Imagining walkable cities using AI

Vice Motherboard reports on two recent initiatives that are using the public AI engine DALL-E to visualize what it could mean for cities to prioritize walking over car use. Not surprisingly, these are American initiatives, one of them training cues from Amsterdam. Amateur urban planners are using DALL-E to visualize what cities might look like if they were built for pedestrians and cyclists, instead of cars. Link to article >>

Geospatial search: Instagram’s new map-based interface

The Verge reports on Instagram’s new map interface that allows for geospatial queries on the platform. Interesting to reflect on what kind of places are privileged over others… Also interesting to think of the way this shapes our general outlook onto our (urban) environment in terms of commodified spaces. URL: https://www.theverge.com/2022/7/19/23270510/instagram-searchable-map-nearby-business Instagram’s latest update aims to make it easier for users to find local businesses or attractions by adding a searchable map that lets you “discover popular local businesses near you,” according to an Instagram Story from Mark Zuckerberg. The map will show you a list of places nearby and […] Read More

Hybrid cities: when old and new infrastructures intersect

Cities of the future reports on British Railways investing quite heavily in sensors and other forms of data collection, and AI machine learning to monitor, predict and (preemptively) respond to any potential mishaps on the tracks. Although by no means a new observation – in fact fairly obvious by now – i nonetheless find it interesting to learn about these kinds of hybrid infrastructural practices where the worlds of atoms and bits collide (dixit William Mitchell). UK Railroads Invest in Data Science, AI, and Machine Learning The oldest rail network in the world, with over 32,000 km. of track, is […] Read More

Platform cooperatives in urban mobility

I realize that up to now most of the news items i’ve reposted speak about digital tech as a threat to urban public life as we know it. Or – perhaps more accurately – we tend to judge new urban media tech in retrospect, through lenses tainted in nostalgia for an ideal type urban society that never really was, or at least not for everybody. Therefore, i wanted to also repost an item from Wired that strikes a more optimistic tone, on co-ops in the so-called ‘sharing economy’. I am not convinced this is the answer to exploitative labor and […] Read More

(Smart) urban design and the use of public spaces

The Conversation has a nice overview article on urban design and lively urban public spaces, mentioning many of the well known names like Jane Jacobs, Jan Gehl, Henri Lefebvre. The reason i think this is interesting, is that – by extension – the same line of argument goes for the design of smart urban technologies: how can we design smart city tech that spawns and fosters lively and inclusive public spaces and rich interactions, instead of impoverishing urban public spaces through what I call the dominant logics of the three Cs: control, commodification, capsularization. When we use public spaces, even […] Read More

Gorillas in the mist: heavy weather ahead for ‘instant delivery platforms’

Wired writes: Quick-delivery empires are crumbling across Europe as investors put an emphasis on profits. It appears that demand for these platforms and services is actually quite low, and does not balance the rapid cash burning for market share strategy of platform startups. The victims, inevitably, are the low paid workers who now have to find another gig. Note also the disparities in legal rights for workers between EU countries … During the pandemic, Gorillas was flush with cash. The company raised almost $1 billion in October, an amount even the company’s CEO, Ka?an Sümer, described as “extraordinary.” But the […] Read More

Another one from MIT tech review: “Toronto wants to kill the smart city forever”

Die smart city, die! >> Had it succeeded, Quayside could have been a proof of concept, establishing a new development model for cities everywhere. It could have demonstrated that the sensor-­laden smart city model embraced in China and the Persian Gulf has a place in more democratic societies. Instead, Sidewalk Labs’ two-and-a-half-year struggle to build a neighborhood “from the internet up” failed to make the case for why anyone might want to live in it. By May 2020, Sidewalk had pulled the plug, citing “the unprecedented economic uncertainty brought on by the covid-19 pandemic.” But that economic uncertainty came at […] Read More

MIT technology review: “we need smarter cities, not smart cities”

www.technologyreview.com/2022/06/27/1053896/we-need-smarter-cities/ Well put: A focus on building “smart cities” risks turning cities into technology projects. We talk about “users” rather than people. Monthly and “daily active” numbers instead of residents. Stakeholders and subscribers instead of citizens. This also risks a transactional—and limiting—approach to city improvement, focusing on immediate returns on investment or achievements that can be distilled into KPIs.  Truly smart cities recognize the ambiguity of lives and livelihoods, and they are driven by outcomes beyond the implementation of “solutions.” 

Tracking mobile phone data as anti-abortion instruments

Mother Jones reports: Meet Abortion Bans’ New Best Friend—Your Phone When it comes to reproductive rights, your digital trail matters more than you think. […] As the line between our digital and physical selves fades, surveillance researchers and reproductive rights advocates increasingly see our data as the next big front in the war on abortion. Law enforcement has new tricks to land convictions for miscarriages or post-ban abortions; anti-abortion activists are making sophisticated updates to tried-and-true methods of stalking, harassment, and disinformation. https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2022/02/meet-abortion-bans-new-best-friend-your-phone/

How front door cameras are jeopardizing the right to not be tracked

The Intercept writes: SEN. ED MARKEY CALLS ON RING TO MAKE ITSELF LESS COP-FRIENDLY In a new letter to Amazon, Markey pushed the company to implement pro-privacy reforms and limit its collaboration with police. …the company has gone to great lengths to foster this symbiotic relationship between camera owner and law enforcement, formally partnering with hundreds of departments, running promotional giveaways, and offering cops special product discounts. I like this part of that letter: “As Ring products capture significant amounts of audio on private and public property adjacent to dwellings with Ring doorbells — including recordings of conversations that people […] Read More

