Owning the city: New media and citizen engagement in urban design

Paper by Michiel de Lange and Martijn de Waal in First Monday : “In today’s cities our everyday lives are shaped by digital media technologies such as smart cards, surveillance cameras, quasi–intelligent systems, smartphones, social media, location–based services, wireless networks, and so on. These technologies are inextricably bound up with the city’s material form, social patterns, and mental experiences. As a consequence, the city has become a hybrid of the physical and the digital. This is perhaps most evident in the global north, although in emerging countries, like Indonesia and China mobile phones, wireless networks and CCTV cameras have also become a dominant feature of urban life (Castells, et al., 2004; Qiu, 2007, 2009; de Lange, 2010). What does this mean for urban life and culture? And what are the implications for urban design, a discipline that has hitherto largely been concerned with the city’s built form?
In this contribution we do three things. First we take a closer look at the notion of ‘smart cities’ often invoked in policy and design discourses about the role of new media in the city. In this vision, the city is mainly understood as a series of infrastructures that must be managed as efficiently as possible. However, critics note that these technological imaginaries of a personalized, efficient and friction–free urbanism ignore some of the basic tenets of what it means to live in cities (Crang and Graham, 2007).
Second, we want to fertilize the debates and controversies about smart cities by forwarding the notion of ‘ownership’ as a lens to zoom in on what we believe is the key question largely ignored in smart city visions: how to engage and empower citizens to act on complex collective urban problems? As is explained in more detail below, we use ‘ownership’ not to refer to an exclusive proprietorship but to an inclusive form of engagement, responsibility and stewardship. At stake is the issue how digital technologies shape the ways in which people in cities manage coexistence with strangers who are different and who often have conflicting interests, and at the same time form new collectives or publics around shared issues of concern (see, for instance, Jacobs, 1992; Graham and Marvin, 2001; Latour, 2005). ‘Ownership’ teases out a number of shifts that take place in the urban public domain characterized by tensions between individuals and collectives, between differences and similarities, and between conflict and collaboration.
Third, we discuss a number of ways in which the rise of urban media technologies affects the city’s built form. Much has been said and written about changing spatial patterns and social behaviors in the media city. Yet as the editors of this special issue note, less attention has been paid to the question how urban new media shape the built form. The notion of ownership allows us to figure the connection between technology and the city as more intricate than direct links of causality or correlation. Therefore, ownership in our view provides a starting point for urban design professionals and citizens to reconsider their own role in city making.
Questions about the role of digital media technologies in shaping the social fabric and built form of urban life are all the more urgent in the context of challenges posed by rapid urbanization, a worldwide financial crisis that hits particularly hard on the architectural sector, socio–cultural shifts in the relationship between professional and amateur, the status of expert knowledge, societies that face increasingly complex ‘wicked’ problems, and governments retreating from public services. When grounds are shifting, urban design professionals as well as citizens need to reconsider their own role in city making.”

Towards a 21st Century Parliament

Speech by the Speaker of the House of Commons, the Rt Hon John Bercow MP: “…Despite this, there is an enormous challenge out there not only for the House of Commons and Parliament as a whole but for all legislatures in the 21st century. That challenge is how we reconcile traditional concepts and institutions of representative democracy with the technological revolution which we have witnessed over the past decade or two which has created both a demand for and an opportunity to establish a digital democracy. Quietly, over past decades, a radically different world has emerged which in time will make the industrial revolution seem minor.
There has been much research conducted in to this at the academic level and in individual initiatives and publications, not least those with which the Hansard Society has had the wisdom to become involved. But it is hard to see exactly where we are and hard to understand the notion of ‘trust’ in this brave new world, uncertain as it is. Indeed, there has not been one single overarching strategy for how we might move from where we are now to what a parliament in a digital democracy may look like, nor is there one role model from whom we can all take inspiration. That said, Estonia, where a quarter of the votes cast at its last national election in 2011 and perhaps half of those which will be recorded at its 2015 elections, were delivered online is something of a market leader in this regard and well worth investigation.
I am convinced that we need an innovation of our own to create such a map and a compass and to invite outside expertise in to assist us in this endeavour.
That is why I am announcing today the creation of a Speaker’s Commission on Digital Democracy, the core membership of which will be assembled in the next few weeks, supplemented by a circle of around 30 expert Commissioners and reinforced I hope by up to 60 million members of the public. This exercise will start in early 2014 and report in early 2015, a special year for Parliament as it will be the 750th anniversary of the de Montfort Parliament along with the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, the document that set the scene for the 1265 Parliament to come later.
Digital democracy will have some universal features but others which vary nation by nation. It is yet another change which pushes against formality and for flexibility. Its elements might include online voting, e-dialogue between representatives and those represented, increased interconnectedness between the functions of representation, scrutiny and legislation, multiple concepts of what is a constituency, flexibility about what is debated when and how, and a much more intense pace for invention and adaptation. What we are talking about here is nothing less than a Parliament version 2.0….”

