Digital Cities #11: Communities and Technologies for More-than-Human Futures
Expressions of interest open until 7 May 2019
Today, over half of the planet’s population lives in cities. Predictions suggest that the urban population will increase by a factor of 1.5 by 2045 . The world has entered the century of the city . Population growth and rapid urbanisation are putting pressure on existing city infrastructure and services. In response to this pressure, city governments are turning to smart city solutions, which promise to help cities to operate more efficiently and effectively. These smart city solutions have been criticised for their technology-centric approach, which leads to greater efficiency and effectiveness often at the cost of negatively impacting the experience of citizens [7,9,21,25]. Along with others, the symposium organisers argue for the involvement of citizens and other stakeholders in the design and rollout of smart cities to ensure that solutions are built around people and their needs [7,10,12,15,34]. As a result, cities and smart city technology companies and service providers are beginning to adopt human-centred design (HCD) and involve citizens and communities in collaborative city making. This trend is facilitated through well-documented and tested HCD methodologies that draw on a large body of research and knowledge from the fields of human-computer interaction (HCI) and interaction design. HCD methodologies offer methods, tools, and techniques for considering people and communities in the design process. The goal of HCD is to devise solutions that are desirable, technically feasible, and financially viable [1,6].
However, it is increasingly becoming clear that the quality of life in cities is not only linked to the wellbeing of citizens but also the health of the natural environment . While technological advancement has allowed us to generally live healthier lives, it is increasingly also found to have negatively impacted our environment. The motorisation of cities has led to air pollution, posing one of the greatest health risks . Modern urban planning initiatives driven by technological innovation in the late 19th century has given rise to the construction of motorways, reducing habitats for people and wildlife . There is a risk that the application of HCD methodologies to smart city design will equally lead to anthropocentric solutions – that is, solutions that are built to maximise the wellbeing of people while failing to consider their impact on the natural environment.
The theme of Digital Cities 11 continues the debates and contributions to the workshop “Avoiding Ecocidal Smart Cities: Participatory Design for More-than-Human Futures” held at the 2018 Participatory Design Conference (PDC) in Hasselt and Genk, Belgium . The topics of interest for the symposium include, but are not limited to the following:
- HCI, interaction design, participatory design and use of smart cities, urban informatics and IoT technologies that explore human / non-human / more-than-human relations;
- Methodological approaches, including opportunities and challenges for designing in more-than-human worlds;
- Speculative designs, design fictions, and art projects;
- Ethical and legal considerations, e.g. design responses to a new legal status of nature;
- Designs that decentre the human or privilege other species;
- Cultural aspects of sustainable smart cities in this space;
- Theoretical perspectives from the literature e.g. Anthropocene, Capitalocene , Chthulucene , and;
- “World-making”, what could a more-than-human city be?
In C&T’s tradition of transdisciplinary engagement, Digital Cities 11 continues the debate into more-than-human futures across disciplinary boundaries including STS [11,13], environmental humanities [18,22], geography [2,28], planning , design [5,6,33] HCI [16,31], and others. The main goal of Digital Cities #11 is to bring together scholars and non-academic practitioners to consider and debate new approaches for the design of post-anthropocentric cities that shift the focus in HCD methodologies to also consider non-human stakeholders and perspectives. It aims to develop new HCI theory by combining knowledge developed in the field of STS to highlight questions about responsibility, accountability, and ethics  with concerns emerging from other fields that consider ecological perspectives.
If you are interested in participating in Digital Cities 11, we ask you to send us an email with your expression of interest in the form of a short (200-500 word) abstract. This can take the form of a statement outlining your interests, questions, insights, or current research or practice. Expressions of interest are open until 7 May 2019. Please email Marcus Foth at m.foth [AT] qut.edu.au. EoIs will be reviewed by the symposium organisers for relevance. If participants exceed places, we will choose a balance of different perspectives on the symposium themes. After the symposium, we will finalise our proposal for an edited book on the subject.
Digital Cities is a symposium series held in conjunction with the International Conference on Communities & Technologies. The Digital Cities series started in 1999 and is the longest running academic forum that has followed the intertwined development of cities and digital technologies. All Digital Cities events resulted in high-quality book publications.
Marcus Foth, QUT Design Lab, Australia
Sara Heitlinger, City University of London, UK
Martin Tomitsch, Design Lab, University of Sydney, Australia
Rachel Clarke, Northumbria University, UK
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