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.


Darwin’s Animoji: Histories of Animation and Racism in Facial Recognition – Luke Stark, Microsoft Research

Thursday 10 October, 3.00pm – 4.30pm

New Law School Annexe SR 440, University of Sydney

RSVP via Eventbrite

Facial recognition systems are increasingly common components of smartphones and other consumer digital devices. These technologies enable animated video-sharing applications, such as Apple’s animoji and memoji, Facebook Messenger’s masks and filters and Samsung’s AR Emoji. Such animations serve as technical phenomena translating moments of affective and emotional expression into mediated, trackable, and socially legible forms across a variety of social media platforms.

Through technical and historical analysis of these digital artifacts, the talk will explore the ways facial recognition systems classify and categorize racial identities in human faces in relation to emotional expression. Drawing on the longer history of discredited pseudosciences such as phrenology, the paper considers the dangers of both racializing logics as part of these systems of classification, and of how social media data regarding emotional expression gathered through these systems can be used to reinforce systems of oppression and discrimination.

Luke Stark is a Postdoctoral Researcher in the Fairness, Accountability, Transparency and Ethics (FATE) Group at Microsoft Research Montreal. His scholarship examines the history and contemporary societal impacts of AI and other digital media facilitating for social and emotional interaction. His work has been published in venues including Social Studies of Science, Media Culture and Society, History of the Human Sciences, and The International Journal of Communication. He has previously been a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Sociology at Dartmouth College, a Fellow and Affiliate of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, and an inaugural Fellow with the University of California Berkeley’s Center for Technology, Society, and Policy. He holds a PhD from the Department of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University, and an Honours BA and MA in History from the University of Toronto.