What do you know?

Article in the Financial Times by Eric Openshaw John Hagel: “Talent holds the key to company performance. From business units to Finance to IT, getting the right skills to the right place at the right time is a constant challenge. Now consider that workplace technologies are becoming obsolete faster, and the useful life of many skills is shorter. Workers at all levels need to be able to learn and relearn rapidly to adapt to and anticipate changing demands. Recruitment and retention initiatives can’t address the need, nor can standardised training programs and knowledge management.
New technologies offer an opportunity to rethink both talent development and traditional knowledge management and integrate learning directly into the daily work experience. Virtual platforms enable workers to connect with each other to solve problems across distributed work settings and beyond organisational boundaries.
The preponderance of sensors and advanced analytics today make it more possible than ever to collect and share individual’s real-time performance in a variety of settings. Sensors and the integration of social platforms into work allows for knowledge and experiences to be captured automatically, as they occur, rather than depending on compliance and coerced participation to populate reputation profiles and knowledge management databases. These technologies support rich, context-specific learning and participation driven by momentum as users discover and create value.
Training programs and knowledge management have a place, but they may not deliver the skilled workers needed to the right place and time in a rapidly changing environment. Pre-developed content quickly becomes obsolete or lacks the context to make it relevant to the individual. Perhaps more importantly, classroom training and knowledge databases tend to focus on the commonalities between work, the standard processes and practices, when in fact workers spend most of their days dealing with the exceptions that don’t fit into the standard processes and systems, whether it’s a one-off shipping request or a customer who can’t make your software work with their hardware. Workers typically get better at handling the non-standard aspects of their work through on-the-job experience…

In a recent paper, we detailed nine principles that help to create the type of environment that fosters learning and improvement. The following three principles demonstrate how technology can play an important role in enabling this on-the-job learning and in amplifying the learning, especially across a virtual workforce.

Real-time feedback for individuals and teams. For workers to improve performance and learn what works or doesn’t work, they need to have a context-specific understanding of what is expected and how they are doing relative to others, in the moment rather than three- or six-months down the line.
At virtual call-centre LiveOps, the independent agents see customer and program-specific metrics on an online dashboard. These metrics define the level of performance necessary for agents to remain eligible to take calls for a program and are continuously updated, providing real-time feedback after each call so that agents can see how they are doing relative to their peer group and where they can improve. This level of performance data transparency creates a meritocracy, as agents are compared to their peers and rewarded based on their relative performance.
Smart capture and share. In any work setting, a great deal of information is generated and exchanged in meetings, conversations, instant messages, and email. Easy access to that information helps foster collaboration, solve problems, and improve business processes. At SAP Community Network (SCN), intelligent cataloguing of insights from discussion forums, tagged for searchability, helps make the right information available at the right time to those who need it without requiring the burdensome documentation associated with typical knowledge management. Other users can search for solutions in the context of the original problem posed, as well as through related discussions that may have led to an ultimate solution. Instead of days of internal debate or experimentation, the typical time to receive a response is 17 minutes.
Helping workers make relevant connections. In a typical organisation, physical or virtual, it can be difficult to know who everyone is and what their experience, expertise, and interests are, and the typical knowledge and resource management tools that require individuals to maintain profiles rarely see the level of continuing compliance and participation to make them useful. Instead, workers tend to fall back on relationships. They seek help and learn from those already known to them.
Now, virtual platforms, such as the one used by Odesk, a global online workplace, automatically generate detailed, up-to-date profiles. These profiles include the contractor’s cumulative and historical ratings and hourly wages for each completed project as well as the scores for any tests or certifications. The same type of automatic, action-based reputation profiles can be used internally to facilitate assessing and connecting with the right co-workers for the job at hand…”

