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    EngagingSmartCities - launching a toolkit to promote engagement in smart cities

    This summer, the SCiM MK team have been been working on a toolkit to help smart city practitioners avoid inadvertant exclusion. Inadvertant exclusion is when a smart city technology or application unintentionally leaves out potential users, reducing its reach and so reducing its penetration. By reducing inadvertant exclusion, practitioners can increase equality and widen participation in smart city projects. We have two events coming up where you can find out more.

    The first is at the Future Cities Catapult, London, on Tuesday 13 November. SCiM Research Associates Dr Alan Miguel Valdez and Dr Oliver Zanetti will be running a breakfast briefing between 8.15 and 9.45am. In this, they will explain in further detail the concept of inadvertent exclusion and examine four case studies which illustrate the idea. This event will be useful to smart city practitioners from business, the third sector, and to academics. Please sign up via the Future Cities Catapult eventbrite page.

    The second will be at the MK Gallery, Milton Keynes, on 10 December, 4.30 to 6pm. This will be the official launch of the toolkit and SCiM MK's final project event. In this, we will hear introductory words from Geoff Snelson, Director of Strategy and Futures at Milton Keynes Council as well as some brief words on the toolkit from SCiM MK team members. Wine and soft drinks will be available, and there will be plenty of time for networking. The MK Gallery is short taxi ride from MK Central Station.

    Sign up using the SCiM MK eventbrite page or use the form below.

    We look forward to seeing you at one or both of these events. If you have any queries, please email

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    SCiM MK runs two sessions at the European Association for the Study of Science and Technology conference

    The SCiM team convened a panel to exchange perspectives on social difference in the smart city, in the context of the 2018 biennial conference of the European Association for the Study of Science and Technology (EASST). The theme for the conference was "Meetings" - making science, technology and society together. The conference invited exploration of alignments and intersections which made the conference of significant interest to SCiM as a venue to engage with other scholars exploring the smart city and the socio-technical dynamics taking place within it. The "Confluence, collaboration and intersection" stream of EASST2018 was of particular interest as it invited exploration of how 'interests' take shape, evolve, conjoin through innovation networks, technology adoption, infrastructures and standardisations; the dynamics of how social practices evolve, intersect and re-form over time; and the making of new alliances and forms of inclusive and creative collaboration. While such dynamics are not exclusive to the smart city, they are indeed highly relevant to emerging and experimental forms of urbanism, and thus the SCiM team decided to convene a panel titled "Assembling the smart city: exploring the contours of social difference".

    The call for the panel was as follows:

    'Smart' cities are being figured as meeting places where multifarious things come together gathered by a vision of digital-led urban transformation. This panel invites contributions that follow some aspect of this to better understand how Smart participates in patterning social difference. By curating rich accounts of smart cities in the making, in this panel we are interested in bringing the problematic of Smart into view and exploring how specifically, it (re)shapes contours of social difference. We argue this is a 'matter of composition' in two related senses. First, Smart initiatives change what the cities where they are situated are composed of in various ways. Sensors, servers, data, hubs; if the urban is always constituted of all sorts of heterogeneous materialities, the social of smart cities is populated with new, more, and different sorts of things and relations. Second, Smart initiatives change how the cities where they are situated are composed. If the urban is never singular but instead a multiple object-space, the social of smart cities is known, managed, governed and so on in new, more, and different ways. By better understanding both precisely what sorts of material practices come together in specific smart city situations such as smart governance practices and how those material practices are configured by the ways those situations are always already saturated with power, we seek insight into what sorts of activity, what sorts of ways of urban life do specific versions of Smart make more or less possible; when, where, for whom?

    We received an overwhelming number of quality submissions, leading to the acceptance of 7 papers as listed below:

    Datafied spaces: (re)figurating the city as laboratory Author: Sandra Balbierz (University Eichstätt-Ingolstadt)

    Exploring problem-centred smart / digital urbanism in Australia Authors: Ralph Horne (RMIT University) , Lauren Rickards (RMIT University)

    Partial platforms: the everyday life of oligoptic geospatial technologies in the neoliberal city Authors: Debra Mackinnon, David Murakami Wood (Queen's University)

    Smart cities in the making: learning from Milton Keynes Authors: Nick Bingham (Open University), Gillian Rose (University of Oxford), Alan-Miguel Valdez, Matthew Cook (Open University)

    The smart city as conscription device: negotiating the politics of emptiness in Santiago de Chile Authors: Ignacio Perez (University of Oxford), Martin Tironi (Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile)

    Enacting social difference through smart city tech: the gathering of groupings through a platform Authors: Oliver Zanetti (University of Oxford), Parvati Raghuram (Open University)

    Transformative visions of IoT: whose visions, whose rights, whose responsibilities? Authors: Naomi Jacobs (University of Aberdeen), Karen Salt (University of Nottingham)

    We are happy to report that the presentations and the 30 min extended discussion session that followed were all very interesting and the audience was highly engaged. More information about the contents of individual papers, and contact information of the contributors, are available HERE.

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    Thinking Allowed programme and related OpenLearn materials

    BBC Radio 4's social science programme, Thinking Allowed, finished for the summer with some special guests, members of the SCiM MK team. Prof Gillian Rose, Prof Sophie Watson and Dr Oliver Zanetti were invited panellists for a special edition of the programme recorded in front of a live audience at the Open University earlier in July.

    The programme aired on Wednesday 25 July and can be listened to again, or downloaded, from the BBC website. In the programme, the researchers talk about what a smart city is and speak about the diverse research they have conducted into smart cities and smart technologies. This is followed by questions from the audience, including some from our research participants.

    The programme has been accompanied by a package of free and publically accessible learning materials on smart cities from the Open University's OpenLearn. These materials explore some of the themes developed in the programme in more detail, with videos and text from each of the participants.

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    Special recording of Thinking Allowed with members of the SCiM team

    On Thursday 14 June, Gillian Rose, Sophie Watson and Oliver Zanetti were pleased to be panellists on Radio 4's Thinking Allowed to talk about smart cities and the research conducted as part of SCiM.

    The programme, presented by Laurie Taylor, was recorded in front of a live audience in the Open University’s Berrill Lecture Theatre. We were pleased to welcome research participants, Open University students and academics, and members of the public from Milton Keynes and beyond to what was a very lively event. Following the recording, audience members were invited to ask questions which generated an engaging conversation about the future of smart cities and beyond.

    The programme will be broadcast on Radio 4 on Wednesday 25 July. There will also be a series of OpenLearn resources created in conjunction with the programme. Links to all these will be added to the SCiM website as they become available.


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    Paper delivered at the British Sociological Association

    SCIM MK Research Associate Oliver Zanetti spoke at the British Sociological Association's annual conference last week. In a session organised by the Cities and Mobilities strand of the conference, Oliver spoke on the complex ways in which smart is, and isn't, coming into being in Milton Keynes. The fieldwork undertaken indicates a gap between the work being put into smart city initiatives by local government and the city's businesses, and the extent to which smart is recognised and engaged with by the city's citizens. Why is this the case, he asked in the presentation, and what kinds of consequences might this have for citizens?

    The presentation sketched out some early thoughts that Sophie Watson and Oliver are developing in this area. In the coming months, the two will be engaging with the fieldwork data in further detail with a view to developing an academic journal article on this topic.

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