Tracey Lauriault

Artengine's Future Cities Forum

Dr. Tracey Lauriault addresses an engaging discussion on the evolving concept of smart cities at the Artengine’s Future Cities forum. Dr. Lauriault, a professor from Carleton University with affiliations to notable research initiatives such as the Programmable City Project, presents her collaborative work on defining smart cities under the Open Smart Cities Project in Canada, funded by Natural Resources Canada. This project engages a multidisciplinary team, including researchers from the University of Toronto and members from the Canadian Internet Public Policy Interest Clinic.

During her presentation, Dr. Lauriault proposes a critical examination of “networked urbanism,” where cities are enhanced with technological infrastructures, big data, and the Internet of Things to manage urban life dynamically. She questions the prevailing efficiency-driven models that often overlook the socio-economic and privacy concerns inherent in the digital management of city spaces. Dr. Lauriault emphasizes the importance of making smart cities inclusive, equitable, and responsive to the needs of all citizens, rather than serving as exclusive enclaves for the privileged.

Her talk also explores international examples, highlighting a smart city project in the Philippines as a caution against designing urban spaces that exclude the socio-economically disadvantaged. She urges for a participatory approach in smart city governance, where technology serves the populace rather than dictates their lifestyle. By fostering a culture of technological literacy and civic participation, Dr. Lauriault envisions smart cities that prioritize human values over technological advancements, ensuring that urban developments are sustainable, inclusive, and reflective of collective urban life aspirations.

A trio of keynote speakers kicked-off the Future Cities Forum including science-fiction writer and futurist Madeline Ashby, urban designer Ken Greenberg, and professor Tracey Lauriault, a researcher who specializes in big data and the city.

This diverse group shared their speculations on future cities in the context of emerging and disruptive technologies. How will and can we adapt the key lessons of urban design of the twentieth century and not be seduced by the same techno-utopianism that shaped cities in the past? As we are transformed and extended into the network, how will a citizen be in public or private in our new data-driven city? Who will be the heroes and anti-heroes of the cities to come?

Dr. Tracey Lauriault is a critical data studies scholar who works on open data, big data, open smart cities, open government, data sovereignty, data preservation and data governance. Her ongoing research includes disaggregated equity data, digital twins, intersectional approaches to data governance, data invisibilities and the history of the census. As a publicly engaged scholar, she mobilizes her research into data and technology policy in all sectors. As a data and technological citizen, she examines large and small complex systems with the hope of making them more just, inclusive, equitable and environmentally sustainable.

Defining Smart Cities: A Collaborative Exploration of Networked Urbanism

Tracey Lauriault

I’m actually test driving a definition with you. So I’m hoping that you’re going to kick my butt if it doesn’t hold up afterwards in the Q&A. But it’s a definition that we’ve been working on with a bay in a project called the Open Smart Cities Project in Canada that is funded by the G.O. Connections Program at Natural Resources Canada. It’s happening at OPA North with a really amazing group of researchers from the University of Toronto. A semantic Scientologist and software engineer and and standardization person. Mike Fox with David Fewer from one of my favorite organizations, the Canadian Internet Public Policy Interest Clinic. With and with that really great team, open, open and open source. So first of all, let’s get warmed up a bit. What’s this city thing? Well, that’s a Canadian city way up north. That’s a Canadian city out east. That’s another great Canadian city out east, as is that one. That’s a typical Canadian city and another great, very metropolitan, wonderful place that we all as as people who live in Ottawa know that one of the best parts of Ottawa is that we live close to this city in Montreal. So that’s a great city. And we know that that’s a great vista that a lot of us like to go to on Mount Royal. Here’s our wonderful city. There’s the city of Toronto. Winnipeg. look at this. Out west as well. In the prairies again, out west. I thought that was an Absolutely. Who knew Edmonton looked so good. Here is up in Yellowknife. This is sorry, this is Yellowknife. And here we are out in Vancouver. So cities have come in all shapes and forms in the context of Canada. But really, as city is a complex social and biological system. We hang out with each other, we eat, we p, we drink stuff, we hang out, we use things, we climb mountains. It’s a socio-biological place. It’s territorially bound, right? There’s a boundary to this thing. It’s a place of human settlement. This is where you and I live. We live in cities. It’s our habitat. It’s also governed by public city officials who manage the gray. So the buildings, the blue, the water and the green environment within their jurisdictional responsibility. So they’re the people who sign off on this stuff that we deal with in the city. And because we’re the city of Ottawa, we get an extra layer with the national capital Commission and we’ve already had a speaker from that as well. Talk to us about that already. So what’s the smart city thing then? There’s a ton of definitions. We’ve already heard that already, but these are many of the definitions. We have intelligent cities, responsive cities, sensing cities, surveilling cities. See cities Programable cities and so on. So there’s all kinds of terminology. Ubiquitous cities or ubiquitous computing might be another way to think about it. There’s all kinds of definitions. Some people like to think smart cities are something that you can manage from your iPhone. How we manage this complex social and dynamic socio biological system from an iPhone is unbeknownst to me. But some people suggest that that’s the case, or it’s an entire city of the palm of your hand that you can control from from interconnected devices. Or maybe it’s some of the preexisting cities that we’ve already had and we’ve already looked at some that are augmented with all kinds of devices, primarily the Internet of Things and those and multiple other devices to do things like the smart home and the smart building and the and the smart innovation and the smart education and so on and so forth as the discourse goes. So really, the way that I understand a smart city or the definition that I use is networked urbanism is what it’s called, and it’s basically technologically instrumented and networked with systems that are entirely and integrated, where vast troves of big data are being generated by sensors and administrative processes. Because we have to remember there’s surveys and there’s data being collected of it on websites when we’re when we’re clicking in or when we’re calling 311 to manage and control urban life in real time.

