Archive for April, 2012

smart cities, big data

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

 it’s the title of a

very nice editorial (pdf) by mike batty. i’m from the bit (and not from the beat) generation, and yet i like to cut & paste bits from the editorial (i would recommend to fully read it though):

I first wrote about `smart cities’ almost as soon as I began writing these editorials in the early 1980s. … In the 1980s the focus on instrumenting the city using network technologies was enshrined in the

idea of the wired city. … Many of these conceptions were based on visions of what wired cities might become rather than on the reality of what was actually possible then. … What has changed these initial conceptions of the wired city is the development of ubiquitous devices of comparatively low cost that can be deployed to sense what is happening over very small time scales – seconds and faster – as well as over very fine levels of spatial resolution.

The idea of integrating much of this diverse data together to add value to our conceptions of how it might be linked to other more traditional data as well as focusing it on specific ways to make cities more efficient and more equitable, has come to define the `smart cities movement’.

Most urban theory and indeed planning and design fifty years or more ago was predicated on radical and massive change to city form and structure through instruments such as new towns, large-scale highway building, redevelopment, and public housing schemes. Planning was little concerned with smaller-scale development except its design, for nowhere was the function of the city understood in terms of how small spaces and local movements sustained the city. In short, the routine and short term were subsumed in the much longer term. New data and big data are changing all of this…

This is an issue that has barely been broached to date – how short-term big data informs longer-term data is part and parcel of our concern for how we might integrate traditional datasets from household interviews and so on with crowd-sourced data where there is less control, and remotely or directly sensed data.

crowdsourcing in the physical world

Monday, April 16th, 2012

In the late 1970s, a group of people living in the east London borough of Hackney began building a structure on a derelict lot in their neighborhood. They continued building until 2009. The story of the project’s origins is shrouded in mystery, but

what is known is that, because the residents couldn’t decide on what they wanted to build, they made three rules. The first was that, not only would they build without any plan or blueprint, they would not discuss the direction of the project at all. Second, when they were on the building site, no one was allowed to speak — at all. Third, the building would never be completed, because anyone at any point could decide to take it in a new direction. The structure was continually built under these conditions for thirty years

— Emanuel Almborg, The Rest is Silence, 2009

Designing for social sustainability

Sunday, April 15th, 2012

The pressing housing crisis requires the construction of new building and neighborhoods.U.K.-based Young Foundation recently published a report (pdf) that aims to ensure that strengthening social infrastructure is part of the construction agenda.

at a practical level the tools, instruments and metrics to foster sustainable urban development currently available are biased toward environmental and economic sustainability

They have developed a framework containing four elements that are essential to build new communities that will be  socially sustainable:

  1. Amenities and social infrastrucutre (new communities need services and support, not just buildings);
  2. Social and cultural life (new communities need shared spaces, shared rituals & support to build social networks);
  3. Voice and influence (“foremost, residents need to have a say in shaping their surroundings …);
  4. and Space

    to grow (flexible use of land and buildings is essential)



ICT buildings coming to life

Sunday, April 15th, 2012

How new sensor technology could allow furniture and buildings to adapt to the people using them. BBC Video

One of the examples they gave was the inflatable temperature-controlling building in Poblenou district Barcelona. The building’s façade is made of inflatable ETFE cushions oriented south and acts as a variable sunscreen (opening in winter to gain solar energy, and closing in summer to protect and shade).

dissertation writing tips

Disrespect, Violence, and Privacy Outcries: From the Bible to Google

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

Licia and I

wrote a piece for Middleware titled “Middleware for Social Computing: A Roadmap“. One of the sections was about how the middleware research agenda could promote healthy social norms at design stage. The main idea is that:

to promote the emergence of healthy social norms, system design of social media sites is crucially important. The way a new system is designed partly impacts which social norms emerge in it. However, once settled, social norms are hard to change, and when companies (e.g., Google) tell people how they must behave (e.g., they enforce the use of real identities), things go terribly wrong.

That is because being forcibly told how to use a service is perceived as a sign of disrespect by users, and disrespect has often cause violence in physical societies and, for now, only public outcries

in digital systems

. To explain why more unequal societies experience more violence, in their book “The Spirit Level”, Richard G. Wilkinson and Kate Pickett cite the work of the Harvard Medical School psychiatrist James Gilligan, who has said that he has

yet to see a serious act of violence that was not provoked by the experience of being shamed and humiliated… and that did not represent the attempt to … undo this “loss of face”.

The two authors also recall that, over 2000 years ago, Cain committed the first murder in history by killing his brother Abel because God has rejected his offerings of produce but accepted the animal sacrifices brought by Abel. In King James Version of Genesis:

And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth

Disrespect as a cause for violence is a human truth recognised for millennia. It comes as no surprise that this truth still holds in our digital world. What is surprising, instead, is that large media companies keep on making the same mistake over and over again. When Google launched a social media service called Google Plus, most of its early adopters were using their real names, and a few were not. Google decided to go after those few with a heavy-handed regulatory policy to enforce the use of real names, and Google+ started to sink, and sink, and sink . The interaction designer behind  Google+ Paul Adams did not agreed with those brilliant engineering decisions and “was forced to move” to Facebook. Any better over there?

- daniele