How to Start Thinking Like a Data Scientist

Thomas C. Redman in Harvard Business Review Blog: “Slowly but steadily, data are forcing their way into every nook and cranny of every industry, company, and job. Managers who aren’t data savvy, who can’t conduct basic analyses, interpret more complex ones, and interact with data scientists are already at a disadvantage. Companies without a large and growing cadre of data-savvy managers are similarly disadvantaged.
Fortunately, you don’t have to be a data scientist or a Bayesian statistician to tease useful insights from data. This post explores an exercise I’ve used for 20 years to help those with an open mind (and a pencil, paper, and calculator) get started. One post won’t make you data savvy, but it will help you become data literate, open your eyes to the millions of small data opportunities, and enable you work a bit more effectively with data scientists, analytics, and all things quantitative.
While the exercise is very much a how-to, each step also illustrates an important concept in analytics — from understanding variation to visualization.
First, start with something that interests, even bothers, you at work, like consistently late-starting meetings. Whatever it is, form it up as a question and write it down: “Meetings always seem to start late. Is that really true?”
Next, think through the data that can help answer your question, and develop a plan for creating them. Write down all the relevant definitions and your protocol for collecting the data. For this particular example, you have to define when the meeting actually begins. Is it the time someone says, “Ok, let’s begin.”? Or the time the real business of the meeting starts? Does kibitzing count?
Now collect the data. It is critical that you trust the data. And, as you go, you’re almost certain to find gaps in data collection. You may find that even though a meeting has started, it starts anew when a more senior person joins in. Modify your definition and protocol as you go along.
Sooner than you think, you’ll be ready to start drawing some pictures. Good pictures make it easier for you to both understand the data and communicate main points to others. There are plenty of good tools to help, but I like to draw my first picture by hand. My go-to plot is a time-series plot, where the horizontal axis has the date and time and the vertical axis has the variable of interest. Thus, a point on the graph below (click for a larger image) is the date and time of a meeting versus the number of minutes late….”

The value and challenges of public sector information

A paper by M. Henninger in Cosmopolitan Civil Societies: An Interdisciplinary Journal: “The aim of this paper is to explore the concept of public sector information (PSI), what it is, its history and evolution, what constitutes its corpus of documents and the issues and challenges it presents to society, its institutions and to those who use and manage it. The paper, by examining the literatures of the law, political science, civil society, economics and information and library science explores the inherent tensions of access to and use of PSI—pragmatism vs. idealism; openness vs. secrecy; commerce vs. altruism; property vs. commons; public good vs. private good. It focusses on open government data (OGD)—a subset of what is popularly referred to as ‘big data’—its background and development since much of the current debate of its use concerns its commercial value for both the private sector and the public sector itself. In particular it looks at the information itself which, driven by technologies of networks, data mining and visualisation gives value in industrial and economic terms, and in its ability to enable new ideas and knowledge.”

Creative Common’s Next Generation Licenses — Version 4.0

Diane Peters: “We proudly introduce our 4.0 licenses, now available for adoption worldwide. The 4.0 licenses — more than two years in the making — are the most global, legally robust licenses produced by CC to date. We have incorporated dozens of improvements that make sharing and reusing CC-licensed materials easier and more dependable than ever before.
We had ambitious goals in mind when we embarked on the versioning process coming out of the 2011 CC Global Summit in Warsaw. The new licenses achieve all of these goals, and more. The 4.0 licenses are extremely well-suited for use by governments and publishers of public sector information and other data, especially for those in the European Union. This is due to the expansion in license scope, which now covers sui generis database rights that exist there and in a handful of other countries.
Among other exciting new features are improved readability and organization, common-sense attribution, and a new mechanism that allows those who violate the license inadvertently to regain their rights automatically if the violation is corrected in a timely manner.
You can find highlights of the most significant improvements on our website, track the course of the public discussion and evolution of the license drafts on the 4.0 wiki page, and view a recap of the central policy decisions made over the course of the versioning process.
The 4.0 versioning process has been a truly collaborative effort between the brilliant and dedicated network of legal and public licensing experts and the active, vocal open community. The 4.0 licenses, the public license development undertaking, and the Creative Commons organization are stronger because of the steadfast commitment of all participants.
With the 4.0 licenses published, we will be turning our attention to official translations of the legal code in partnership with our affiliate network and larger community. Translations of our new deeds are also underway, with a significant number already completed.”

