Eric Gordon, “Towards a Meaningfully Inefficient Smart City”
To have him with us for the year and have him with us for the evening and so with that i'll. Turn it over to you eric. Thank you scott um, it's really great to be here, um, my name's eric gordon as, scott just said, and. I've been. Yeah i've been i'm here for this year, at mit. And. Um. And really enjoying my time so far so getting it speak in this forum is really. Just a just an honor. So. Let me share my screen, and hopefully this will go well hold on one. Second. No. Do you see a you see a. Towards a meaningfully inefficient smart city slide so you see, yep okay good. And let me try. This. All right. Wonderful, so um. Yeah so my talk tonight, is uh is entitled towards a meaningfully, inefficient, smart city i will explain, all those words. Uh in. In a bit. Uh so please be patient with me as i do that um. As scott mentioned, uh i direct, the engagement, lab, uh, at uh. At emerson, and and we have focus in the intersection, of. Of uh of play and civic life for for some time, and, um and the work that i'm going to talk about tonight, is both. Emerging. Out of uh out of the work that i've been doing for, for nearly a decade now, um but but also, um, firmly tied to a recent book um that i i published, in in march which i'll talk a little bit about. So let me start by. Telling you what you already know that on may 25th. George floyd was murdered by minneapolis, police, officers. The next day, a video of the crime was circulated, on social media, and the city erupted, in protests, soon after. And within a week. Throngs of people demanding racial justice, took to city streets, all over the country. And the world. Soon after a majority, of minneapolis, city councillors, pledged, to defund, the city's police department. And they said we are here today this is their pledge we are here today to begin the process of ending, the minneapolis. Police department, and creating a new transformative. Model for cultivating. Safety. In minneapolis. And since this time it has. Largely fallen apart. There's. Such a sense of urgency, around trying to start some sort of community engagement, process, that is staff led and better embedded in the, city enterprise. Says uh counselor, bender. Um so that it isn't just the policy makers, having these separate conversations. And our awards, that aren't recorded, or captured, anywhere. So that we can help to build confidence, in our community, that we are moving, forward. In a way that reflects, the complexity. Of the multiple, layers, of, crisis. One resident, of north minneapolis, a predominantly, black and brown neighborhood, had this to say about the effort. They didn't engage, black and brown people, referring to the city council members and something about that does not sit right with me something about saying to the community, we need to make change together. But instead. You leave this community, and me, unsafe. So the decision was given over to minneapolis, charter. To a minneapolis, charter commission a mostly white appointed commission, that decides, matters of changes, in the city's, charter.
And Then last week just last week, the commission has put the ballot initiative, on pause. And the city's relationship with the police department, is about, where it was, in. May. So this story is a complex, morality, tale. It's a story about the success, of the movement for black lives. The mainstreaming, of racial justice as a legitimate, and essential, concern, for elected officials. It's also a story about the failure, of procedures. Of governance. To fill, to facilitate. Changes in policy. The failure, of institutions. To adapt, to sentiment. My talk today. Is about institutioning. The process, by which interventions. Big social movements or small programmatic, designs, transform, the institutions, that enable them. And while especially. In the media disciplines, we tend to focus on large social movements, and specific, media interventions. The process, of institutioning. Is often where lasting transformation. Is, located. So hoibrecht, said all argue that the engagement, with procedures. Of institutions. Is necessary. To re-politicize. Participatory. And co-design, practices. The missing link for progress, is the transition, from movement, politics. Or specific, interventions. To sustainable. Institutional. Transformation. The example of minneapolis. Is not unique. Over the last several months u.s cities have challenged, their ability, to govern, with their stated values. And because of widespread, social movements these values, are often newly discovered, by policymakers. They are they feel newly discovered by policymakers. It's, one thing for elected officials to call foul, and make a decree. It is quite another, to generate, and enable the trust, and social capacity. Necessary, for systemic, change. So this is the focus of my research. And i'm lucky enough to have it also be the focus of my teaching this semester. The co-design, studio i'm teaching is focused on designing the mechanisms, for communities, to effectively, co-create, with city government and boston. Uh we have counselors, andrea, campbell, and and julia mejia, are partners, in the course, and both have expressed. Similar, sentiments. The city council in boston. Is more represented. But representative. Of the city population, than it ever has been. It's majority, women, and nearly half people of color. But the mechanics, of governance. Have largely, stayed the same. So our studio class has 11 community, partners. And it brings together students with city staff and community, leaders to co-design, mechanisms, of collaborative. Governance. In boston. So why am i speaking about this in a media department, and not a policy, department.
Because Local governments. Governance. Is mediated. By digital, and analog, communication. From voting, to town hall meetings to information, dissemination. And advocacy. And because media studies scholars especially folks like me with a background in the humanities, have a great deal to say about the interface, between expression. Technology. And power. And the processes. By which it is integrated. Into, into institutional. Logics. At a time when trust in government, is at an all-time, low, where nationalist, and populist, leaders are trafficking, and misinformation. Campaigns. And diminishing, trust in institutions. Is a feature. Not a bug. It is difficult, to have much faith in government. I acknowledge. And share that concern. But i also understand the necessity, of public institutions. To provide, access to goods and services. To represent, the various publics they govern. We might say this breaks down at scale. And in the contemporary. Environment, of the united states it is difficult to be an institutionalist. On any scale. But when we examine, progressive politics, in the u.s and beyond. Where struggles of democratic, representation. Are inching, towards legitimacy. That is happening. On the local level. Cities are where. Nearly 60 percent of the world's population. Lives. And they are. And have always, been, sites of contestation. And evolution. In ways of living, and governing. They are sites of social protest. They push boundaries, of difference, and tolerance. And they are sites of technological. Transformation. That have perpetually. Altered. How humans live together. As georg simel said in the opening lines of his 1901. Essay the metropolis. And mental life. The deepest, problems. Of modern life. Derived, from the claim of the individual. To preserve, the autonomy. And individuality. Of his existence. In the face of overwhelming, social forces. Of historical, heritage, of external, culture. And of the technique. Of life. The city is the locus, of phenomenological. And corresponding. Institutional. Transformation. Simul argues that the metropolis. Is where individuality. Through capitalist, pursuit, is placed in tension with the management, of external, stimuli. And the throngs, of social difference. I just realized i used the word throngs, twice, in this talk that's that's special. He explains, a coping mechanism, that he calls the blase, attitude, which enables, the city dweller to adapt, to an unprecedented. Inundation. Of stimuli. The city is a site of constant, transformation. Individuals, and groups develop filters, through which to cope. And institutions. Need to evolve, such that they are capable, of governing. Within the conditions, of rapid change. While simul doesn't use this phrase. This, reality. Implies, a certain intelligence. Defined, by situational. Adaptability. It implies. A smart, city. Smart cities. It's a designation, that has become a marketing, catchphrase, that positions, competing, municipalities. In the global marketplace, of innovation. And creative economies. The label tends to invoke images of responsive, technologies. And efficient, infrastructure. There are global, smart cities competitions. And mayors around the world are desperate, to put this label on their place. I don't want to engage in the debate, about the relative, value, of the smart city label. The critical arguments, in the space are well rehearsed. I do however. Want to expand, how we think about the emotional, intelligence, of cities. Mostly as a site of experimentation. Of collective, pursuit. Of new ways of living and governing. The city is an important, unit of analysis, because it marks the ability for institutions. To make connections. Act in good faith. Build trust. Be held accountable. And cultivate, responsibility. For something, resembling. A public good. Smart cities, tend to focus on systems.
