RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2018

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104 Publics In-formation: Re-thinking smart cities, people, and processes (2)
Affiliation Digital Geographies Working Group
Convenor(s) Caspar Menkman (Maynooth University, Ireland)
Aoife Delaney (Maynooth University, Ireland)
Chair(s) Caspar Menkman (Maynooth University, Ireland)
Timetable Wednesday 29 August 2018, Session 4 (16:50 - 18:30)
Room Main Building - Large Chemistry Lecture Theatre
Session abstract Recently academics have taken notice of the limited attention paid to the role of publics in corporate and critical smart city discourses. Despite initial promises of a technologically empowered or 'smart' citizenry, the focus has principally been with the powerful, rational, and universal impacts of smart technologies. While these early insights have proven crucial in framing smart cities, their disregard for scholarly work that insists on technological and social complexity means they need to be amended. Therefore, for this session we invite contributions that explore the emergence of publics as (social) interfaces, associations, and borders are reconstituted with the help of smart solutions.

Areas of potential interest may include, but are not limited to:
•Political representation of publics in technology adoption and agenda-setting;
•Accessibility and use of open-data initiatives by civic initiatives;
•Roles of citizen sensing in decision-making;
•Necessary new digital rights, protections, and responsibilities;
•Emergence of new issue-based networked publics;
•Efforts for community training and digital capacity building;
•Local co-production and repair of technology;
•Prosumption and the re-shuffling of infrastructural relations

Thus, this session is not prescriptive and welcomes scholars interested in data and digital transformations, hackathons, public services, digital inequality and technocratic and algorithmic governance of cities.

Linked Sessions Publics In-formation: Re-thinking smart cities, people, and processes (1)
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: ac2018@rgs.org
Emergency management and the smart city
Aoife Delaney (Maynooth University, Ireland)
The smart city is generally known as a critique of neoliberal development in cities. One well-documented argument is that the integration of smart technologies is paired with a lack of attention to urban citizens. In this paper I look at the future role of the smart citizen as part of cities, and push beyond ideas that look at smart citizens as individuals or simply inhabitants. Instead I focus on the impact that the smart city ideology has on state run public service ran by citizens for citizens. To do this, this paper explores the impact that smart city technology and discourse has on the emergency management assemblages of Dublin and Cork, Ireland and Boston, MA. I pay attention to how the tactics and the ideology of the smart city “re-shuffle infrastructural relations” through an application of assemblage theory. In doing so I explain the internal organisation and the position of emergency services in cities more general. As a result, I can unravel how “technological and social complexities connected to the integration of digital technologies” are contributing to a shift towards algorithmic and anticipatory governance which re-shapes urban emergency management agencies and the power dynamics which position them within the assemblage. This has direct consequences on how these agencies operate within the city and engage with both government and citizens.
Exploring the Role of ICT Innovation in smartening Nairobi’s Energy and Water Infrastructure
Joseph Chambers (The University of Manchester, UK)
Like many cities, Nairobi faces a myriad of infrastructural challenges. Recently, greater hope and efforts are being placed in ICT Innovations (ICTIs) helping solve these problems. This digital injection is occurring against a backdrop where Kenya has become a central node in the digital globe and smart city discussions. Whilst glossy images of new, Kenyan smart cities remain, the everyday metabolisms of Nairobi are being increasingly mediated by ICTIs within urban infrastructure. Whilst research has explored the development of ICTIs within smart cities of the global North and their incorporation within urban infrastructure, African cities are under-researched. This research, undertaken during Nairobi for 8 months, examined how these ICTIs have been developed within urban energy and water infrastructure and their impact on the population’s everyday experiences (Lawhon et al., 2014). Focussing on four main projects (Water ATMs, water tank sensors, ethanol and LPG IoT-networks), the research engaged a variety of stakeholders with the predominant focus on users and citizens, whose lives are reconfigured by these ICTIs. The findings from the research highlight the lessons learnt by home-grown ICTIs, the need to engage and train local populations and the benefits of making ICTIs adaptable. Secondly, the research identified the everyday impacts of these ICTIs including; clearer financial planning, greater time-management in water/fuel collection and greater political representation enabled through ICTIs. Finally, the research examines how these ICTIs have opened up new discourses about the role of informal infrastructures, mediated by digital technologies, within the resilient smart city of the future.
Open geo-spatial data practices, empowerment and resilience building in Nairobi’s slums
Philipp Ulbrich (University of Warwick, UK)
Whilst smart city approaches might increasingly seek to reduce risk and vulnerability by data-driven means in advanced economies, data scarcity still limits their effectiveness in lower income contexts. This especially applies in so-called informal urban settlements, or slums, whose residents are by definition disempowered and whose invisibility perpetuates their vulnerabilities. This paper is based on the view that open geospatial data practices are instrumental in addressing both disempowerment and vulnerability, because their participatory nature implies a richer, spatially more accurate and context-specific representation of risk. They also widen narratives and practices in urban governance to include traditionally institutionally and socially marginalised actors. This paper explores these issues by drawing on an ongoing project that aims to reduce the misalignment between health infrastructure provision in slums and slum dwellers' healthcare needs in Nairobi. Since slum dwellers are exposed to different hazards than their neighbours living in less deprived urban areas, their increased vulnerability relates to the lack of data regarding context-specific hazards not accounted for in health indicators based on city-level data). It is within this context that the paper provides a critical assessment regarding the potential of open geospatial practices to transform urban decision-making processes from the bottom up. Emerging findings suggest that in addition to enhanced accessibility to information, participatory geospatial data initiatives can build resilience and lead to integrative processes. Notably, this can result in increased levels of trust and enhanced communication between previously less connected local stakeholders.
Drawing and Talking about Urban Change: Deploying Digital Technology to Encourage Creativity and Visioning in Citizen Participation
Alexander Wilson (Newcastle University, UK)
Mark Tewdwr-Jones (Newcastle University, UK)
Enhancing the role of citizens in shaping places has been a longstanding objective of governments, communities and the academy. Whilst there are tried and tested methods and opportunities for citizen involvement, they have often failed to keep pace with opportunities that digital technologies allow for. One example is that current participation methods fail to recognise the role of experiences in city planning (Massey, 2005; Sandercock, 2003) and that a move towards digital technology risks reducing the role of these citizen experiences (Greenfield, 2013), condensing the experience of a city to what can be sensed by an internet connected ‘thing’.
In this paper, we document the design, deployments (thirty-one) and evaluation of a new technological device in communities that enabled participants to share place views, experiences and aspirations. The device, called JigsAudio, is an open-source device fabricated by the authors that encourages people to express themselves creatively through drawing and talking, encouraging people to come together and discuss issues that are important to them (Dewey, 1927). The paper reports on how citizens reacted to the device, and how tangible interaction methods can reduce the barriers to both understanding the technology and civic participation in place-based matters. It also discusses how citizen-led views of the city are often at odds to the intuitions that govern them; such as how decisions are made (what constitutes evidence) and departmentalised decision-making.