Digital Government @ Work: A Social Informatics Perspective

Book Review by Chi Onwurah: “In the 1990s and 2000s, tech cynics would often quote Robert Solow’s 1987 quip, ‘You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.’ Now that value chains have been disintermediated and dependent business models trashed, it is less common to hear that. However it would still be appropriate to say ‘You can see the digital age everywhere but in Government.’ Certainly in a recent Policy Exchange report, the Prime Minister’s former digital advisor Rohan Silva did his best to portray the public sector as a digitally backward captured client of ICT oligarchs now being reluctantly dragged into the 21st Century.That makes the timing of Digital Government @ Work by Ian McLoughlin, Rob Wilson, and Mike Martin all the more fortuitous. The book seeks to give the reader a broad evidence-based understanding of what digital Government can be, what it is, and the challenges it faces. It is largely successful. Steve Halliday, President of Society of Information Technology Management describes the book as ‘a rigorous and thought-provoking analysis of the history and the future of digital government,’ and I would agree with that analysis. Despite lengthy definitional discussions and dense referencing, the book is also very readable and what is more, should be read….
The social informatics perspective of the book means its outlook is neither entirely technology-driven – whatever the problem the right system can solve it – nor purely qualitative, but combines understanding of the technology and its social and organisational impact with an analysis of the interdependencies at play in the context of public service delivery. These are illustrated by detailed case studies from  Children’s Services, the National Programme for Local e-Government (FAME) and telecare, which highlight failings in current approaches to what they call ‘technology enactment’ as well as the – possibly systemic – challenges to real organisational and service innovation….
Most important is the recognition that technology only empowers when we feel ownership of it, not controlled by it. If digital government is to be about empowering and improving that critical relationship at the frontline, then the ‘street bureaucrats’ the book refers to, as well as the citizen-user and the IT manager, must all be involved in an on-going co-production of the service. Rather than traditional integration we must ‘seek alternative means of coordination such as through federation and federability.’ If this is achieved, we may look to ‘digital government maturity characterised by partnership working across a mixed economy of public, private and third sectors and supported by an infrastructure of federated information and identity management systems and shared service environments’….”

Designing for Behavior Change: Applying Psychology and Behavioral Economics

New book by Stephen Wendel :” A new wave of products is helping people change their behavior and daily routines, whether it’s exercising more (Jawbone Up), taking control of their finances (HelloWallet), or organizing their email (Mailbox). This practical guide shows you how to design these types of products for users seeking to take action and achieve specific goals.
Stephen Wendel, HelloWallet’s head researcher, takes you step-by-step through the process of applying behavioral economics and psychology to the practical problems of product design and development. Using a combination of lean and agile development methods, you’ll learn a simple iterative approach for identifying target users and behaviors, building the product, and gauging its effectiveness. Discover how to create easy-to-use products to help people make positive changes.

  • Learn the three main strategies to help people change behavior
  • Identify your target audience and the behaviors they seek to change
  • Extract user stories and identify obstacles to behavior change
  • Develop effective interface designs that are enjoyable to use
  • Measure your product’s impact and learn ways to improve it
  • Use practical examples from products like Nest, Fitbit, and Opower”

25 Tech Ideas for Improving Your Community

GovTech: “Ideation Nation, a technology brainstorming competition for civic solutions, announces its 25 top ideas for government technology projects…”

Top 25 Ideas

4.    Volunteer exchange
5.    Zoning iPhone app
6.    Gift card remainder charity website
7.    Electricity monitoring device rentals
8.    Integrated discovery website for camping, hiking, outdoor recreation
9.    Use the Internet to create a more direct democracy at all levels
10.  Lodge a complaint, get connected on civic issues
11.  Creativity Crowd
12.  Gaming volunteerism and rewarding impact creation
13.  Location-based app for public recycling
14.  Creating an online community map of underutilized spaces
15.  Install on-demand street lighting
16.  Create a bike share app like AirBnB
17.  Renaissance CSA
18.  Create a resource center to share collaborative projects
19.  A citizen’s board of developers
20.  My place: Our World, a civic engagement app
21.  App for food transfer
22.  Create a social networking platform for volunteers and NPOs
23.  Communitywide sharing application
24.  Common permit application
25.  Bike-pool app