Prioritizing. Certain values, of efficiency. And ease. But if we go back to the example of minneapolis. The promise of efficiency, and ease. Placed in conflict, with the messiness, and complexity. Of the demands, of emerging, publics. Led to institutional. Inaction. Which leads me to the overarching, question of this talk. What are the alternative, logics of intelligence. That might better, explain. And compel. Democratic. Urban, transformation. So the shuttering. Of, uh the shuttering, in may, of google's sidewalk, labs initiative, in toronto, is instructive. The single provider, model of a smart city where google, transformed. An industrial. Area of toronto's, waterfront, into a completely, digitized. Responsive, and smart environment. Was an impressive, vision of future urbanism. Its highly efficient, infrastructure. Near complete, social connectivity. Usable, interfaces, for information, access was a compelling, representation. Of a smart city. Sidewalk, labs even held design workshops, to involve members of the surrounding, community to help shape outcomes. But as shannon maderon suggests, these workshops, were largely performative. And the well-funded, operation, overlooked, the relational, work necessary, to distribute, a sense of ownership, and the process, and build trust, with those who had every reason to believe that their participation. Would not translate. Into having any real impact. Without an opportunity, to be heard and have impact on the outcomes, it is not surprising, that within the social. Restructuring. Prompted by the pandemic. This model of a future, smart city, would prove not to be desirable. The logics, driving the vision of the future city were focused on optimizing, for efficiency. Around understanding, human behavior. And were largely, absent, of values, that would lead to a city built on trusting, relationships. And systems, of caring, for people's. Needs. In march, my book meaningful inefficiencies. Civic design, and an age of digital expediency. Was released. This book. Profiles, civic designers. Or people within public sector and other public serving organizations. Who are typically working, against, dominant. Organizational. Cultures. To craft human systems, guided by relationships, and care. Gabe mugar, and i tell stories, of people from small news organizations, seeking to transform, the interface, between audience, and newsroom. And people from municipal, governments who are desperately. De-prioritizing. A focus on streamlining. Service delivery. By designing, inefficiencies. Into systems. As a means of shifting, focus. To the time, and labor-intensive. Work. Of building relational. Trust, with historically. Marginalized. Communities. In february, i understood these practices, as fringe, as subtle acts of resistance, inside of public organizations. But today. The active pursuit of a values-based. Transformation. Has been mainstreamed. The pursuit, is in no way straightforward. As we see in minneapolis. And toronto. It is expensive. It often runs counter to common sense practices, of incorporating, technological. Efficiencies. Into antiquated, organizational. Practices. And as a result, beyond initial platitudes. It is politically. Difficult, to execute. Unlike past waves of public sector innovation, it cannot be addressed, by a small batch of design thinking workshops. Or by, developing, a new app. Cultural, sensitivity, training is not enough, and quotas for increasing diversity, fall short of addressing. Structural, processes. That perpetuate. Inequality. What is necessary. Is not just, changing the appearance, of governance. As we are reminded, of in boston. It is necessary. To change, the logics. That guide. It. And so i point to meaningful, inefficiencies.
Systems. Deliberately. Designed, with, slack, in order to hold space for a diversity, of stakeholders. Viewpoints. And emerging, forms of governance. I compare this logic to that of a well-designed. Game, a system with clear goals. Consistent, feedback. And. Room to play. Opportunities, for people to fail safely. Experiment, with solutions. And build relations, within a constrained. Environment. Meaningfully. Inefficient, programs, and processes, not only make engaging, experiences. But when inside, these systems. One can build the trust and relationships, necessary, for communities, and organizations. To thrive. And care, for the issues that matter to them. This is not an argument, for more public meetings, the goal is not simply more dialogue. That is part of the goal, but it needs to be situated within a capture device. That is capable, of allowing, reflection, learning and growth. We need to be thinking about the systems, of cities that enable them to become, smart. To learn, to grow. To generate, to generate wisdom. So consider, the talmud. Over 6, 000 pages of rabbinical, interpretation, of the torah. Which has served as the guiding legal document for rabbinic, judaism. The ancient document, captures interpretation. Born of a cortex. Filled with ellipses. Such that meaning can be made of the system's, logic. In the center. Is the core text. On the right, is rashi's, interpretation. And on the left is yet another interpretation. And then surrounded, again. By commentary. On the interpretations. This spiral, of knowledge, capture is a structural, solution, to containing. And learning, from inefficiencies. So what does this look like on a city level. How can cities, learn. They certainly can't be smart, unless they are able to learn. And currently the institutions. Mediating, public life are not set up to be smart. They contain the mechanics, of public life which might include voting, protesting, tweeting. But they lack, the ability, to contain, the interpretation. Of these mechanics. The listening, the evolution, of novel ideas, into agreed upon practices. So i have introduced, a logic of meaningful, inefficiencies. To use a different more familiar, term. Um that is descriptive, of institutions, that enable meaningful, pl, we can talk about meaningful, play. Um and importantly. We're able to learn from and evolve, from that affective. Collective. Experience. So the philosopher, bernard, suits, explains, that, to play a game. Is to achieve a specific, state of affairs. Using, only means, permitted, by rules. Where the rules, prohibit. The use, of more efficient. In favor of less efficient, means. And where rules, are accepted. Just because they make possible. Such activity. Playing a game. Is the voluntary. Attempt. To overcome. Unnecessary. Obstacles. So games are, by definition, then, inefficient. It is in fact the inefficiency. Of these systems, that cultivate, and support, the experience. Of play. So suit's, famous example, is uh, is the game of golf where he. He. He talks about the most efficient way of getting the getting the little ball into the little hole is to pick up the little ball walk over to the little hole and drop it in, but instead. All these ops these unnecessary, obstacles, are placed in the way that are that are inefficiencies. That enable, that play to happen and we. Um by by agreeing to play the game of golf you are voluntarily. Entering, in, um, to a system, so that you can play so that it enables, play. And so. What what the conclusion, here is that the play is the affective. Quality. Of modern urban life. That is necessary. For shared understanding. And collective, care. Reshaping, the mechanisms. In which cities are governed. To recognize. And develop. Collective, play. Is the goal of my research. And design. So now i want to talk about two current studies. That are exploring. Emerging, forms of governance. In cities. The first is an experimental. Design project in the city of boston, which is in collaboration, with the mayor's office at new urban mechanics. That explored, a collaborative. Process for making decisions, about new technologies. In the public realm. And the second is an evaluation. Of an effort including, apoca, romania. Wherein a loose structure of multi-sector. Collaboration. Is being formed. To advance. City-wide, efforts, to enhance the well-being, of youth. So i'm going to talk about both of these projects. Back to back. So the first one. Is beta blocks. So beta blocks is a project that. Was uh.
