Civic Tech vs. Smart Tech, defining a new approach to city collective design.
Civic Tech use to be considered the technology which power increases in proportion to the people participating in it, making possible, the collaborative creation of a common knowledge.
The boundary between Civic Tech and Smart City citizen`s data monitorization (for external profit not reversing in the citizen’s life) is really thin.
Smart City current technology is focus on what technology can become and not on what problems on the city can be solved with it.
Regarding technology city government will be always efficacy and productivity oriented while Civic Technologists will aim public good through code openness, open data access, transparency and democracy in its use.
Quality of city-life should be born from the appropriate equilibrium of both approaches.
Laura Forlano distinguishes 3 different types of Urban Tech: urban screens, body technology (phones…) and networked artefacts (networked sensors, traffic lights…) being all of them interconnected with socio-technical ecosystems.
On the other hand, cities congestion has given the market an opportunity in creating products to manage congestion. Smart City Tech is service’s congestion based.
Adam Greenfield, in his book “Against the Smart City”, examined in 2013 the three major existing examples of the Smart City idea implementation:
In all of them the implications of mayor tech companies as CISCO, IBM, Siemens or Hitachi is huge but the citizens one is almost inexistent.
He presents the Smart City idea as a technocratic vision where residents are monitored. Citizens are considered just consumers whose habits are observed and patronized through technology.
Nevertheless, on the other side of the boundary, we can found some yet small but inspiring initiatives.
“Map Kibera” is an initiative through which a slum in Nairobi that was before just a blank space on the map has reached the deadlines of Civic Technology examples.
Through GPS and Open Street maps the citizens of the slum created the slum’s map.
Cities should allow this kind of generation of common knowledge. Smart Citizen Kit experiences and the Waag Society Fair Meters project are some of the latest approaches towards a participatory creation of data.
The debate is open these days about what the use of this data should be.
Is there a more direct process for the citizens to benefit by the use of the data themselves are generating? We are not able currently to find any EU funded projects technology related focused on desired civil society initiatives.
Open systems that allow participation and co-determination should be the very base of Civic Tech.
Fighting for a socially constructed technology, research projects like “The design policy toolkit”, by Laura Forlano and Anijo Mathew from the Illinois Institute of Technology, defend that opportunities and challenges the city presents should be addressed from the relationships between people, places and technology with socioeconomic, cultural and political factors.
Collaborative design should be understood as the design policy creation between insiders and outsiders of the disciplines and entities involved.
So that, Forlano mentions, for example, that the human centred anthropologist point of view must be enriched with the vision of the world from other entities (objects, animals, artefacts and environment.)
Proposing Codesign Workshops she proposes code methods to be open, collaborative, participatory and multidisciplinary, and, always, action oriented and aiming consensus forming.
New urbanism should be socially and culturally based and new tools must allow the advance of bottom-up organization and online collaboration.