Winter is coming. Can cities use innovation to save ‘streateries’?


Bloomberg Cities: “Outdoor dining has been a summer savior in these COVID times, keeping restaurants and the people they employ afloat while bringing sidewalks and streets once hushed by stay-at-home orders back to life.

But with Labor Day now behind us, many city leaders and residents alike are asking, “What’s next?” “What becomes of the vibrant ‘streateries’ once winter comes rolling in?”

Perhaps it’s no surprise that Chicago, notorious for its frigid winters and whipping lakefront winds, is at the forefront of the hunt for an answer. The city recently launched the City of Chicago Winter Dining Challenge to get everyone from designers to dishwashers thinking up new ideas for how to do outdoor eating in the cold in a way that is both appealing and safe for customers and restaurant workers.

More intriguing is just how much interest the competition has generated, including nearly 650 entries from all over the world. There are dozens of takes on warming large patios and small dining pods, including approaches likened to greenhousesigloos, and yurts; ideas for repurposing parking garages and city buses; furniture-based concepts with heated tablesseats and umbrellas, and even a Swiss-style fondue chalet.

The goal, said Samir Mayekar, Chicago’s Deputy Mayor for Economic and Neighborhood Development, is to surface ideas city leaders would never have thought of. Three winners will get $5,000 each and see their ideas piloted in neighborhoods across the city in October….(More)”.

Landlord Tech Watch


About: “Landlord Tech—what the real estate industry describes as residential property technology, is leading to new forms of housing injustice. Property technology, or “proptech,” has grown dramatically since 2008, and applies to residential, commercial, and industrial buildings, effectively merging the real estate, technology, and finance industries. By employing digital surveillance, data collection, data accumulation, artificial intelligence, dashboards, and platform real estate in tenant housing and neighborhoods, Landlord Tech increases the power of landlords while disempowering tenants and those seeking shelter.

There are few laws and regulations governing the collection and use of data in the context of Landlord Tech. Because it is generally sold to landlords and property managers, not tenants, Landlord Tech is often installed without notifying or discussing potential harms with tenants and community members. These harms include the possibility that sensitive and personal data can be handed over to the police, ICE, or other law enforcement and government agencies. Landlord Tech can also be used to automate evictions, racial profiling, and tenant harassment. In addition, Landlord Tech is used to abet real estate speculation and gentrification, making buildings more desirable to whiter and wealthier tenants, while feeding real estate and tech companies with property – be that data or real estate. Landlord Tech tracking platforms have increasingly been marketed to landlords as solutions to Covid-19, leading to new forms of residential surveillance….(More)”.

Might social intelligence save Latin America from its governments in times of Covid-19?


Essay by Thamy Pogrebinschi: “…In such scenarios, it seems relevant to acknowledge the limits of the state to deal with huge and unpredictable challenges and thus the need to resort to civil society. State capacity cannot be built overnight, but social intelligence is an unlimited and permanently available resource. In recent years, digital technology has multiplied what has been long called social intelligence (Dewey) and is now more often known as collective intelligence (Lévy), the wisdom of crowds (Surowiecki), or democratic reason (Landemore).

Taken together, these concepts point to the most powerful tool available to governments facing hard problems and unprecedented challenges: the sourcing and sharing of knowledge, information, skills, resources, and data from citizens in order to address social and political problems.

The Covid-19 pandemic presents an opportunity to test the potential of social intelligence as fuel for processes of creative collaboration that may aid governments to reinvent themselves and prepare for the challenges that will remain after the virus is gone. By creative collaboration, I mean a range of forms of communication, action, and connection among citizens themselves, between citizens and civil society organizations (CSOs), and between the latter two and their governments, all with the common aim of addressing problems that affect all and that the state for various reasons cannot (satisfactorily) respond to alone.

While several Latin American countries have been stuck in the Covid-19 crisis with governments unable or unwilling to contain it or to reduce its damages, a substantial number of digital democratic innovations have been advanced by civil society in the past few months. These comprise institutions, processes, and mechanisms that rely on digital citizen participation as a means to address social and political problems – and, more recently, also problems of a humanitarian nature….

Between March 16 and July 1 of this year, at least 400 digital democratic innovations were created across 18 countries in Latin America with the specific aim of handling the Covid-19 crisis and mitigating its impact, according to recent data from the LATINNO project. These innovations are essentially mechanisms and processes in which citizens, with the aid of digital tools, are enabled to address social, political, and humanitarian problems related to the pandemic.

Citizens engage in and contribute to three levels of responses, which are based on information, connection, and action. About one-fourth of these digital democratic innovations clearly rely on crowdsourcing social intelligence.

The great majority of those digital innovations have been developed by CSOs. Around 75% of them have no government involvement at all, which is striking in a region known for implementing state-driven citizen participation as a result of the democratization processes that took place in the late 20th century. Civil society has stepped in in most countries, particularly where government responses were absent (Brazil and Nicaragua), slow (Mexico), insufficient due to lack of economic resources (Argentina) or infrastructure (Peru), or simply inefficient (Chile).