Came Together in 2018. 2019. It was funded by the knight foundation. And as i mentioned it was in partnership, with the mayor's office of new urban mechanics, and the architecture, firm supernormal. And what we set out to do here. Was. To um, to address. The the core problem. Which was the way in which technologies. Find their way into the public realm. So normally. Technologies. Cameras, sensors. Are installed, in neighborhoods, without, any kind of public consultation. Around. Around that technology. So there's the there's the public sector, the government decision makers there are the technology, companies that tend to make deals with with one another. And the community for the most part, uh is left out of that decision making as to what technologies. Are in their space and here i'm talking about public realm technologies, sidewalks, publicly held. Publicly, held spaces. So, beta blocks. Essentially, was was designed, to invite some friction. In this process. And it was a process, to bring, residents, and organizers. Into the conversation. Between government. And, the technology, companies. Now i'm going to explain. How we attempted to do that. There were five, primary, components. To this, to this intervention. Uh an exploration. Zone which was the site for experimentation. An advisory, group that that had oversight. Of that zone. A public exhibit. That was, uh designed to encourage, dialogue. A specific youth curriculum, that was designed to, to, bring youth into the process, specifically. And then ultimately, recommendations. Which was the collaborative, governance. Um. Function, of this, of this prototype, intervention. So let me go into more detail. So in the city of boston, we uh we identified. Three, um. Three, neighborhoods. Where, we, uh where we set up exploration. Zones. There's lower alston. Chinatown. And, codman. Square. These uh these areas were chosen. Um based on a number of factors we looked at we looked at, need we looked at the data to determine, where there was need. But we also there were also political, factors, which was the government. In the case of this particular, project the government. Uh helping us to decide, where the. Um. Where where friction, may be, more or less uh present. Um, and where we might have more traction within communities, so it was a sort of a it was, a complex, process of selection i can talk more about that later if people are interested. So the exploration. Zones, were. There are essentially, four square blocks. That were, uh identified, in the city, wherein. Um. Uh wherein. Um. Permitting, would, be relaxed. So that technologies. Could be temporarily. Installed. Within that within that area for the purpose of public scrutiny. Um, and as i said, the um, the each of these zones, was was governed, by an advisory, group that, that we set up um over the course of the project. So, um. Now the advisory, groups, were, um. Were. They were created in a number of different uh a number of different ways in the different communities, they, were designed to include community leaders, volunteers. And youth they met monthly, while the zone was in place. The goal was to match local priorities. With, with tech. And to identify, locations. Of the tech to be installed, and provide feedback, for those installations.
And Then data policies, and, and then also feedback, into business plans. So the part that i didn't mention, is, is that, the other. Uh actor, or set of actors here the tech companies. And the tech companies, had their tech that they would, essentially, lend to the project that could be temporarily. Installed, so they were other stakeholders. In this process. And the community, feedback, was also part of the, was, the the, business plan was open to feedback which is an important feature, of this program. So one of the companies that we worked with was a company called sufa. Which is a startup out of boston, that actually originated. Out of mit. And it's. Essentially a solar powered. Digital billboard. That. The, great feature, of sufa, signs, is that they don't need. They don't need an electrical, outlet so they can be placed. In, you know you have more variety, of where you can place them. Um. And, they so they could just be plopped down and then they feature, uh they feature sort of local advertising. They feature municipal, data there's, it's very flexible as to what it is that that can be featured so sufa. Partnered with us and lent us a, number of their. Um of their signs, and then these were located, by the communities, by the advisory, groups. Another company that we partnered with couldn't be more opposite, it was microsoft. And, um, in in this case we we worked with microsoft, and their they had developed a new air quality sensor. That we located. Um, in, in. That was located in each of the each of the different zones. One of the things i want to point out here is that. As you see here there's a sign. Um that is, next to the air quality sensor that was, that was uh on the light post that the air quality sensor was hanging on. That says this is an air quality sensor this is the one in chinatown, as you can tell. This is an air quality sensor, this device is temporarily. Installed here to help understand, its value for your neighborhood, and then it includes a phone number. Um and a website. Um to get feedback, and this was in addition of course to the um to the official. Zag. Or zone advisory, group. So, um, one of the tasks of the of the advisory, group was to locate, the technologies. So we had the.