Unpacking the Social Implications of Smart Cities

Tracey Lauriault

Efficiency is always the favorite one, right? You’ll always see that when you’re talking about smart cities in my life. My favorite line for that one is I don’t know about you, but my love, life’s not efficient. And I’m not sure that I want my love life to be efficient. So is it always about efficiency and the cult of efficiency? You might want to listen to that really good. My lecture on the cult of efficiency. It’s objectively run because it’s with data and machines and they’re always objective and unbiased. Of course, we all know that to manage the city, the focus is almost always to quantify and manage infrastructure, mobility, business and online government services. In other words, it’s it’s a kind of technological solutionism.You’ve got a problem, throw some data and some technology at it and you’ve got a smart city and you’ll be able to solve a lot of the problems. So we’ll see. We’ll unpack this a little bit more later on. This is a really interesting, intentional, smart city that’s being built in the Philippines right now. It’s on the old U.S. Army base, Clark Army Base. It’s quite spectacular. Has anybody here been to the Philippines? So you guys know Manila, right? Imagine this in Manila. It’s nuts. It’s very exciting and very interesting. A lot of foreign direct investment is going in. A lot of I.T. firms are in it, involved in it. There’s a big resiliency agenda in it. It’s a very excited and futuristic kind of project. Right beside that, is this a place called Smoky Mountain? And that city, that smart city, is not for these people. That smart city is not going to be designed for them. It’s going to be an exclusive city. It’s going to be a gated city. It’s going to be a what some people call a quiet city that’s going to be very expensive and very prestigious. So it’s wonderful, it’s innovative. But I would argue that it’s not socially just and it’s being built because it’s very difficult to build and do interesting and new things in the city of Manila. So this will be a city beside Manila where the rich people can live and Manila will be left to its own devices and not get retrofitted.

Cultivating Technological Citizenship in Smart Cities

Tracey Lauriault

I’m not convinced that we’re necessarily going to change all of the shape and form of our cities in 50 years, but I think within 50 years we might be able to nudge along some cultural change and some of the cultural change that I’m suggesting that we nudge along is that we, you and I, become technological citizens, that we become versed about technology and what it can do, and that we become very versed about data and what data can and cannot do. What we actually include people in this equation, that we become the drivers of the smart city, not the technology driving us to do things. So it’s about people who collaboratively mobilize data and technology. So we get to work with city officials to do this when we need it, because not every problem requires sophisticated computational Internet of Things technology. So when warranted, only when we need it in an ethical, accountable and a transparent way so that we can govern the city in a fair, viable role and as a livable commons. So this is where we’re going to live. So this is where we’re going to live. We don’t want it to be a large corporate, technological utopia version. What’s our version of a livable commons? What do we want? And to balance economic development with social progress as well as environmental sustainability. So we think that that’s not a bad definition to get us going. But I’d like to unpack that a little bit. Now, some people in, you know, the Futurists might draw this as a kind of smart city, again, a city from the ground up. We’re going to abandon the old cities and we’re going to build new cities on the side. And this is a big program. India right now has 100 smart cities on the agenda. A lot of big, smart city projects are happening all over Asia where there’s very dense populations and you can’t get rid of the slums in the cities, but it’s way easier where you can build on land that you can appropriate primarily farmland to do those things. Nonetheless, this could be interesting or it could be a smart city, could simply be retrofitting old cities. And this is one example here in Barcelona, where they developed the smart Super Blocks kind of project. And so what they did there is they said, okay, we have all of these city blocks. And if you’ve ever looked at an air photo or an aerial image of Barcelona, it’s science fiction. You’ll will see one in a minute. It’s an absolutely amazing city. So what they said was, was we’re having a car problem and we’d like to divert the cars. And so we’re going to select we’re going to do some data analytics and we’re going to select a series of maybe 12, 13, 14, 15 blocks, blocks of nine blocks. We’re going to cordon them off and we’re going to recirculate traffic around these. And within these, we’re going to make them much more interesting and diverse. So we’re going to have libraries and we’re going to walk more. I’m going to have less cars, and we’re going to encourage small businesses to come back to these locations so that people can have self-contained communities within a nine block radius. So this would be the old version and this is the new version that is forthcoming. And they did the analysis to say, okay, where are we going to do this? How are we going to divert traffic? How are we going to change these neighborhoods? How are we going to phase this in and how are we going to improve the livability of our city? So personal loan is a living example of a city right now that is making technologies to be a means to an end and not the end in and of itself. And it is working collaboratively with locals who and city dwellers in Barcelona to change this. It is not without its hiccups. It is not without its pushback because of course people are attached to their cars. We will see in the next ten, 20, 30 years what is going to look like to have a city like that, or maybe it’s what some of the projects that we’re seeing in Sweden, maybe it’s taking those old cities and saying, okay, maybe we need to turn transportation on its head. Maybe it’s not the driver who’s always at fault when it comes to having an accident. Maybe it’s the design of the entire transportation system. Maybe it’s the incentives. In Sweden, for instance, your traffic typical your traffic ticket is pro-rated to your salary. So if you’re a hockey player, it’s 10,000 bucks. So don’t you be speeding if you’re a hockey player or anybody else for that matter, because it’s got to be meaningful. Remember, this is the country that changed the direction of traffic overnight and without one accident.