Based on these data from 18 Latin American countries, one can observe that digital democratic innovations address challenges posed by the Covid-19 outbreak in five main ways: first, generating verified information and reliable data; second, geolocating problems, needs, and demands; third, mobilizing resources, skills, and knowledge to address those problems, needs, and demands; fourth, connecting demand (individuals and organizations in need) and supply (individuals and organizations willing to provide whatever is needed); and fifth and finally, implementing and monitoring public policies and actions. In some countries, there is a sixth use that cuts across the other five: assisting vulnerable groups such as the elderly, women, children and youth, indigenous peoples, and Afro-descendants….(More)”

The Risks and Rewards of Data Sharing for Smart Cities


Study by Massimo Russo and Tian Feng: “…To develop innovative solutions to problems old and new, many cities are aggregating and sharing more and more data, establishing platforms to facilitate private-sector participation, and holding “hackathons” and other digital events to invite public help. But digital solutions carry their own complications. Technology-led innovation often depends on access to data from a wide variety of sources to derive correlations and insights. Questions regarding data ownership, amalgamation, compensation, and privacy can be flashing red lights.

Smart cities are on the leading edge of the trend toward greater data sharing. They are also complex generators and users of data. Companies, industries, governments, and others are following in their wake, sharing more data in order to foster innovation and address such macro-level challenges as public health and welfare and climate change. Smart cities thus provide a constructive laboratory for studying the challenges and benefits of data sharing.

WHY CITIES SHARE DATA

BCG examined some 75 smart-city applications that use data from a variety of sources, including connected equipment (that is, the Internet of Things, or IoT). Nearly half the applications require data sourced from multiple industries or platforms. (See Exhibit 1.) For example, a parking reservation app assembles garage occupancy data, historical traffic data, current weather data, and information on upcoming public events to determine real-time parking costs. We also looked at a broader set of potential future applications and found that an additional 40% will likewise require cross-industry data aggregation.

Because today’s smart solutions are often sponsored by individual municipal departments, many IoT-enabled applications rely on limited, siloed data. But given the potential value of applications that require aggregation across sources, it’s no surprise that many cities are pursuing partnerships with tech providers to develop platforms and other initiatives that integrate data from multiple sources….(More)”.

Going Beyond the Smart City? Implementing Technopolitical Platforms for Urban Democracy in Madrid and Barcelona


Paper by Adrian Smith & Pedro Prieto Martín: “Digital platforms for urban democracy are analyzed in Madrid and Barcelona. These platforms permit citizens to debate urban issues with other citizens; to propose developments, plans, and policies for city authorities; and to influence how city budgets are spent. Contrasting with neoliberal assumptions about Smart Citizenship, the technopolitics discourse underpinning these developments recognizes that the technologies facilitating participation have themselves to be developed democratically. That is, technopolitical platforms are built and operate as open, commons-based processes for learning, reflection, and adaptation. These features prove vital to platform implementation consistent with aspirations for citizen engagement and activism….(More)”.

The co-ops that electrified Depression-era farms are now building rural internet


Nicolás Rivero at Quartz: “In 2017, Mark McKinney decided enough was enough. The head of the Jackson County Rural Electric Membership Corporation in southern Indiana, a co-op that provides electricity to a rural community of 20,000 members, McKinney was still living without a reliable internet connection. No internet service provider would build the infrastructure to get him or his neighbors online.

“We realized no one was interested due to the capital expense and limited number of members per mile,” says McKinney, “so the board made the decision to go at it on our own.”

The coronavirus pandemic quickly proved the wisdom of their decision: Thanks to their new fiber optic connection, McKinney and his wife were able to self-quarantine without missing work after they were exposed to the virus. Their son finished the spring semester at home after his university shut down in March. “We could not have done that without this connection,” he said.

Across the rural US, more than 100 cooperatives, first launched to provide electric and telephone services as far back as the 1930s, are now laying miles of fiber optic cable to connect their members to high speed internet. Many started building their own networks after failing to convince established internet service providers to cover their communities.

But while rural fiber optic networks have spread swiftly over the past five years, their progress has been uneven. In North Dakota, for example, fiber optic co-ops cover 82% of the state’s landmass, while Nevada has just one co-op. And in the states where the utilities do exist, they tend to serve the whitest communities….(More)”.

Rethinking citizen engagement for an inclusive energy transition


Urban Futures Studio: “In July 2020, we published our new essay ‘What, How and Who? Designing inclusive interactions in the energy transition’ (Bronsvoort, Hoffman and Hajer, 2020). In this essay, we argue that how the interactions between citizens and governments are shaped and enacted, has a large influence on who gets involved and to what extend people feel heard. To apply this approach to cases, we distinguish between three dimensions of interaction:

  • What (the defined object or issue at hand)
  • How (the setting and staging of the interaction)
  • Who (the target groups and protagonists of the process)

Focusing on the issue of form, we argue that processes for interaction between citizens and governments should be designed in a way that is more future oriented, organized over the long term, in closer proximity to citizens and with attention to the powerful role of ‘in-betweeners’ and ‘in-between’ places such as community houses, where people can meet to deliberate on the wide range of possible futures for their neighbourhood. 