We Had. The groups would meet and then determine, the location, of the sensors, the location, of the signs, and and we had other technologies, as well as part of this pilot. Um and so and and these were robust, conversations. Often because they involved like, it was a sourcing, of problems why would we need an air quality sensor here we think we might have. An issue here then we should locate. We should locate the air quality sensor, in this neighborhood or in this corner. Um why would we need a digital sign here, let's locate it where there is particular, pedestrian, traffic that would. That would actually make use of a sign so these are the kinds of conversations, that were happening in the zone advisory, groups. So okay i'm going to leave that. I'm going to sort of bracket that so we had the exploration, zones we had the zone advisory, groups, and then we also had a traveling, exhibit. And this was designed, to, encourage, public conversation. About. About the issues of technology, in the public realm. One of the features of the traveling exhibit was this, 9 by 18. Um. Inflatable. Structure, that we, we call the beta blob. Um, that uh that would we could locate throughout the city and it became a site of, of exploration. Um of, these technologies. So, uh in the, wherever the beta blob was located. Uh you would first be greeted by, by this rendition. Of a of a future, and past city. Um and and we would ask questions. Such as, um how do you envision. Technology, in your city or how do you use technology, in your city and we would sort of open it up immediately, to some sort of, some sort of dialogue. The the, as you see here we would put the the blob, in public spaces, so here it is in the in the rose kennedy greenway in chinatown, park. Um. We sometimes would call this a hug object because people would come up to it and hug it. Uh and, and it. Attracted, people in that way it had a it had a very, inviting. Presence. As it as it turns out, and it became a place to, kind of open up the conversation, about about technology. Uh one of the most popular, features, of this exhibit was this board game, um, that uh that you see being played here. Uh that that always sort of do crowds as we had, as we had the blob, um, up around the city, now again, the idea here is we're trying to create the sort of interface, of like how we can create.
Um, These kinds of conversations. On a public, on a public scale. That would actually. Lend itself to changing, the way that um, that technologies. Are procured, within, uh within the public realm. Here's another example in condiment, square. Um where the the blob became a site of picnicking. Uh as well as playing the game so it was it it, sort of turned it. Kind of picked up multiple functions, as it moved about the city. Uh the interesting thing about the blob is that it was, um it was, quite difficult, to, um. To locate, outside. Uh as you see. Because uh it could be blown away, so, we had to we had, we had to tether it down here to. Uh to i think with 6 000 pounds of bricks. Um that it had to be tied down to that had to be sort of moved every time the the blob would move so it was a it was a, remarkable, amount of effort, um to move this playful, object around the city. Uh and then it culminated, in a um, in a. Installation. In city hall, where we. Where we had the blob and we. And this was really for policymakers. To see the kind of input that was happening around the city. Uh not only the results of all the the zone advisory, groups but also. Um, uh but also the the the results of the game and the game was there for people to play as well in city hall it was it was a, place there for over a week. I'll just say a little bit about the youth curriculum, that, also operated, on the side. This was a four-part, workshop, series. For youth 14 to 20.. It focused on data storytelling, and visualization. And then the youth at the end of this created an infographic. Driven story. Um, using quantitative, data to sort of tell, um, you know tell these qualitative, stories, of how, of how people are using. Um. Data and technology. In their place. Um, at the end of the of the zone advisory, groups, there were recommendations. That emerged, and this is an example recommendations. That that came from the, specifically, about the sufa sign in chinatown. Profit sharing with or financial contribution, to the community oh sorry what conditions, need to be met for super signs to be valuable, for chinatown. Profit sharing with or financial contribution, in the community, display relevant information, to residents, community events job opportunities. Info about local businesses. Clear and bilingual, labels, and then operate at no financial, cost, um to the community. So this is just one example, of, of a community, response, to a particular, tech now i, just want to remind you. Tech was placed temporarily. Because permitted, permitting was only temporary. It was there for 60 days and then it was removed. Um and so after that 60 days there was this opportunity, to provide this input. After. After this um lengthy. Process. Other things that i won't go into, is a, data policy, that was also drafted, by the. By the zone advisory, groups. That. Looked something like this where principles, that were, collaboratively. Authored. By the by the group and then these, these. Were to happen in each of the zones. And so this, over time, could lead to a data policy that was emergent. Um. You know from the from the different neighborhoods, of the city. Okay. So here are the outcomes. Um some of the outcomes, um it was you know, years in the making we developed a valuable, model. Um that is currently, being explored, by by other municipalities. However. The prototype, was never able to integrate into governance structures. Um, and. Because, partly because our primary, uh partnership, was with with the mayor's, office. And we weren't able to fully, integrate, into, other, other units, uh within this city, so what was interesting about this project, is that we focused, on the infrastructure. We focus on the logics, of the way that governance, happens when it comes to making decisions, about technology. And future of cities. Um, the result, was mixed, the result, was. Um. We had the we, created, an interface, but the but the um kind of connective, tissue. Wasn't there, in this in this prototype, or not yet i should say and it's one of the interesting things about doing work like this. Is that even though we are our design goal was focused on um was focused on, governance. They may not have been the those weren't the immediate impacts, um of this project, again i can talk more about this. About this later. Let me move on to another project. Um, and i just want to just i won't i don't have as much to say about this this is a new project, a project, called our cluj. Um and i'm gonna see. If. Actually i don't think my audio is. Connected. Can you hear that. No okay, all right i won't mess with it, um, so. The uh, our cluj is an initiative that was. Started by a foundation. Um, called the foundation, botner. It's actually a swiss foundation. And.
They Made a commitment. To, um. To the city of cluj-napoca. For a, 10, 10 year commitment, to it to um to cluj. Uh, and which is a sort of an unusual, thing. Um so. The the capital, city so collusion. Is the capital city of the transylvania. Region. Which is. The city has a population. Of about 700, 000, people, it's about the size of boston. Has a large concentration, of universities. And a vibrant youth sector. And so for the last six months. In collaboration, with the romanian-based. Research, team and also with uh with the foundation, that i mentioned, i've been exploring the structures, of multi-sector. Collaborative, governance. On the city scale. And trying to understand. Where alternative, logics, are being experimented. With, and, deployed. So. So far we've interviewed over 40 people in government. Academia, civil society and the private sector, twice, and i'll explain a bit that. More about that in a second. What we're beginning to see in cluj. Is a tension, between, local government's, concept, of itself. As reformer, of a post-communist. System, and civil society's, concept of itself, as connector. But each is paying significant, attention to the complexity, of aligning, relationships. And the slow process, of building trust between stakeholders. And the need for better mechanisms. With which to do this. So instead of focusing, on individual, tools for transaction. There is increasing, attention, include to emerging, models of collaboration. Which is represented, well by one particular, effort that i want to talk about which is the urban, innovation, unit, is a non-governmental. R d program, aimed at strengthening, collective, action and response, to the city's strategic, challenges. This unit sits inside, the cluj, cultural, center which is a consortium, of over 20 organizations. In the city. And now, the urban innovation, unit is working in parallel, with the center of innovation, in civic imagination. Which is a newly created unit that exists within the municipality. So what's fascinating, about this example, is that these two organizations. One in government. And one without. Are working as a mirror image of the other. They have. Duplicative. Staff which enables them to both operate in a nimble, extra governmental, structure. While at the same time working within government. With all the access, to direct service provision, that that enables. They are focused, on building out new mechanics.