Amsterdam high in Economist smart city ranking

The Economist has published an updated smart city ranking, putting Amsterdam in 2nd place. https://impact.economist.com/projects/digital-cities/ Digital Cities Index 2022 The Digital Cities Index (DCI) 2022, developed by Economist Impact and supported by NEC, considers four key pillars of digital connectivity, services, culture and sustainability in order to assess the extent and impact of digitisation in a selection of 30 global cities. Read whitepaper?????????????? What are the top ranking cities in 2022? The first iteration of the DCI provides a global ranking of 30 cities based on 17 indicators and 48 sub-indicators.The top-performing cities are Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Beijing, London and Seoul, […] Read More

Facebook’s discriminatory housing ads: Platform urbanism and social exclusion

Vice reports that Facebook’s discriminatory housing ads are (finally) under attack. A $100.000 fine does not sound like a whole lot though… https://www.vice.com/en/article/jgpx4b/after-years-of-perpetuating-housing-discrimination-facebook-gets-dollar115055-fine After Years of Perpetuating Housing Discrimination, Facebook Gets $115,055 Fine Facebook is no longer allowed to use biased algorithms to target discriminatory housing ads under a settlement with the DOJ.

Nesta report on reclaiming urban public space

Here’s a recent report by UK (social) innovation org Nesta on how cities can responsibly deploy and govern digital sensors in urban spaces. Where [..] sensors are installed by commercial actors without making sure citizens can properly consent, we become unwitting objects of pervasive privacy infringements that we don’t have the chance to opt out of. To shed some light on this little-known problem, this report seeks to showcase examples of how commercial sensors are used in city spaces, what those cities affected have been able to do about it and what other cities could take away from such experiences. […] Read More

Platform urbanism and social exclusion: Nextdoor and social sorting

Interesting article in the light of digital platforms, social exclusion, and the right to the city. https://www.vice.com/en/article/wxnea4/los-angeles-nextdoor-election-homelessness The Nextdoor Election Los Angeles’s election was a bleak referendum on how much the rich hate looking at homeless encampments. There are only two things that people talk about on Venice Beach’s Nextdoor, the hyperlocal social network. Homelessness, and lost dogs. 

Chapter in new publication on “Controversing the smart city”

Corelia Baibarac-Duignan and I wrote a chapter for this great looking book called “Speculative Design Methods for Citizen Engagement in Smart Cities Research”, edited by Emiel Rijshouwer & Liesbet van Zoonen (both EUR and Centre for BOLD Cities). In our chapter, we position controversing as a way to open up democratic discussions about smart urban futures (as we do in our research collaboration, and in our academic paper on the subject>>). Download the book here >>

[urban interfaces] seminar 2021-2022: “The Magic City”

With my colleagues from the Utrecht University-based research group [urban interfaces], we’re organizing the 5th edition of our yearly graduate seminar series. This time the theme is The Magic City >>: THE MAGIC CITY: Of technorationality and spiritual futures – [urban interfaces] Graduate seminar 2021-2022 Dates: 5 April (15:00 – 17:00), 26 April (15:00 – 17:00) and 10 May (14:00 – 17:00 with drinks) Venue: MCW Lab, Kromme Nieuwegracht 20 (theater space downstairs), Utrecht. Credits: 3 ECTS (for RMa Students and PhD Candidates only, MA students are welcome to participate, but are not eligible for credits). The seminar series is […] Read More

Interview with Nanna Verhoeff and me about MAB20

A bit late to post here, but it’s such a nice interview that I wanted to archive it anyway… Femke Niehof – science communications writer at Utrecht University – wrote up a really good article about urban technologies and public values, based on a double interview with Nanna Verhoeff and me about the Media Architecture Biennale (mab20). I’m archiving it in its entirely below: ========== Media Architecture Biennale offers perspective: In the city of the future, people and their relationship to the surroundings are at the centre 22 June 2021 Tessa Peters, Rezone Art & Architecture, www.rezone.eu You throw a […] Read More

New publication “Controversing the datafied smart city”

Corelia Baibarac-Duignan and I wrote an Open Access article for Big Data & Society, on what we call ‘controversing’ . It was written as part of our NWO-funded project “Designing for Controversies in Responsible Smart Cities“. In this paper, we propose the concept of controversing as an approach for engaging citizens in debates around the datafied city and in shaping responsible smart cities that incorporate diverse public values. Controversing addresses the engagement of citizens in discussions about the datafication of urban life by productively deploying controversies around data. Attempts to engage citizens in the smart city frequently involve ‘neutral’ data […] Read More

Media Architecture Biennale 2020 final report available

The research group [urban interfaces] I am part of was one of the organizing partners of the Media Architecture Biennale 2020, which took place 28 June – 2 July 2021 (after being was postponed due to Corona). Read the final MAB20 report here (pdf 5 MB) >> The Media Architecture Biennale (MAB20) took place from June 24th – July 2nd 2021, and was organized by Utrecht University (UU) and the University of Applied Science in Amsterdam (AUAS). MAB20 was organized by the Special Interest Group The Playful City: towards playful urban futuring, with kind financial support from the Utrecht Center for […] Read More