Bringing life to the Smart City

Human beings have been shaping their landscapes since forever, and now is no different. In our brilliance (and there is no denying the amazingness of our development- even if we may disagree on the morals of its impact), we have built beautiful and ugly projections of our want and need, and imposed them on our landscapes. Awe-inspiring constructions that evolve, and sometimes, painfully destroy our understanding of place and our measure of humanness. 

The Smart City is no different.

Smart Cities are hailed to be the ethnographical and geographical change of current times. Promoted as the means to change not only the way our rapidly growing urban areas function, but also more importantly held to the somewhat blinding accolade as holding the means to change our lives, not just now but for the future too.

There’s no denying the wow factor and the promise of the possibility, and there’s no denying the positive changes that smart technology can make.

But is this really the whole picture? Is it really that simple?

We can’t predict the future, neither (however much it is claimed, and however ‘living’ they are) can algorithms. We never have all of the data. Systems (and a city is a system too) are predictable only in that they will always behave in complex and unpredictable ways.

And, if we are to consider things from a living systems perspective, nothing happens in isolation. We’re all familiar with that question: ‘if a butterfly flaps it’s wings?" There’s no telling the untold consequences of the minutiae of our own and our cities' daily actions and processes.

This messiness works across a multitude of intrinsically overlapped, interlinked and tangled systems. (We are after all a system of systems). But for our purposes here, we’ll consider the system that is human interaction and human lives, the system that is the technology developed to guide and manipulate the way our smart cities function, and the system that is the infrastructure that is the city itself. 

These three systems breathe together, live together, and impact on each other in extraordinary and mundane ways. But every interaction matters, because it in some way shapes everything it encounters along the way, across every system it touches. Meaning that the changes we make through ‘Smart’ ripple in ways we’ll never know. 

This leads to some curious questions:

Can a city actually be designed at all?

Where is the 'Smart' in a Smart City?

Is Smart imposing rather than giving?

How does Smart really change things?

You can read more about Smart Cities on our Smart Living Cities Website: smartlivingcities.co.uk