Best way to go? Intriguing citizens to investigate what is behind smart city technologies
The topic of smart cities is growing in importance. However, a field study in the city of Malmö, Sweden shows that there is a discrepancy between the ongoing activities of urban planners and companies using analytical and digital tools to interpret humans’ behavior and preferences on the one hand, and the visibility of these developments in public spaces on the other. Citizens are affected by the invisible data and software not only when they use an application, but also when their living space is transformed.
Humans use their spatial knowledge when navigating a familiar space. This knowledge is gained by exploring the unfamiliar space and studying secondary sources, such as maps (Golledge, 1999). Both the secondary sources and the way of exploring unfamiliar spaces might change because of digitalization. Currently, there are already different kinds of navigational applications that for instance calculate the greenest, the most walkable, and the brightest path. Furthermore, my field study and literature review show that urban designers, researchers, and companies investigate digital data collection methods to interpret the crowd flow in cities. The outcomes of sensors interpreting human behavior might influence systems that then again affect the smart city citizens’ way of navigation. Consequently, navigation is one example of human behaviors that can be affected by smart city technologies.
On the example of an algorithm calculating the most beautiful walking path, this talks shows, how easily assumptions can be written down into code and consequently, a subjecitve opinion is accepted to be a fact. Citizens are affected by the invisible assumption not only when they use an application, but also when their living space is transformed. To make processes understandable and accessible and thus transparent for citizens, information needs to be displayed where the data are relevant (Vande Moere & Hill, 2012). The talk discusses ways to intrigue citizens to investigate what is behind smart city technologies with the help of public visualizations and thereby to reach the common citizens in their everyday lives and to include them in the on-going discussion about the future city.
- Golledge, R. G. (1999). Wayfinding behavior: Cognitive mapping and other spatial processes. JHU press.
- Vande Moere, A. V., & Hill, D. (2012). Designing for the Situated and Public Visualization of Urban Data. Journal of Urban Technology, 19(2), 25–46.