems.

Saskia Sassen places individuals at the centre of urbanising technologies, she suggests that cities talk back, as proved by their failures. Forever incomplete, cities are open-source, hackable systems consisting of a larger ecology, which makes use of non-technical aspects. This allows cities to evolve and outlive other closed systems e.g. individual governments or conglomerates. Ordinary users bring things to the design not thought of by the original designers and engineers allowing cities to respond in unexpected ways. Therefore , she also advocates a multi-perspective approach as being needed in the creation of urbanising technologies and smart cities.

Sassen mentions that she is interested in spaces that contest the design of de-urbanising technologies and she is keen that users keep questioning the status-quo


Sassen S. 2012. Urban Age Electric City: – Urbanising technology, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fyS1H_Zs4po

Tarantino M. & Tosoni S. 2013 Introduction: Beyond the centrality of media and the centrality of space, First Monday, Vol.18 No.11 http://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/4953/3784

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


This is ‘Me’

Hello everyone! This first blog post is to introduce me and give you a little bit of background about my job, my studies and some feedback based on the first seminar.

I have been a student on MA Creative Media, since Sept 2011 and have so far completed modules in Sonic Media; Querying ICT’s; Practicing Media Research; Beyond the Screen: Future Fiction and Audiences; and Digital Practice and Pedagogy. I came to the MA mainly from a creative/teaching background without really knowing which direction this was going to take me, particularly because I am a bit  of an information magpie, and love aquiring new knowledge. However, the broad boundries that corral most of my interests are collaborative digital communities and prosumer relationships between artists and audience. (This is the last module before major project/dissertation, therefore I really should nail down my research focus soon.)

Since 2002 I have taught at Sussex Downs College, mainly for the FdA Digital Media Design (a University of Brighton validated qualification), where my background before this was a variety of art and design teaching and working in graphic/multimedia design. I have two young children and currently juggle working part-time with parenting and studying. I am a bit of a sucker for having a busy schedule therefore I also have involvement with various voluntary, community based events.

Listening to the audio file, from this weeks seminar, was very interesting, it felt as if there had been a presence of me in the room, as I was referred to on a number of occasions. I look forward to placing an image to a voice for everyone involved, particularly Rachel who I met (virtually) last year when we did the Practicing Media module together.

In the seminar Frauke asked “What do you find most interesting/alarming about the idea of digital cities?”. My initial response was to wonder what difference it makes that I approach this as someone who has limited experience of living in a large city.

I then considered how difficult it must be to have a concrete definition of what constitutes a digital city, seeing as they are not bound by any easily defined perimeters. Where technology has allowed people to view, interact and work in cities without needing a physical presence there. Giving opportunities to those previously separated by distance to benefit from the features of a city.

One aspect which alarms me about digital cities is the reliance on technology and how technology is used to try add levels of control to an ultimately chaotic system. This thought comes from the current situation of extreme weather, where it disrupts infrastructures dependent on technology and electricity, particularly apt after Frauke highlighted that technology makes use of water based metaphors e.g. flood, torrent, flow and wave.

The content of the module looks very interesting, some of it looks like it might bleed into some of my current knowledge, which is comforting and some of it looks completely new, which is exciting. My current intention is to attempt the creative practice option for assessment 2, although I have no initial ideas as to content or platform. My plan for each module has been to enter it without too many preconceived ideas and enter a learning journey, where I am open to new ideas and straying down unknown paths.