Of Civic participation. Ones that would not have been possible, from within government, as people still tend to distrust, government, especially, on the national level. As such they had the foresight, to develop this unit outside of government with a plan to transfer, it fully to the municipality. In 2022. So what i'm seeing include. Is a self-perception. Of multi-sector. Work that is unique. And attention, to the mechanisms, of governance. In and out of government. With all the messiness, that entails. And a desire to learn from it, while it is, far too early to report on any substantive, findings from this research. The novel governance, structure is being built in this secondary. City are well worth paying attention, to. So. I want to say a bit about methods here so in order to understand. How people see themselves, within these collaborative, structures. And how they might understand the experience, of playing an institutional. Context. We're actually using, novel research methods to capture, additional, insights. So during each of the interviews, i have two to five artists, sitting in to creatively. Document, the process. Within two weeks of the interview we share the completed, artwork, with the interviewee. And then we have a follow-up, interview to get their reaction, and interpretation. Of the creative. Representation. So the use of art. In qualitative, research. Opens up spaces, of interpretive. Play. The first interview, it's the first interview. I ask people what they think, the second, interview i ask people what they think about, someone else's representation. Of them. Art, is filled with ellipses. And when incorporated. Into social scientific, methods. Which offers, a capture device, to learn from its generative, discourse. It can be tumblrtic, in design. This method creates, productive, spaces, for interpretation. And self-reflection. That would have otherwise, been impossible. People respond, to the way they are represented. The imagery, used, the emotional, suggestions. Of the artwork. They see themselves, at a distance. Creating a space of strangeness. That begs for interpretation. Some other. Art, that, emerged. From, these. Interviews. This is one of my favorites. Um. Represents, a. Man walking down a dark. A dark hallway, and then battling, a bureaucracy, monster. That, elicits. Quite remarkable. Conversation, and i will say actually. I'll just briefly, back up to. Um, to these images. Um, and these are these are of two different people. And what's interesting about these images, is that they. They create. All sorts of dialogue, in the person, that um that that this represented. So now they are able to see themselves. Uh they're able to see the way that they interact, with all the pieces of the puzzle that they've mentioned. And a lot of people, um. Felt again with the sort of, ambiguity. Of this of these particular, representations. Um. Became. It was, incredibly. Uh constructive. And generative. As they talked about their their sense of self within this emerging, ecosystem. So let me um. Let me come full circle to play. Now, and conclude. When i talk about my work. People sometimes, mischaracterize. My interests, as gamification. As i hope i have made clear in this talk i'm not interested. In gamifying, public life. Gamification. Which is the incorporation, of game elements into non-game, systems, typically has the effect of increasing. Efficiency. Motivating, one's path to predetermined. Goals. I am concerned with games only in so far as they are model systems to enable meaningful, play. And as such they become a useful metaphor, through which to understand, the transformation. Of cities. And urban governance. So let's return to the example with which i started this talk. When we think about the crisis, in minneapolis. The question is not how can we design a game about police violence, and systemic, racism. The question is how can our systems of urban governments, accommodate. The needs, and interests. Of multiple, publics, by enabling, them to explore. Discover. And augment, the systems, that contain, them. This is the key question, for smart, cities. And the only way we answer it is by looking at the logic's. Guiding, institutions. Not only the individual. Policies. Or programs. This is my smart city agenda. An agenda, i call the civic, smart city. At a moment when emerging, technologies, are transforming. Every aspect of everyday life, from how we live to where we live and how we live together. Research, and design interventions, need to be directed, at the logics, of the mediating. Institutions. Such that appropriate, forms of governance, can emerge. To meet the demands. Of the governed. Thank you very. Much. Thanks eric.
Um. So we want to, maybe if we. If you uh unsure, you're good. Um. Like to invite everyone, if you're a panelist, uh just raise your hand and. Take your question, or use the hand raising, feature. Under participant. If you're a guest, feel free to ask a question in the q a. Uh, on the q a. Piece. Um. I know it usually takes people a while to fire up so i want to start, i'm really intrigued, by the um. The work in romania. And i'm, wondering, um. Was there. Anything particularly, surprising. Either in what the artist produced, or in the ways that. The interviewees, engaged, with uh with that production. Are you are you speaking specifically, about the methods scott. Yeah. Yeah yeah. Um that's been really exciting, to. Do uh it's been um, it's been a learning, learning curve as as. We. Figure out. How best, um, how best to do it so let me. I'll tell you what was surprising. We have i think. 12 different artists. That are part of this group called art of history, it's an artist collective, in cluj. Um they're they're mostly students. And, um. And so what we do is when we when we have an interview we coordinate, the artists, and they, and you know we have two to five as i mentioned. Come in and sit in. Um. And uh and, what what's interesting is that all the artists have different styles, right of course, and so there's nothing particularly, scientific, about the approach, uh it's. All the artists have different styles, and, some of them are much more representational. Than others, and some of the artists, do kind of. You saw you saw a couple right you saw the sort of comic style. And then there was, uh, you know then the um. The other style that was much more somber. Um. And and then there's some were even more representational. Than that more like um. You know kind of infographics. And what i found. Um. Perhaps not surprisingly, because of everything based on everything i said today but what i found is that. The greater the ellipses. The greater the conversation. Right so, when you clearly say for people, here's an infographic, here's what you just said and and you do the thing that we do in social science which is member checking we say what do you think about the thing that we think you just said, and then you know they say like good you know that's good maybe i change that detail, that's. Mildly, interesting. But when you have, something with a bunch of ambiguity, in it tons of ellipses, in the in the representation, then all of a sudden people, fill those gaps. With their interpretation. And then what we get from that, um is this kind of remarkable, conversation. About, their sense of self like so many many of the people that we interviewed have talked about. Um. You saw in in in, some of those, uh some of those images of the sort of, um the men that were. You know kind of big, and looking over. The city. Um. People respond, to that and what's interesting, is that people were like i don't see myself that big in this ecosystem. Um i'm uncomfortable, with that i'm uncomfortable, being represented, that way. Why am i looking down, you know like there's all sorts of things about. About the the kind of ambiguity, in that and that. That again gets me to my questions, which is. How does this multi-sector. Uh collaboration. Actually take place. How do people actually, work together how do they see others, within their their collective, goals.
