Humanities and the Smart City

In the November 12 issue of the New York Times, architect Marshall Brown worried that,

The current discourse around the future of autonomous vehicles is centered on “technologically deterministic fantasies”… technological values — like logic, predictability and efficiency — will be erroneously imposed upon the built environment, leading to urban spaces that fail to take into account delight, pleasure or human connection. “A society is cultural, and political, and aesthetic, and about desires — it’s not just how you solve problems,” he says. “They’re going to need more than just software engineers working on it.”

I’m working with a team of students, colleagues, and specialists to solve the problem Marshall Brown worries about. My students in both my Digital Rhetoric class and my Power, Culture, and Identity in Global Cities class are well-positioned to think critically and productively about Smart Cities.

More importantly, we can draw on experience, research, and technical capabilities to make something valuable. We have already identified a group of Smart City Experts, and we are now developing a set of Smart City case studies and a set of the humanities concepts needed to explore the big questions raised by Smart Cities.

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