Alternative Imaginaries for the Smart City

Art- and design-led (re-)imagining of urban sensing technologies by Roy Bendor (TU Delft), Richard Vijgen, and V2_Lab for the Unstable Media.

The rise of the smart city as a dominant urban development paradigm has raised concerns about the public’s capacity to make sense of the technologies and policies involved. Accordingly, most efforts to engage the public with the smart city tend to focus on “demystifying” urban technologies – opening up the technological “black box” for public scrutiny.

While raising the public’s awareness of the technical apparatus of the smart city is an important task, we believe that it leaves untouched the more fundamental ideas and contexts within which urban technology is designed to begin with. Such ideas, sometimes referred to as social or urban imaginaries, have so far relied on technology vendors’ view of the city as a complex machine: a set of interconnected systems that need to be controlled and made more efficient.

But what if instead of accepting the urban tech industry’s push for optimization at all costs we asked the public how they see, feel and imagine the city, and developed urban technologies from their viewpoint? Would the public’s lived experience and perception of the city lead to different understandings of what urban technologies should be doing instead of what they can do?

Rotterdam Neighbourhoods

The project’s first phase includes fieldwork in two Rotterdam neighbourhoods, Reyeoord and Bospolder en Tussendijken (BoTu). Based on that, and in order to spark creative thinking about how urban sensing technologies may be designed from the ground-up, reflecting local, neighbourhood-specific characteristics, an interdisciplinary workshop will be hosted (online) by V2_.

Alternative Imaginaries for the Smart City is supported by a grant from Gemeente Rotterdam.

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