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Entries with tag urbanism .

Privacy in digital cities: Google Glass, the right to choose, and the enduring legacy of Jane Jacobs

 

50 years ago in "The Death and Life of Great American Cities", the renowned urbanist Jane Jacobs argued that the defining characteristic of cities is that the great size of their populations means that most people in them are strangers to each other; and that creating safety and security in that context is fundamentally dependent on a clear separation between public and private activity.
 
Digital technologies such as smartphones and "Google Glass", a “wearable computer” mounted on false spectacles that overlays displays of information on what we see and can make video and audio recordings of the world we are experiencing, challenge our understanding of what is public and what is private. 
 
If we use a relatively inconspicuous Bluetooth headset to make a call through a mobile phone hidden in a pocket; and if we gesture with our arms emphatically whilst speaking on that call; how should the people around us, who might be completely unaware that the call is taking place, interpret our actions? And what happens if they perceive those gestures to be rude or threatening?
 
Privacy is already high on the technology agenda; but as technology spreads further and deeper into city systems, and into our interactions in city environments, it is useful to bear in mind the enduring legacy of Jane Jacob’s work, and be reminded that security is at the heart of cities, not just technology.
 
As a result, two of the most frequent questions I am asked in the panel debates and media interviews I participate in are: who owns all this data? And are big corporations using it and controlling it for their own purposes?
 
I've tried to answer those questions in the article linked below; I'd be delighted to hear your views on the subject.
 
http://theurbantechnologist.com/2013/04/24/privacy-in-digital-cities-google-glass-the-right-to-choose-and-the-enduring-legacy-of-jane-jacobs/
 
Cheers,
 
Rick

 

Can digital technology help us build better cities? A workshop at the Academy of Urbanism Annual Congress, Bradford, Thursday 16th May

 

Over the course of the last two decades, digital technologies have transformed the way we communicate, work and live. They have changed the way that we behave in cities; and they lead to new demands on the urban environment from residents, visitors, businesses and communities: for mobile and broadband connectivity; open data portals; and transient working environments.
 
Should these technologies change the way we design and build cities, and if so, how? Do technologies offer solutions to difficult problems such as offering more flexible, coordinated transport services? Or are they a distraction on focussing on what really matters – the physical, social and economic needs of people and their communities? And how do they compare to long-standing debates within the more traditional domains of urbanism about how good cities are created, regardless of technology?
 
The Academy of Urbanism, a body of several hundred professionals, researchers and policy-makers involved in the design and operation of cities from perspectives as diverse as town planning, social science and technology is holding a workshop at it’s Annual Congress in Bradford this year to explore these issues.
 
The workshop will feature opening contributions from speakers from a variety of backgrounds, and with differing opinions on the value and relevance of digital technology to good urbanism. Our intention is to stimulate an informed and frank debate to follow;  from which we hope that useful, practical insights will emerge on whether and how the technology agenda is relevant to cities.
 
More details of the workshop, and a link to the Congress programme and registration, can be found at the link below; I hope that some of you can join us for the workshop.
 
http://theurbantechnologist.com/2013/04/22/can-digital-technology-help-us-build-better-cities-a-workshop-at-the-academy-of-urbanism-annual-congress-bradford-thursday-17th-may/
 
Cheers,
 
Rick

 

Open urbanism: why the information economy will lead to sustainable cities

 

On Monday this week I attended the World Bank’s “Rethinking Cities” Symposium in Barcelona and participated in discussions concerning the contributions technology could make to two challenges: improving social and physical mobility in cities; and the encouragement of change to more sustainable behaviours by including “externalities” (such as social and environmental costs) in the prices of goods and services.
 
Discussions at the Symposium explored how sustainable choices could be made available in a way that appeals to the motivations of individuals and communities; we examined several ways to create positive and negative incentives through pricing; but also examples of simply “removing the barriers” to making such choices.
 
The more I thought about those discussions, the more I realised that the underlying theme was "openess" or transparency: making good quality information available to us can have a powerful impact on the choices that we make. When we are well informed, we make good decisions.
 
I wrote an article on my blog yesterday describing the discussions at the Symposium in Barcelona, and giving some examples of cities that have taken such "open" approaches to information. I hope it's an interesting contribution to this community:
 
http://theurbantechnologist.com/2012/10/11/open-urbanism-why-the-information-economy-will-lead-to-sustainable-cities/

 

The new architecture of Smart Cities

 

I’ve been preparing this week for the next stage of work on Birmingham’s Smart City Commission; our task on the Commission is to develop a strategic vision for Birmingham as a Smart City and a roadmap for achieving it.
 
In doing so I’ve been considering an interesting and important question:
 
What makes a city a “Smart City” as opposed to a city where some “smart things” happen?
 
I've written an article on my blog this week describing some of the ideas we're working with on the Commission to answer that question; and a framework I'm personally using to shape my thinking.
 
The process of writing the article stimulated some thought about the changing relationship between the architecture of IT systems and the architecture of buildings and cities. To date, these have been two different domains of activity, and are carried out by the members of two different professions. But increasingly I'm finding that they are carried out within the same context, and sometimes now even on the same projects.
 
(I am also aware, by the way, that the very use of the term "IT Architect" to describe the definition and delivery of IT solutions is not universally accepted). 
 
I'd be interested to hear any views from this community on these subjects. You can find the article here: 
 
http://theurbantechnologist.com/2012/09/26/the-new-architecture-of-smart-cities/
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