It was great to have the chance today in a short presentation to the South Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (SSROC) to revisit 20 years of engagement in the “smart cities” movement, which for me started as a member of the small team inside Cisco that started to explore ways that networked technologies played into urban design and management.
The simple message was that, over that period, the movement has shifted from an understandable, but distracting obsession with the technology to a more nuanced and sophisticated obsession with people. Basically, the tech piece has become more interesting as it has become more human.
I’ve attached the slides I used for the presentation. As always, they are a big brief and cryptic, but some of the references, especially to Charlie Leadbeater’s work on civic innovation and the “systems + empathy” recipe for successful cities (in this case, the success of London), are worth chasing down.
In the end, I concluded that smart cities reflect an equation:
Systems + Empathy divided by Technology.
A couple of quotes from the discussion:
Cities need to learn, too, how to bridge between new and old forms of power. Cities are the most potent breeding ground for new forms of power that are more collaborative, lateral and self organising. Yet this new power needs to find ways to connect, influence and work with the older, established, often disconnected and yet still critical, older forms of power in city hall, big business and political machines. https://charlesleadbeater.net/2017/03/more-together
And this from Peter Hall’s magisterial Cities in Civilisation:
…as cities grow in size and complexity, as their citizens define the good life in material terms, as they acquire the political power to insist on their right to that good life, so does the maintenance of the urban order require a steadily greater sphere of collective action.”