Our Role as Designers in the City
In the age of globalization, cities are becoming places defined through operational systems and procedural flows, and this is forcing designers to change the lens through which we see the city. Clare Lyster notes that historically, urban matters were subject to "geometric, palliative, symbolic and geographic principles" where the city could be read as an architectural object but our agency in today's city and urban design discourse will come from our ability to engage flows and the city's fluid condition.1
Smart cities are implementing technologies to engage with these flows and systems through networks of sensors, integrations with digital apps and platforms, and the Internet of Things. By harnessing technology we are finding new ways to make the city both networked and senseable, and through phones we are changing the way we as designers and occupants of the city interact and engage with our surroundings.
Platforms and the City's Digital Twin
The means for engagement includes the new market for decentralized and distributed platforms that serve urban needs from Lyft, Uber, and Lime addressing mobility to Venmo and Square with our transactions, Google Maps showing us how to navigate efficiently, Amazon delivering our supplies, Netflix entertaining us, and Instagram, Facebook, Houseparty and TikTok connecting us.
The city has become two entities, one grounded in the real world and a digital twin that we access with the phone as our sixth sense. How do our behaviors with these platforms interact with the city itself and how is the transition to smart cities going to enhance the way we interact with urban environment?
This theme is a collection of projects, articles, observations, and links that are related or attempt to contribute to the discussion on smart cities and platform urbanism.
- Lyster, C. (2016). Learning from logistics: how networks change our cities. Basel: Birkhauser. doi: 10.1515/9783038210962
Smart Citizens and Our Sixth Sense
My interest in smart cities relates to how we as citizens participate in the city. Participate as active "smart citizens" helping set the course for the future of the city but also engage with all that the city provides from culture and the arts to community and a sense of belonging in the places we call home. The smart city is built on platforms of data collection and service provision but has a long way to go before it starts to engage with the world of digital platforms that make up the city's digital twin.
My research and projects look at how we can use technology and data to inform decisions about the built environment, and how we can better engage as designers and purveyors of the physical streets and buildings as connected with the digital culture that keeps us connected. It looks at the phone as our sixth sense or means for perceiving the city in a new way, enhancing our quality of life, sense of belonging, and desire to enjoy the places we occupy.
This is more of an experiment than anything but I am using this site as a place to host a running list of questions related to each theme. Some are quite simple and other hypothetical, some are the starting place for articles and others potential projects.
- Who are smart cities for?
- What are the problems smart cities are trying to solve for?
- Can big data serve both municipalities for providing efficient infrastructures and services as well as people engaging with the city?
- What are the benefits and costs of a smart-from-the-start city rather than investing in retrofitting cities as smart?
- What are government mandated vs corporate models and who is driving the conversation?
- What is the relationship between the built environment, technological and urban infrastructures and citizen engagement?
- Does big data make smart cities predictive?
- Are smart cities more resilient to change and impact?
- Are smart cities driven by technologies and vendors leading us to an era of platform urbanism?
- Smart cities collect and process data for efficiency and to attract new growth and business but tend to fail the lower classes and neighborhoods that don’t see infrastructural upgrades, how can smart cities become more equatable for those struggling to access the benefits of a further digitized city?
- Is the digitization of services and infrastructure improving access for minorities and lower income classes due to pervasive access to the internet through the smartphone?
- Cities are best served when there is open access to the data collected, what constructs are available for the public to serve the role of finding and solving issues without the need of the local government to solve and service needs?
- Cities like Boston are trying to flip goals of solution provision from efficiency and cost savings to the favor of citizens and communities by having their interests as a guiding principles as civic services are optimized with new apps and other elements of a smart city solution. New urban mechanics
- What is ISO-37120 and how will the standardization of smart city indicators impact how designers and leaders define and plan for the future?
- What are smart city roadmaps and how do they come together?
Photo Credit and Caption: View of Delft canals from the top of the Nieuwe Kerk (photo by Sean Wittmeyer)
Cite this page:
Wittmeyer, S. (2021, 18 May). Smart Cities & Platform Urbanism. Retrieved from https://seanwittmeyer.com/taxonomy/smartcities
Smart Cities & Platform Urbanism was updated May 18th, 2021.
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