And How can how are they reimagining. Governance. Um and we and i can ask them that and that's, again, mildly interesting. But when we get it in this sideways, way, um. All of a sudden our our um our responses. Can be, far more interesting, so that's been really just, a delightful. Actually, in this project. Have you uh started to think about a framework. For sort of um. Evaluating, the responses. Um. Or is it too early for that. Yeah it's kind of too early for that because it's so um, it's so emergent, like, it's uh, even the method i mean again i'm familiar with with. You know photovoice, and other sorts of. Other sorts of methods that one uses to elicit. Um, you know representation. From people that you. Are, are talking to. Um. But. I this isn't this i'm not, i'm not pulling directly, from an existing method that i know of so if anybody knows of something that's that's that's aligned i'd love to hear about it. Um. And so i am just, i am it is a bit emergent, how, how we're going to understand that i mean i'm it's all interpretive, at the moment i mean we're coding everything, so we're going to be looking for. We're still looking for, um. You know. We're looking for aspects, of of. Again collaboration, self-perception. Um, and, and decision-making. Like those are the main sort of themes that we're looking for but they and they're getting at it in different ways and we're coding and for, coding for that. Cool. Thank you um so we do now have some people lined up with questions, i think, we'll take the questions from the, uh. Panelists, first in order, and then we'll take the questions from the q a so um. Uh. So, whoever raised their hand first should uh, feel free to just unmute and ask the question. Um. I see two of you there. I didn't see who was first. I can bounce first if we just need someone to go, uh hi i'm all sodder i'm a cms, alum. Oh and you're muted too, muted, hi, i did i think. Hi i'm maul sutter i'm a cms, alum, and currently an assistant professor at the university, of maryland, i've also done a lot of, writing and research on the sidewalk toronto, project. And i was, really. Interested, in sort of the idea of inefficiency. Specifically, deployed, in a political. And policy, context, because, the one of the major criticisms, of the sidewalk toronto project, was that, the procurement. Process, that the rfp, had gone through. To create, the opportunity, for that project. Was, you know according to many critics myself, included. Uh wildly, corrupt and compromised. And therefore. Deeply. Efficient. For sidewalk. Like it was very efficient for what they wanted to do and so i'm i'm interested in approaching, the concept, of inefficiency. From perhaps, more of a. Work to rule perspective. And simply a matter of actually, enforcing. Existing. Policies, and so i'm wondering if the projects, that you have going forward sort of, interface, with that at all either through like, responses. To corrupt. Crew corruptions, and existing, policies, or merely. Adding, more, more. Layers, to existing, policies, to create that inefficiency. Uh thanks for the question, um. It's uh. And and by the way you have a you have a chapter in in the in my civic media book so i do. The problem is the policy, right the problem. And so the the the challenge here and the where where inefficiencies. Matter is actually in, in shifting those policies, like the decision-making. Process, in the sidewalk, project was already determined. It shouldn't have been, you know we could have built structures, to change the way that those decisions were made now maybe, maybe it couldn't have been otherwise because of the nature of the project. But, but i guess what i'm what i'm and i'm. Curious about your face and i want you to say, say something back but um, but, what. Like, the issue is not so much. We have we have policies, the policies, are sort of efficient. You know it's there's an efficient path towards corruption, which is what you just said. Uh and and we're, and everyone gets in line for that right the challenge is not simply to disrupt, that the challenge is to actually change the way that those decisions get made in the first place, which is what we tried to do in the boston project.
In The boston project i mean yeah we had a lot of sort of like playful elements to it right but, at the end of the day. The goal of that project, was actually to change how procurement. Um, get. Decisions, about procurement, get made, it was about changing how. Value propositions, get oriented, and where smart happens. So all of those things were at the core of that project. Um and so, if we get to the point, where, the fastest. You know the. The most efficient path is corruption, then it's already broken. And so we have to sort of back up and create some, um inefficiencies. In that process to enable that kind of collective decision making to happen. So now explain, explain your face. I'll explain my face which i made on here, um. So the, the issues, that occurred, and this was eventually, brought up before. Uh the fb for an ethics committee a parliamentary, ethics committee. Um, was, it included, allegations, such as. The, waterfront, uh development, authority, had released. Details, of the cfp2. Sidewalk, in advance of releasing them to other, bidders. That the. Cfp, was actually crafted, for sidewalks, specifically. At the request, of the liberal federal government. Like, it goes all like it went all the way down um in addition to the fact that the. Waterfront, development authority which is waterfront toronto. Was a well-known. Corrupt. Development authority, in toronto to begin with, and had existed, as sort of a very compromised, entity for a long time. Um, and. One of so bianca wiley who is sort of the major, critic from this perspective. She's the one who knows the most about, procurement, policies, in toronto and ontario, specifically. Um but that her major argument was that it never adhered to the policies, that were brought forward and like we can have a you and i can have a long conversation, about sidewalk toronto because i know way too much about it at this point, um but so what's interesting, to me is the ways in which. The, inefficiencies. That might be implemented. Might best, look like. Sort of, traditionally. Anarchic, or traditionally, labor-oriented. Slowdown, activities. And that type of political, resistance. So you know one of the one of the um, distinctions, that we make in the book that i didn't mention, today in the talk is it is the, the difference between a mirror and efficiency, and a meaningful inefficiency. And that's really important right, and and a mirror, inefficiency, can be, can be bureaucratic, slow down it can be intentional, bureaucratic, slowdown like, all of those things. A meaningful inefficiency, is again one, one, design, that can cultivate. The, you know that can cultivate. Outcomes, that are that are desirable. And not and not simply, anxiety-inducing. So i think what you're what you're describing, again like i i guess i would come back to you and maybe this is a conversation, for another time but i would come back to you and say like. Um. Where are like what are the broken pieces, prior to the prior to the beginning as you mentioned corruption on the federal level or the national level you know corruption. Um, corruption, in the in the development, agency. All of those things existed. Um, and and also, a huge desire to partner with google right that's a that was a huge win uh for for toronto. Um so all those things, all those things took place and again some of these forces are so large we're not going to be able to mess with them you know that that, google, comes in and it's not like we can convince cities not to.
