by NIMMI RANGASWAMY, SAURABH SRIVASTAVA, TEJASVIN SRINIVASAN & PRIYANKA SHARMA (Xerox Research Centre, Bengaluru, India)
Article 6 in the series Data, Design and Civics: Ethnographic Perspectives
How must we conjure up smart spaces?
‘Smart city’ has become an over-indulged urban metaphor, whipping up an apparition of dispersed, highly networked and interconnected socio-economic, infrastructural and communication nodes. The smart city narrative seems to dwell on the idea of cites as ‘receptacles for technology’—and qualitative transformations are brought about by the application of technologies. Even after decades of research to the contrary, we still tell ourselves stories about the inevitable march of technology and its deterministic effect on culture and behavior.
But aren’t cities also places that give birth to technologies? As researchers we are drawn to the miraculous nature of technology to sense, track and quantify not only human use of infrastructure but also the human ‘self’. We are working to...
by CHELSEA MAULDIN, Public Policy Lab & NATALIA RADYWYL, Fjord
Article 5 in the series Data, Design and Civics: Ethnographic Perspectives
"[Aims] such as unslumming slums, catalyzing diversity, nurturing lively streets, are unrecognized today as objectives of city planning. Therefore, planners and the agencies of action that carry out plans possess neither strategies nor tactics for carrying out such aims. …although city planning lacks tactics for building cities that can work like cities, it does possess plenty of tactics. They are aimed at carrying out strategic lunacies. Unfortunately, they are effective." (Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, 1961, 321)
Growing density, climate change, economic instability, migration, the increasing penetration of information and communication technologies: these urban trends are pushing traditional city management approaches to their limit. It’s no surprise that the ‘smart city’ and related technology-oriented approaches are a leading innovation model among...
by LAURA FORLANO, IIT Institute of Design
Article 4 in the series Data, Design and Civics: Ethnographic Perspectives
On April 1, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter announced a $317 million federally funded initiative in textile innovation and manufacturing—a national consortium of public and private organizations to be led by MIT. It’s only the most recent project of the Obama administration’s National Network for Manufacturing Innovation, a major effort to re-invigorate the American economy. This ambitious initiative to build manufacturing infrastructure nationwide plans an initial network of 45 Manufacturing Innovation Institutes over 10 years. Led by non-profit organizations, the institutes partner universities, businesses and government agencies with the aim of bridging the gap between basic and applied research in key manufacturing areas such as additive manufacturing (eg, 3D printing), digital manufacturing, lightweight metals, semiconductors, advanced composites, flexible hybrid electronics and integrated photonics.
by THOMAS LODATO, Center for Urban Innovation, Georgia Institute of Technology
Article 3 in the series Data, Design and Civics: Ethnographic Perspectives
The days of gathering in the forum are long gone. Today, the sphere of American civics is teeming with new forms of participation—from emergent advocacy organizations like MoveOn.orgi and shifting information paradigmsii to “personalized politics”iii and debates centered on computational data.iv Civics has moved beyond a notion of informed citizenship—of being educated on issues and debates, as well as keen enough to synthesize and respond (hopefully in the form of votes) to shape government. Now, in order to hold elected officials accountable, or to expose the shadowy ongoings of bureaucrats, or to reimagine a government suited for the pace of the 21st century, citizens must lead the charge to actively craft political opinion, civic life, and government itself.
Of course, civic engagement has never been as straightforward as our historical fantasy of the public forum—there...
by SUZANNE CURRIE (GE Digital) & CHRIS MASSOT (Claro Partners), EPIC2015 Salon Hosts
IoT (the Internet of Things) took center stage at CES last January. Many watchers of the giant Consumer Electronics Show opined the array of new products entering this space (many aimed at mainstream consumers) was the main story from Las Vegas this year.
Rewind a few months earlier to EPIC2015 in São Paulo, Brazil, and twenty-five ethnographers are sitting together in a room to consider how IoT fits with human behavior (and how our discipline can forge a better fit).
This was EPIC’s Ethnography & IoT Salon, where attendees explored the question:
With sensors being placed seemingly everywhere (including our bodies) allowing ‘things’ to ‘talk’ to each other, what sustained benefits do these measures provide?
One Salon participant noted that so far, “Billions of dollars are being spent on IoT efforts that don’t make sense.”
We think the issues uncovered in São Paulo are core to the growth of the IoT industry sub-field for this...
HighWire Centre for Doctorial Training, Lancaster University DHRUV SHARMA
HighWire Centre for Doctorial Training, Lancaster University JOSEPH LINDLEY
HighWire Centre for Doctorial Training, Lancaster University
This paper aims to foreground issues for design ethnographers working in urban contexts within the smart-city discourse. It highlights ethnography's role in a shared urban future by exploring how ethnographers might pave the way for envisioning digital infrastructure at the core of Smart City programs. This paper begins by asking whether urban development practitioners can design for inclusive interaction with Smart Urban Infrastructure. The research suggests how ethnographers can work with ‘cities’ to rapidly develop diagnostic tools and capture insights that inform design processes with both utility and inclusive interaction as their key values. This involves rethinking how we consider places where space and information intersect. This work led to developing rapid means to assay a site and sensitize to contextual...
by MEGAN NEESE, Future Lab, Nissan Motor Ltd.
The Product Company Identity Crisis
I have always worked at or with OEMs (original equipment manufacturing companies) in the industrial design and product development industry. The work has ranged from very large products such as sleeper cabins for long haul trucks and farming equipment down to very small products in the consumer electronics industry, but consistently, the emphasis has always been on products. The very nature of being an equipment maker requires expertise in integrating parts, components, and systems into physical objects. Product development processes have always been structurally similar, focused on integration and related at some level to Stage Gate or Six Sigma. They reflect the constraints of manufacturing, in which decisions are cascading to ensure forward momentum and reduce last-minute changes that could have unforeseen ricochet effects on years of decisions that have already been made. And they work—so long as you don’t consider software, data, automation, or...
by DAVID NEMER, Indiana University
Favelas are the urban slums of Brazil. Slums—the image is already filling your mind—are marginalized areas of society without state investments, without basic needs: infrastructure, sanitation, road systems, health, education. They also lack access to information and communication technologies (ICTs). Why, then, are they important places for studying “advanced” topics like technology, knowledge economy, and sociotechnical practices? What could they have to teach us?
Outsiders often see favela residents as “untamed” and digitally illiterate. But during eight months of ethnographic fieldwork in the slums of Brazil, I saw people challenging the notion of “resource poverty,” appropriating ICTs and skill building in innovative ways. Favela residents critically engage with artifacts designed for advanced industrialized contexts and have to develop their skills of bricolage to survive in a broken environment where repair was a constant socio-technical practice. Favelas are considered...