Smart Publics: Imaginaries and Discoveries of Smart Street Furniture

Thursday October 22, 3pm – 4.30pm

Online via Zoom, RSVP via Eventbrite to receive Meeting ID and password

Smart street furniture — wi-fi enabled devices, with built-in digital screens, charging ports and sensors — produce new socio-technical encounters and foster new imaginaries, actualising visions of the long awaited ‘smart city’. These objects offer new services to the public, but also impose new forms of screen advertising and data collection. How do these unfamiliar hybrid media fit into existing cityscapes? How do people notice them and start to engage with them? How do the goals of designers and governments meet with lived reality?

At this event we will launch the research report and share key findings from the Smart Publics project, an international collaboration between the University of Sydney and the University of Glasgow that investigated the design, use and governance of InLinkUK kiosks in Glasgow and Strawberry Energy benches in London. The project was funded through the USyd/Glasgow Partnership Collaborations Awards (2019).

The presentation will focus on public expectations and imaginaries around smart street furniture and how users interact with these objects that reconfigure prior urban forms and affordances such as phone booths and regular benches. The findings reveal the disconnects, tensions and materialisations of the smart city in its actual use and the need to adopt more inclusive imaginations of the public and varied uses of street furniture. The audience is invited to ask questions and to discuss the themes raised.

Justine Humphry is a Lecturer in Digital Cultures in the Department of Media and Communications at the University of Sydney. She researches the cultures and politics of digital media and emerging technologies with a focus on the social consequences of mobile, smart and data-driven technologies.

Chris Chesher is a Senior Lecturer in Digital Cultures in the Department of Media and Communications at the University of Sydney. His recent research is on the medium specificity of digital media, embodied cultures of social robotics, and the social construction of smart city and smart home.

Sophia Maalsen is an ARC DECRA fellow in Architecture, Design and Planning at the University of Sydney researching practices of ‘Hacking Housing’. Her research is predominantly situated at the intersection of the digital and material. She is interested with the way digital technologies mediate and reconfigure housing, the urban and the everyday.