Uh Not to take that deal. Um, however. I think that if if the, if the proposition, was was posed differently, for example, if we were able to say. No, you know a smart city is not a, world's fair style, showpiece. But a smart city has to be located, within, um within, neighborhoods. Right like it's, got to be where people live it has to emerge. Um from lived experience. Uh we have to actually build the capacity, to again to. To start from a place not from zero. Um to uh to learn from the um, and to learn to have that capture device that i that i was talking about if those were the preconditions. Then maybe there would have been mechanisms, to say no google you can't come in. And that was sort of our desire, when we started beta blocks and i know that's crazy. But the but the desire, in doing this work is to say like look if we, establish, the rules collectively. Early on, then we can avoid. Um, some of the problems, that we've seen in the past we can learn from some of these examples, but, yeah i think there's, i'd love to talk to you more about this i could just make one point and then i will stop talking um i think that the, mirror inefficiency, versus meaningful inefficiency, is a super great distinction. And i would actually classify. The. Long-winded. Uh, co-design. Process, that google and sidewalk. Engaged, in in toronto. As a mere, inefficiency. Like it was clear that nothing, that came out of those meetings was ever going to have an impact on anything. Um. Versus, other types of meaningful inefficiencies. That might have been implemented. Like at the city council level or other levels. Laura. Thanks. Hi eric. Great presentation. Um. So my, question is more in terms of, the general reception, of play or what your experience, has been in terms of the reception, of play, as a concept. And, i first, was thinking about this when you showed us the blob. Um, and then, uh, also, later. You know when you were, um. Showing us the representations. By the artist. And when we were looking at the blob, there, uh were predominantly. I mean, there are people of all ages but it did seem to focus much more on children, or maybe young adults. Um, and. I. Don't know if that's just because, it was this, really. Big. Colorful, object but i think that that's part of, kind of what this question is about, is. Is. Um. Is the idea of play, is that stratified, by age, and. Um, does that ever come across, as. Do people kind of trivialize. The idea of play. And. Is that ever a roadblock. And kind of how you're. Um, trying to facilitate, these conversations. Particularly. When you're presenting. The images i think of the artist, uh, to the people you're. Interviewing. Yeah thanks for the question um. Yes. Um i've never. Had to convince. Spend any time trying to convince a child, to play. Um. So, children. Play. Um, and, and they see a thing that appears like a play object or even one that doesn't and and they will play. Adults, not so much, you know and, uh and and so for adults, there is a there is a, um.
A Stage of convincing. Um, because. You know one of the things that play does is that it it. It levels the playing field. Right, if. Um, in in play, in, play conditions. You know there's there's supposed to be, equality. Um, or at least in game conditions. Um, and so, what's what's interesting, here is that so i've done i've done a lot of projects, that involve play, that have sort of high level decision makers, and, and and some of these projects that have happened, in, you know, in say like in in countries in asia where there's much more of a sort of strict hierarchy, involved, in. Um, in how. These things take place, and what's interesting there is if you have a boss. With uh with an underling. In a situation. Where you introduce, play. Um the boss is usually, very unwilling. Uh to play, you know, because, that would that would suggest. A kind of giving over to the possibility. That they may not be on a higher level, than the other people that they're playing with so, and i think the same is true for generation, you know it certainly plays out generationally, so back to beta blocks. Um. There's a lot of things that we learned. In. Putting that blob out. One is that. Kids are attracted to it. Would come over to it and and. The other is that adults were suspicious. Of it, because they thought. Someone was going to sell them something. Right so, so it was, so people would sort of you know very, um they would be trepidatious, they would walk they would kind of look a sconce like that's interesting, i'm going to keep walking, not going to go over there. And then we learned quickly actually, because, at one point we were out there and we, stupidly. Um i had, um, you know me and my team were out there with a with a. Clipboard. You know it's like what were we thinking like we were standing, in front of it like with the clipboard to take notes and like of course people, saw us and ran the other way. Um so we got rid of the clipboard. Um, and then the other thing that we learned. Is that the, um. The, the blob was very programmed. So, there are actually. Stations, around the blob we had designed, it for like activities, in each of the stations, and we thought that was, the way to go. Um, and and again people would look over and they would see that there was a thing and they would be a little bit unsure, about how to engage in it. Um. But then one time, we were actually at fish pier in boston, um, blob was there during a strangely, it was during a fish festival, not fish the band but fish the, the creatures. Uh and uh and so there is lots of lots of fish and and uh and food. And then there was there was our blob. And uh and people come over and talk about technology, with us. Um, but the most use it got was when we had, cleaned up our stuff and we had like moved all the tech out of the way and we had like we moved it into the van, and the blob was still there. And then it was an unattended. Blob, and the people were climbing, on it and jumping on it and like jumping through it and it was like all of a sudden, it had a completely, different. Um use value, right and and became a pure play object. And then people weren't afraid to move up to even adults, weren't afraid to go up to it, and so i think that was something that we learned about you know again play is something, that, um. You know children are willing players, adults you have to convince. But when you're introducing, play into a into a space where it's unfamiliar. Um then you really have to design. For, for that um for that uncertain, the the, kind of uncertainty, that that comes with um. You know entering into an unsafe space, so, um so that's been that's been incredibly. Uh intriguing. Um, other times i've, experienced, this, this thing, um this this, concept, of sort of generational. Divides, is that. Um. You know making. Creating conditions, for, for. For um. Youth to work with, adults, right when adults feel like they're, um, that, they'll they're willing to play as long as they're enabling, a child to play. But if they have to be the primary, player they're less comfortable, with that so they'll step away from the play experience, so that's so that kind of intergenerational. Connection has been. A really important learning experience, through through some of my design work. Thank you um. We have a. Number of thoughtful, questions in the qa. And i could read them out loud but i thought, there eric, can you open the qra easily is that. In front of you. Because. If it's not a problem it might be better for you to quickly. Look at them and, answer them. Directly. I was going to say it might be helpful to read just because the uh. Future viewers of the recording. Oh okay. Sure then i'll be happy to read i just didn't want to sort of like yeah, yeah. Um. So the first question is how does the move to a civic smart city and the forms of data and information. Flow around public, policy, and decision, making. Sit with parallel, developments, in media architecture, by urban design, firms.
