22nd Karlsruhe Dialogues - Abstracts

Cities which Sense and Respond

Umberto Fugiglando

The increasing deployment of sensors and hand-held electronics in recent years allows a new approach to the study of the built environment. The way we describe and understand cities is radically transformed – alongside the tools we use to design them and impact on their physical structure. In this way, cities will be able to sense and respond, allowing us to develop new applications and new services. The contribution will address these issues from a critical point of view through projects by the Senseable City Laboratory, a research initiative at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In particular, the speech will tackle some areas of sense-able cities, through applications in the field of mobility, autonomous vehicles, water and environmental quality. All the projects are characterised by an omni-disciplinary approach, being the result of studies, researches, experiments, and deployments carried out by designers, planners, engineers, physicists, biologists, and social scientists.


Smart Cities – On the Way to a Higher Quality of Life?

Prof. Dr. Harald Heinrichs

Digitalisation and artificial intelligence are making impressively rapid advances. The existing and predicted developments seem particularly promising for the lives of people in urban areas. Under the motto of the ‘smart city’, the city of the future is imagined as a place where digital and automation technologies lead to better quality of life by reducing environmental pressures, through more (public) cost efficiency, increasing competitiveness created by qualitative economic growth, and improved social interaction and coordination. However, this positive vision, which is driven by actors prompted by their own interests, can also be seen in a critical light. Relevant issues here include data protection, the investment and operating costs of a smart infrastructure, ecological displacement effects caused by increased efficiency (rebound), (re)distribution of power and benefit among groups of actors, and fundamental questions about what it means to be a human being amidst digitised and automated environments. Viewed against this background, one can ask what design requirements and possibilities smart cities offer in order to realise greater quality of life and sustainability in urban environments.


China’s Social Credit System

Dr. Samantha Hoffman

In July 2017, the Chinese government released its ‘Next Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan’. It gained significant media attention in part because it linked Artificial Intelligence (AI) with another topic that has drawn a considerable amount of attention, China’s ‘social credit system’ (社会信用体系). Social credit uses big data collection and analysis to monitor, shape, and rate behaviour. While advances in artificial intelligence, and the growth of the surveillance state are all noteworthy on their own, China’s social credit programme explicitly links them as parts of a broader political control process known as ‘social management’ (社会管理). Social management helps describe how the Chinese Communist Party attempts to stabilise its version of authoritarianism through a way of thinking that both embodies and applies complex systems management. The social credit system is one part of a larger attempt to ‘automate’ these processes through technology originating from the same concepts.


Who Owns the Smart City? The Democratic Threat of Network Urbanism

Leo Hollis

The future of the city is today interwoven with the possibilities of network technology. It is believed by governments, corporations, and lead technology commentators that the accumulation of quantitative data via sensors, monitors, and meters will make the governance and management of the city more legible. The integration of algorithmic networks into the fabric of everyday life, via the Internet of Things, will have a profound impact on the way we live, move, interact, and work. Nevertheless, this vision of a fully networked urban landscape raises serious questions about the future of democracy and the city as a place of flourishing. Who owns the smart city? And more urgently, who is the networked city for? The technology that now connects the most intimate aspects of our lives and the city, the means and methods by which Big Data is gathered, is purposefully opaque. We have increasingly less access to the information about ourselves and our environment in order to make the decisions that determine our lives, as the harvesting of this data by governments and corporations is rarely shared with the people who make it. What is the ideological basis of this techno-solutionism? In response, before it is too late, we must search for alternative uses of network technology that are truly emancipatory, promoting equality and social justice. Using examples from William H. Whyte’s Street Life Project, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Jane Jacobs, Crowd Simulation Software, the rise of the Platform Cooperatives Movement, and the threat to public space, urbanist and historian Leo Hollis looks at how the prevailing ideology of networked smart cities currently threatens our civic future, and what we can do about it.


Smart Cities: Ethos instead of Algorithm?

Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Kaschuba

The major cities of the modern age are the result of active and strategic interplay between a huge range of economic, social, and cultural factors: migration and foreignness, market and mass culture, experience and knowledge, economic freedom and civil rights. All this renders social and cultural diversity, technical logistics, and process-based sustainability essential parts of our cities’ historical genetics. And viewed as a historical basis, this already seems pretty ‘intelligent’ and ‘smart’ to me.

This is why the idea of the ‘intelligent city’ should not primarily focus on a concept of functionalisation, control, and securing complex urban supply channels. Instead, our guiding question should be: How can technical, logistic, and digital infrastructures be sustainably translated into social competences and into cultural forms of urban society and urban politics? Therefore, I suggest that the concept of ‘intelligence’ should, above all, be applied to the sphere of social practices and cultural forms of knowledge in urban areas.


SmartSantander: From the Smart City Paradigm to the Digital Single Market

Prof. Dr. Luis Muñoz

Worldwide cities are one of the key stakeholders of digital transformation and fostered by the evolution of technology, in particular due to new enablers and concepts, such as the Internet of Things and Big Data. Thanks to such transformation, the city is able to improve the life of citizens whilst increasing the efficiency of urban services. Furthermore, by aiming at conceiving an inclusive city that overcomes the digital gap, city managers have to offer different platforms and tools which foster citizen participation, turning a reality into the co-creation paradigm. This brings about a new dimension of the city and technology symbiosis and offers a plethora of possibilities to the citizens in terms of thinking, designing, implementing, and assessing new services that fulfil specific requirements that are raised by urban collectives and activists.

Based on these premises, the key experiences and decisions in transforming Santander into a smart city will be presented. The incremental approach followed in the digitalisation of urban services (waste management, energy, etc.) will be discussed as well as the main projects and actions currently being executed in terms of co-creation, holistic management, and economy of the data.


