Smart publics

Smart cities are starting to materialise in urban environments, unevenly and in various forms. The placement of sensors, chargers, digital screens and WiFi points in streetscapes and objects interacts with people’s relationships to the urban environment, to one another and to services accessed in daily life.

Part media, part furniture – these hybrids are thoroughly interconnected with the city itself. This project builds on preliminary research carried out by the research collaborators, to investigate the social, design and governance implications of smart street furniture.

Through a series of cross-institution and multidisciplinary workshops and research case studies (smart benches in London and InLinks in Glasgow), the project will scope, research and historically contextualise smart street furniture to understand whether and how these depart from and challenge values, uses and governance frameworks of pre-existing urban forms, remaking publics and cities in the process.

Researchers

The project is led by Justine Humphry from the University of Sydney and Bridgette Wessels from the University of Glasgow.

Glasgow team

Professor Bridgette Wessels (Sociology, University of Glasgow)
Professor Simon Joss (Urban Studies, University of Glasgow)  
Dr Peter Merrington, Research Associate (Sociology, University of Glasgow) 
Dr Justine Gangneux, Research Associate (Sociology, University of Glasgow)  
Matthew Hanchard, Research Associate (Sociology, University of Glasgow)

Sydney team

Dr Justine Humphry (Media & Communications, University of Sydney)
https://sydney.edu.au/arts/staff/profiles/justine.humphry.php
Dr Sophia Maalsen (Architecture, Design & Planning, University of Sydney)
Dr Chris Chesher (Media & Communications, University of Sydney)
Professor Robyn Dowling (Architecture, Design & Planning, University of Sydney)
Professor Heather Horst(Media & Communications, University of Sydney)

Professor Gerard Goggin (Media & Communications, University of Sydney)

Experts

Professor Emeritus Sara Eriksen (Blekinge Institute of Technology)

 
Project dates: February 2019 to February 2020

Funders: University of Sydney – University of Glasgow - Partnership Collaboration Awards (PCA) (AU $ 39, 371) 

 

Events:

6 September 2019, The University of Sydney: Colonising the public? Smart street furniture and the techno-politics of urban media

Abstract: This seminar introduces the Smart Publics research collaboration between the University of Sydney and the University of Glasgow on the social, design, and governance implications of smart street furniture, drawing on fieldwork in Glasgow, London and New York. We situate this research in a critical account of the privatisation of public space in cities and the role of smart urbanism as a trend accelerator. We explore these issues in the context of smart upgrades to street furniture like kiosks and benches, which are hybrid urban media objects purportedly installed to address barriers of access to information-communication networks. Yet we argue that these emerging forms of street furniture raise serious risks related to surveillance, data harvesting, and targeted advertising—which are unevenly distributed among users. We also outline how their installation changes city flows and social interactions, and how their ownership challenges the role of local government in overseeing public objects and spaces. We conclude by considering the historical development of (smart) street furniture as translations from earlier objects in public space such as phone booths and benches which mediate urban life, craft urban publics, and are adapted and resisted by users.

 

3 July 2019, The University of Glasgow: International perspectives on smart cities

Abstract: Smart cities are starting to materialise in urban environments, unevenly and in various forms. The placement of sensors, chargers, digital screens and Wi-Fi points in streetscapes and objects interacts with people’s relationships to the urban environment, to one another and to services accessed in daily life. These hybrids including smart benches, data points and smart vehicles are thoroughly interconnected with the city itself. Drawing on research in Germany, Australia, the US and the UK, this roundtable explores some of the key issues around smart developments such as mobilities, algorithms, governance and citizenship.