Parens, The physical structure of cities. Are these comfortable. Alliances. Hmm. Parallel developments, in media architecture, by urban design firms. I mean i guess i don't. I have to. Understand, the the example a bit more i mean certainly. Now look i mean. I'm. I want to as much as possible. Use, play here, as a, um. As a. Generative. Constructive. Space right like that's that's how i'm understanding. Play, now. Often, you know play, is used, as. As um. Uh it's used as aesthetic. You know so we i can imagine sort of the the design, of. Sort of, um. Uh, you know kind of silicon valley, uh office office spaces, right the sort of play aesthetic. That gets used uh as a. As a sort of a, theater of, fun. Um. That's not that's not at all what what i what i'm interested, in and i think and and i don't know eric if if this is what you're referring, to but i think that there is there's certainly, in the in the architecture. In the, uh media design or the urban design space. Play is an aesthetic, and i think that, that differs, from the the kind of institutional. Um. In the kind of institutional. Logics, that i'm i'm trying to direct our attention, to so i wouldn't i so i guess to answer your question. I think that is an uncomfortable. Alliance. Um. And and i and i think i would sort of point to one being an aestheticization. Of play and perhaps, another one not and maybe this would be a better conversation, if i had. If we had an example, and maybe you can put one in the in the chat eric, um, to, talk about. But we can move on to another question and come back to that. So um, barbara bulk asks, what. What would, what would it take to create connective, tissue in boston. For beta blocks to achieve lasting, transformation. That's a that's a tough question, um, barbara, that that is um. You know it's funny, it's. With uh. With these with projects, like this right that are that are prototypical. In nature. Um, where. You know i think what it would have taken is a is a different approach from the very beginning. Um and. Uh my colleague who i think is is. Here, um. Listening, and john harlow. Um. Uh. Will, you know. He we worked on the project together and one of the frustrations, from the beginning was our was was the lack of ability to sort of connect to other. Um, to other offices, within, within the city, and. Um, and so understanding. The, the the procedure. Of institutioning. Um is something that needed to happen earlier on and i think what's interesting, is that. Now, that this, project is completed, in boston i actually have more faith that it'd be picked up by other cities. Because it becomes kind of representational. Um in a in in perhaps a productive, way so, you know in. The city of miami, is interested, in, in this um because it be because it's a blueprint, for them and they can say okay here's how let's let's start again let's use this blueprint and see where we can go with this. Um whereas i feel like in the city of boston. It might be harder to do that, um at, this point. So so that's my that's my sense of that and it's also it's interesting, again if you've if you've. Done projects, like this before. Sometimes. Sometimes, they function like conceptual, art pieces, right sometimes, they. Sometimes, at the end, the the documentation. Of the project, and the and hopefully the relationships, built and the good faith built. Um, become. A, a, kind of conceptual. Model. Um, that that, that, sort of energizes. Discourse. Right and um. And i feel like at this point, and i i don't want that of any project that i i don't set out to do conceptual, art, um, and, but i also know that sometimes that's what happens. And especially within, within. You know university, environments. You know we're good at that we're good we're good at turning things into conceptual, art maybe. We're better at that than we are the other and i'm more interested in in the other i'm more interested, in the you know finding, paths to persistence, and institutional, transformation. Which is the goal of the work, but i'm also, becoming more comfortable, with, sometimes we'll pull out of it with some. Um with some conceptual, art that can have an impact. Um beyond the original location, of the, of the prototype. So that's. So i think it's a complicated, question but that's, that's as best as i can, i can do at this point. Um. Thank you uh, for that question we, we have from nicole, west bastoff. Um. She's a phd, student in public policy and sds, at harvard and works on smart cities. And she says i often find myself asking questions about what it. What makes it possible to say no to public-private, partnerships.
Or Technology, installations. Versus. What it means to bring people to the table to participate, in decision-making. Around planning and, implementation. An example, is, this contrast, was made plainly evident, in the sidewalks, labs case as well as for example. Amazon. Hq2. In new york. How do you see the role. Of play in putting, no on the table. Versus in widening, participation. Or just. Slowing things down. Oh god good question, um. So, again i think this goes back to maul's question about, about, um. Uh, about the. The, political, power, that's involved, when, when when a google or amazon comes to the table, you know getting to know it seems. Impossible. Um, however. However. Um i do have faith again, and this is why i'm, i'm, i'm, you know i'm, a municipalist. I'm interested in cities i think cities, have there's there's a lot to, gain, um from from learning from cities. Um. I do think. That there is possibility. For. Um. You know for cultivating. Decision-making. Processes. First, so i'll point to i'll put to one example in boston actually which was the olympics. Um you know when the when the olympics, was was coming to boston, there was a. There was a pretty significant. Anti-olympic. Um. Uh, movement, here, uh in the city that did say no to the olympics now that's different than saying no. To google. Because, one is a more direct transfer of cash, um, than, than the olympics. But it was certainly, it was it was but it was definitely a sort of um, revenue stream that was rejected. So i think it's possible, and that's one that's that's one possible case but what i guess what i'm saying is that if we had. A clearer, foundation. Of, ways in which. Municipalities. Can effectively. Partner. With. Communities. And neighborhoods, and groups. If we had that worked out now again i go back to, what. What both andrea, campbell and julia mejia. Have, have said, um in their in their own governing, which is. Um, which is you know, how do we how do we. Create a, city government. Um that not only, looks like. The people. That it's governing. But actually, has a different value structure, from which to govern, right that's really what this is after. And can we do that, by, um by. Building, the mechanics, of governance. Uh in a way. Um, that, that, is. That is more participatory. That is more collaborative, now this is hap this happens through mechanics, and so this is what we're doing in my. Um in my class is that we're thinking about these sort of mechanical, elements, of of co-creation, and in government. Um, and sometimes it feels