Towards a multiplicity of future visions for sustainable cities
The energy transition has major consequences for the way we live, work, move and consume. For such complex transitions, governments need to engage and collaborate with citizens and other stakeholders. Their engagement enriches existing visions on future neighbourhoods, inform local policies and stimulate change. But how do you shape and organize such a participatory process? While governments use a wide range of public participation methods, many researchers have emphasized the limitations of many of these conventional methods with regard to the inclusion of diverse groups of citizens and in bridging discrepancies between government approaches and people’s lived experiences.

Rethinking citizen engagement for an inclusive energy transition
To help rethink citizen engagement, the Urban Futures Studio investigates existing and new approaches to citizen engagement and how they are practised by governments and societal actors. Following our essay research, our next project on citizen engagement includes a study on its relation to experimentation as a novel mode of governance. The goal of this research is to show insights into how citizen engagement manifests itself in the context of experimental governance on the neighbourhood level. By investigating the interactions between citizens, governments and other stakeholders in different types of participatory projects, we aim to gain a better understanding of how citizens are engaged and included in energy transition experiments and how we can improve its level of inclusion.

We use a relational approach of citizen engagement, by which we view participatory processes as collective practices that both shape and are shaped by their ‘matter of concern’, their public and their setting and staging. This view places emphasis on the form and conditions under which the interaction takes place. For example, the initiative of Places of Hope showed that engagement can be organised in diverse ways and can create new collectives….(More)”.

The Atlas of Surveillance


Electronic Frontier Foundation: “Law enforcement surveillance isn’t always secret. These technologies can be discovered in news articles and government meeting agendas, in company press releases and social media posts. It just hasn’t been aggregated before.

That’s the starting point for the Atlas of Surveillance, a collaborative effort between the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the University of Nevada, Reno Reynolds School of Journalism. Through a combination of crowdsourcing and data journalism, we are creating the largest-ever repository of information on which law enforcement agencies are using what surveillance technologies. The aim is to generate a resource for journalists, academics, and, most importantly, members of the public to check what’s been purchased locally and how technologies are spreading across the country.

We specifically focused on the most pervasive technologies, including drones, body-worn cameras, face recognition, cell-site simulators, automated license plate readers, predictive policing, camera registries, and gunshot detection. Although we have amassed more than 5,000 datapoints in 3,000 jurisdictions, our research only reveals the tip of the iceberg and underlines the need for journalists and members of the public to continue demanding transparency from criminal justice agencies….(More)”.

How urban design can make or break protests


Peter Schwartzstein in Smithsonian Magazine: “If protesters could plan a perfect stage to voice their grievances, it might look a lot like Athens, Greece. Its broad, yet not overly long, central boulevards are almost tailor-made for parading. Its large parliament-facing square, Syntagma, forms a natural focal point for marchers. With a warren of narrow streets surrounding the center, including the rebellious district of Exarcheia, it’s often remarkably easy for demonstrators to steal away if the going gets rough.

Los Angeles, by contrast, is a disaster for protesters. It has no wholly recognizable center, few walkable distances, and little in the way of protest-friendly space. As far as longtime city activists are concerned, just amassing small crowds can be an achievement. “There’s really just no place to go, the city is structured in a way that you’re in a city but you’re not in a city,” says David Adler, general coordinator at the Progressive International, a new global political group. “While a protest is the coming together of a large group of people and that’s just counter to the idea of L.A.”

Among the complex medley of moving parts that guide protest movements, urban design might seem like a fairly peripheral concern. But try telling that to demonstrators from Houston to Beijing, two cities that have geographic characteristics that complicate public protest. Low urban density can thwart mass participation. Limited public space can deprive protesters of the visibility and hence the momentum they need to sustain themselves. On those occasions when proceedings turn messy or violent, alleyways, parks, and labyrinthine apartment buildings can mean the difference between detention and escape….(More)”.

Gender gaps in urban mobility


Paper by Laetitia Gauvin, Michele Tizzoni, Simone Piaggesi, Andrew Young, Natalia Adler, Stefaan Verhulst, Leo Ferres & Ciro Cattuto in Humanities and Social Sciences Communications: “Mobile phone data have been extensively used to study urban mobility. However, studies based on gender-disaggregated large-scale data are still lacking, limiting our understanding of gendered aspects of urban mobility and our ability to design policies for gender equality. Here we study urban mobility from a gendered perspective, combining commercial and open datasets for the city of Santiago, Chile.

We analyze call detail records for a large cohort of anonymized mobile phone users and reveal a gender gap in mobility: women visit fewer unique locations than men, and distribute their time less equally among such locations. Mapping this mobility gap over administrative divisions, we observe that a wider gap is associated with lower income and lack of public and private transportation options. Our results uncover a complex interplay between gendered mobility patterns, socio-economic factors and urban affordances, calling for further research and providing insights for policymakers and urban planners….(More)”.