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Manifesto for the Inclusive Digital City — with design examples

Digital Urban Living is an interdisciplinary research project based at the Oslo School of Architecture and Design (AHO). The project brings together interaction design, urbanism and architecture, and addresses how digital technologies can enable new ways of designing urban services that positively affect issues of sustainability, urban life and governance. This Autumn, the Digital Urban Living research group has had the privilege to work with six master students of interaction- and service-design at AHO — Helene, Frida, Aleksandra, Andreea, Alice and Julie. Their brief was to openly explore, through design, the possibilities and the threats of digital cities within the Nordic model. They have developed a ‘Manifesto for the Inclusive Digital City — with design examples’ that was launched on Friday the 14th of December. This post is a reworked version of my afterword for this manifesto.

Over the last 10 years, we have witnessed an increasing, if yet under-defined, digitalisation of cities and urban societies. The technology-optimistic notion of the ‘Smart City’ as the solution for sustainable urban development has become a global paradigm. This proposed ‘smart’ urban future comes out of a technology-deterministic thinking that brings with it a mindset that sees the city as a problem that can be quantified, controllable and optimised. The ‘smart city’ mindset is promoted by global industries that are geared towards delivering logistics and control-systems, or discrete digital urban services that cater to individual, and often privileged, desires and needs. Global and digitally based urban actors (such as Airbnb, Uber or Google) have great impact on urban life and local environments but are often outside urban regulations and local policies. They deliver self-contained services that are designed for specific users and use cases, but also have big implications for urban development, societal planning and possibilities for digital urban design.


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