The Self-Actualising City

Niraj Saraf

“Technology is the answer, but what was the question?” asked the architect Cedric Price in 1966. It’s a question that comes up frequently in discussions about so-called ‘smart cities’, and it bears repeating.

From 2008 to 2050, the world is expected to experience a near doubling of its urban population. City leaders know that in order for their cities to thrive, they need sustainable economic growth and have to be able to offer residents and workers a good quality of life. However, they have to deliver these things whilst also reducing their impacts on the environment and increasing their resilience to shocks, be they related to climate change, terrorism, cyberattacks, or something else. So the question is, how can they do that? Technology is a vital part of the answer, but it cannot solve all our challenges alone. We have to remember that ultimately, cities are about their people and the interplay between their hopes, fears, and aspirations; and the implementation of new technical solutions is a vital part of the journey towards intelligent cities. Cities are socio-technical systems: it is precisely because of this that the work of Innovate UK is not about smart or intelligent cities but about Urban Living.

In his talk, Niraj Saraf will look at the importance of the human dimension in the rush towards intelligent cities, offer some insights into the work of Innovate UK, and present some examples from around the world of how this can be achieved. He will also set out some principles to reflect on as we continue our march towards becoming an urban species.


This is the Century of the Cities – the Horizontal World

Rob van Gijzel

In the transformation to smart city, we run the risk of being sacrificed to the commercial side of technology. It's a fact that technology has a tendency to claim everything, to be the dominant party, to become the objective instead of the means. This is also partly due to the tendency of society to adopt the comforting idea that technology is the cure for all ills. Masdar in the United Arab Emirates and Songdo in South Korea are examples of cities in which everything is about technology. There are ingenious technological solutions for many everyday hassles, but it is more difficult to see the place people have in this futuristic picture. How will we adequately define the role of people if technology continues to fundamentally reform our systems, if technology is going to rule people, if human processes become mechanised and digitalised, if technology becomes more important than the people? This is exactly why you must link technology to the needs, wishes and ideas of your city's residents. An even better way to proceed, is to look at that the other way round, and directly link your residents' initiatives to technology: it is, after all, their city! Administrators should encourage and support such action; the strategy should be based on quality of life, and is best served by this kind of synergy. It leads to technology belonging to the people, humanised technology, which gives people the control.

From smart city to smart society

There is nothing wrong with being able to calculate the most efficient route for refuse collection lorries by equipping rubbish bins with chips. It is cheaper and environmentally friendly. All well and good, but it is also a one-sided view of the philosophy of the smart city: the government signals a problem, engages a technology company which comes up with a clever solution and subsequently sells the solution to other cities. This is known as a roll-out. I'm not saying that companies which make first class products shouldn't also make a profit, but can you really say that cities with applications like this are? The answer is 'no'. When eighty percent of the world population goes to live in the cities, that will be a huge task in itself; consider for a moment housing and education. At the same time, all the systems needed to allow urban society to function properly are obsolete, in terms of technology: our public transport, the energy network, water services and our healthcare system. Renewing all these systems cannot be organised from the top down. Experimentation and 'field labs' will be needed in the search for better solutions.

And they will have to be invented in the cities, with the city's partners, where the residents are in an important position.

That process requires a completely new method of working, one of co-creation. Only then will we have humanised technology. Only then will we have overtaken the smart city, on the road to a smart society.


This Is What a Democratic ‘Smart City’ Looks Like

Trebor Scholz

Trebor Scholz has worked on digital labour since 2008. After publishing Digital Labor. The Internet as Playground and Factory (ed., 2013), he launched an international network around this discourse. In 2014, he shifted from an analytical model to a more productivist approach, which entailed framing the concept of Platform Cooperativism. Platform co-ops join the economic model of cooperatives with the digital economy. In short, Scholz is asking what it would be like if a platform like Uber was owned by its drivers, or if a network of cities owned and operated something like Airbnb. Over the past two years, Scholz has worked with communities around the world to advance the platform co-op model. He founded the Platform Cooperativism Consortium at The New School in New York City and is now aiming at building out this global ecosystem of over two hundred projects in communities. In his presentation in Karlsruhe, Scholz will talk about how this model can contribute to the discussion around ‘smart cities’ and automation. His central proposals are that ownership should be front and centre of the discussion about the city, and that a democratic platform economy is not only possible but already existing. He invites you to get involved in this movement to take back the Internet.


Interior Peripheries: Towards a Horizontal Metropolis

Prof. Dr. Paola Viganò

The risk that not all citizens will have access to the positive effects of new technologies, and the possibility of a growing gap between urban centres, growing metropolises, and their periphery (new hierarchy of the urban space) is nowadays extremely high. The Horizontal Metropolis discusses the qualities of such an urban space and its emancipating power. Two contrasting terms are joined to evoke visions and strategies in order to imagine and design the contemporary extended and hybrid metropolitan space as an agent of horizontality, in terms of coexistences, power relations, distributed welfare, and possibility of choice for the individual.


ZuU: Zentrum für urbane Unsicherheit (Centre for Urban Insecurity)

Moments of insecurity promote new discoveries and learning processes, and are important for an interesting and thus good life and coexistence. Indeed, too much certainty and security can also limit, exclude, and close off. Consequently, the Centre is active in the grey zone in which insecurity is seen positively. At the same time, there are clear boundaries that must not be crossed. Hence, the Centre finds it important to reinterpret insecurity and uncertainty in a context-dependent way and to rethink the relationship between security and insecurity. Acting as a supplement to established security institutions, the Centre aims to promote social discourse on the advantages and disadvantages of security and insecurity. It offers a framework for many projects that, in a playful and sometimes ironic manner, highlight the attractions of insecurity as an important element of urban life.