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    ESRC Festival of Social Science at the centre:MK

    The weekend of 4-5 November, SCiM-MK was pleased to participate in the ESRC Festival of Social Science. Recognising the limited public recognition and debate about smart cities, we took some exciting smart technologies to Central Milton Keynes's thecentre:MK. Members of the public were invited to experiment with those smart technologies and to talk with us about their experiences.

    We had two pieces of tech on display. Most excitingly, we were able to showcase how novel augmented reality technology might change the way we interact with the city using a hololens headset. Our project partners, Virtual Viewing, had developed an interactive experience booth within which hololens wearers were able to bring up video and data about our virtual Milton Keynes cityscape. We were also able to demonstrate other modes of urban data visualisation using an iPad.

    We used this as a prompt for conversations. Perhaps most illuminatingly, the terminology of 'smart city' is relatively unknown amongst the public. That said, many people could think of ways smart technology were changing the ways they lived in cities. Broadly, the Milton Keynes residents we spoke to were optimistic about the future of their city as it got smarter, and excited about the possibilities that new technology could offer. But that didn't mean that smart got an unconditional green light. People are worried about how smart might exclude certain groups. They are also anxious about what might happen to their personal data.

    The event generated some fascinating conversations amongst members of the community and food for thought as we move toward the second half of SCiM-MK.

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    SCiM-MK's research discussed in 'Property Week' article

    Milton Keynes' smart city developments, and SCiM-MK, took centre stage in a recent article in the trade journal Property Week. Dr Miguel Valdez, a SCiM-MK Research Associate who previously worked for the MKSmart project, was interviewed for the piece. For Miguel, the scalability of smart projects is linked to what they might achieve commercially. "If you try to solve the problem for your city, it is not going to get people truly excited," he told Property Week. "If you're offering a solution that you can prove will scale up to other cities so it will have commercial applications elsewhere, that’s a way to get investors excited."

    The article is available online without a paywall.

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    Oliver Zanetti presents a paper at the Whose Right to the Smart City network meeting in Plymouth

    SCiM MK Research Associate Oliver Zanetti was pleased to speak at the Whose Right to the Smart City conference in Plymouth recently. The conference was organised by an AHRC funded network of the same name which draws together academic and non-academic stakeholders to examine the role of civic inclusiveness in cities as they get smarter.

    Oliver's paper discussed emerging researching findings from SCiM MK's smart citizens work package. It explored ways to think about the practices of urban citizenship demonstrated by community organisers from the blind and partially sighted community calling for the use of smart technologies to help them navigate public spaces.

    It argued that the modes of participation and citizenship claims demonstrated here disrupt some of the conventional ways of thinking about smart citizens and proposed some new, less smart, ways of thinking about this.

    The conference included a number of other fascinating papers from other similar research projects and from partners in industry and the voluntary sector, generating engaging and often passionate debate - a flavour of which can be found on their twitter feed. The Whose Right to the Smart City network runs until early-2018, and SCiM MK is looking forward to further productive engagements with it in the months to come.

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    Gillian Rose's talk to the Milton Keynes Arts and Heritage Alliance

    On Wednesday 5 September, Gillian Rose gave a talk at a meeting of the Milton Keynes Arts and Heritage Alliance (AHA). The AHA is a forum of organisations that work together to position the arts and heritage sectors as strategic contributors to the community and economy of Milton Keynes.

    In her talk, Gillian explained how she understands culture as being an everyday way that people make sense of their lives and identities. In this way, culture is something which brings meaning and values to places, and as a result, culture is central to all to urban experiences. She then discussed the idea of a smart city, describing some of the many smart city initiatives underway in MK and emphasising their focus on data and technology. The question she then posed was - how to bring these two things together? How to integrate senses of place and identity with the smart city and its focus on big digital data? Gillian proposed some ways in which the two things overlapped. One was the way in which our understandings of the smart city are influenced at least in part by adverts for smart cities, and films, sci-fi and computer games set in future cities. She also discussed how art projects that facilitate participants to create digital objects (like MK's Digitalis project) can enable other kinds of future visions.

    If you're interested in the intersection of culture (digital or not) with smart cities, get in touch!

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    SCiM-MK resources for OU Geography Matters page

    The SCiM-MK team have produced a series of materials for Geography Matters, the Open University's Geography and Environmental Studies introductory collection. The materials produced by SCiM-MK bring together the history and culture of Milton Keynes and it's development into a smart city. They include short essays, interviews, and a short documentary style film.

    In the first installment, Edward Wigley examines a question central to MK's enthusiasm for all things smart city, exploring how it is the MK is not in fact, officially, a 'city' and the difference this makes to the way people thing about the place. In the second film, Miguel Valdez interviews Emeritus Proffessor Stephen Potter, unpicking the history of Milton Keynes and the role that novel, experimental modes of transport have had here since the first plans were devised. In the third film, Oliver Zanetti draws together MK's past and future to consider the ways MK is becoming a smart city. The collection ends with a contribution from Gillian Rose, whose audio slide show sets out the SCiM-MK project in some detail.

    The resources form part of Geography Matters' exciting and growing body of introductory resources aimed at new and continuing students in Geography, and indeed at anyone interested in learning about current debates in the field presented in an accessible way.

Listen out for @SCiM_MK academics talk about #smartcities on @BBCRadio4’s Thinking Allowed, live at 4pm or on iPlay… https://t.co/8i9bb7mYRs
by SCiM_MK

Research from @SCiM_MK was discussed on the @BBCRadio4 programme #ThinkingAllowed. Panelists were @ProfGillian, Sop… https://t.co/zGS5trld6N
by SCiM_MK

If you're in #MiltonKeynes this Thursday, come to the recording of @BBCRadio4's #ThinkingAllowed. @ProfGillian, Sop… https://t.co/rbERMGxUAo
by SCiM_MK