Dezeen interview leading architects and designers around the world for Elevation, a new documentary on how drones will change cities. Speculative architect Liam Young points out, "Now that drones are in the hands of every person in the street, they're potentially as disruptive as the internet." Read the rest
Bruce Sterling's scathing editorial in The Atlantic on the future of "Smart Cities" uses London's many smart city initiatives as a kind of measuring stick for the janky and dysfunctional future of civic automation: a city that throws great smart city conferences while its actual infrastructure is a mess of "empty skyscrapers, creepy CCTV videocams, and sewers plugged with animal fat" that require decades of planning an attention to cope with -- significantly beyond the attention spans of any of the tech giants vying to be the smart city providers of the future. Read the rest
Adam Greenfield's new book Radical Technologies: The Design of Everyday Life (previously) has scored an outstanding review from The Guardian's Steven Poole, who calls it "a landmark primer and spur to more informed and effective opposition" to "the pitiless libertarianism towards which all [Smart Cities] developments seem to lean." Read the rest
For 13 years, I've been writing about Adam Greenfield, one of the world's smartest critical thinkers on what we're calling "The Internet of Things" this decade -- but since the first glimmers of the idea of networked people, places and objects, Greenfield has been writing smart things about the subject, most recently in Radical Technologies: The Design of Everyday Life, a book that Verso will publish next week. Read the rest
Rio Tinto is a giant UK/Australian mining corporation that operates many facilities in Australia's remotest reaches, where there is no housing for workers, so the company ends up building "company towns" where their laborers live, closing the loop between home and worklife, and putting them both under control of a corporation; now the company is flirting with the kind of "smart city" technology that has been tried elsewhere, but generally in places where the residents are citizens, not employees, and the governing law is created by a legislature, not a non-negotiable employment contract. Read the rest
Adam Greenfield proves again that he's one of the best writers and thinkers on "smart cities," explaining how the top-down, expensive, tech-centered approach produces unlivable corporate dystopias in which people are just another "thing" to be shuffled around -- and showing that there's an alternative, low-tech, high-touch, human-centered version of the smart city that makes resilient, thriving communities. Read the rest
Here'a an excellent piece on the promise and peril of "smart cities," which could be part of a system to make cities fairer and more transparent, or could form the basis for an authoritarian lockdown. As Adam Greenfield says, "[the centralized model of the smart city is] disturbingly consonant with the exercise of authoritarianism." The author mentions Greenfield's upcoming book "The City is Here for You to Use" (a very promising-looking read) as well as Smart Cities: Big Data, Civic Hackers, and the Quest for a New Utopia, which is out in the fall.
Read the rest
These critics are advocating not that cities shun technology, but that they foster a more open debate about how best to adopt it—and a public airing of the questions cities need to ask. One question is how deeply cities rely on private companies to set up and maintain the systems they run on. Smart-city projects rely on sophisticated infrastructure that municipal governments aren’t capable of creating themselves, Townsend points out, arguing that the more they rely on software, the more cities are increasingly shunting important civic functions and information into private hands. In recent talks and in his upcoming book, “Smart Cities: Big Data, Civic Hackers, and the Quest for a New Utopia,” Townsend portrays companies as rushing to become the indispensable middlemen without which the city cannot function.
Cities can easily lose leverage to private companies their citizens rely on, as the persistent battles of political leaders against telecom companies over price increases show. And private-sector software can operate behind a veil: Townsend says that while cities have made lots of data freely available online, there’s less concern about opening up the proprietary tools used to analyze that data—software that might help a city official decide who is eligible for services, or which neighborhoods are crime hotspots.