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SUMMARY: What is a Connected City?

6th May 2016

The question we wanted to ask in this talk was not how we can become more connected and how great that would be right now. It was more in line of given where we stand, what do we mean by connected and what routes should we be looking at in order to make decisions?

Urbanisation is climbing and as such contributing to extreme human behaviours and mental health issues. Our cities are becoming incredibly polarised. Real Estate has become one of the few secure real assets to invest in that money has poured into a market that’s primary purpose is to house people and allow for a society to develop. In the more politically stable cities of the world an influx of money has come in from abroad, those looking to ‘park money’ and even potentially launder. As such this has put major strains on its citizens withcivil actions occurring.

So when we hear the smart cities will make the world better, what do they mean by that? If people are too closely and easily connected over aspects such as social media we see abuse rising, leading to grave consequences. Is connection the de facto choice or through design intervention how can we create physical spaces that work to connect people in a more harmonious way.

We had four great speakers loaded with content.

  • Dr. Dan Lockton detailed that it was important “to understand understanding” – How do we help people understand & use their agency vs try to change their behaviour?
  • Dr. Adam Kaasa brought us the question of whether it was important to measure connections and being connected or that it was more important to enable connecting to take place. Are we too focused on measuring results from the wrong places and incorrectly running with them?
  • Darrell Berry explained how his training as a computational scientist is allowing him to disseminate through the madness of the world wide web to pick up on trends and narrative. With vast amounts of data, what does this mean to decision making, direction and whether just because someone says something online does this mean it’s their true voice or the voices of many, and as much should we be looking at online activity as a way of future decision making in policy?
  • Tim Jones from FutureCity told us that “he would rather be at the table” than not when it comes to how property developers create new schemes. His argument was that as highly skilled in finance, construction and being aware of market trends people in property are, they don’t understand or have relative ideas on how to create, curate or be aware of the intangible cultures that form from a concentration of people in an area. Being connected doesn’t all of a sudden change how people understand each other, throughout this new way of connecting and trying to understand each other we need to work with people to translate information.

Our love of technology can sometimes mask us from the human skills we possess. Before we envisage a society where efficiency has solved every problem within a city, we need to understand for whom we’re building spaces and cities.

With corporate businesses striving for efficiency they will seek machine over man where possible. Rather than designing cities for machines should we not be looking at how the decision makers around us curate spaces for people? Will efficiency help the few or enable the masses. There’s no benefit in a seamless transport network if no-one has the need or desire to go anywhere.

In Davos this year it was claimed that we are entering the human era. We believe that in order the release the best potential of people, their intentions, and thinkings we need to look at humanising the built environment. People solve problems, then program computers to do the work.

The talk was hosted at the Royal College or Art to whom we are greatly thankful of their sponsorship of the space for the event.