Thanks for tuning in for this new monthly update on Cities of Things. I am at the moment on my way to Munich to officially kick off the field lab Cities of Things MUC-AMS (Munich-Amsterdam) that have been in the planning and shaping for the last year. I will definitely keep you posted in the coming months on this initiative. On this website, you can find some background information.
A signature part is looking into the impact of mobility on the cities. We have different partners involved in this and there is a natural link. I like to have exploration on a broader development, the way new generations treat possession which can be seen in the way we treat bikes (and other goods that we used to possess).
Successful collaboration between Munich and Amsterdam enters next phase with Cities of Things field lab
On 11 October 2011, at the EXPO REAL event in Munich, City of Amsterdam alderperson Victor Everhardt and Clemens Baumgärtner, Head of the Department of Labour and Economic Development of the City of Munich, will sign a Letter of Intent regarding the continued partnership between the two cities on innovation and the creative industry. This signals the joint launch of the ‘Cities of Things’ field lab: a program to identify and test new solutions for urban issues.
This joint field lab follows from the Creative Embassy MUC-AMS initiative, in which Dutch and German creative companies cooperate to develop solutions for the challenges facing society. With these programs, Creative Holland (an initiative of the Dutch ‘top sector’ program supporting the creative industry) aims to stimulate international business development. The goal is to give Dutch creative SMEs a kick-start on the other side of the border.
Due to my holidays, I write this post a bit later than usual. Welcome to the new subscribers! Every month I take one article in the domain of Cities of Things that trigger thinking about one aspect that is part of the Cities of Things elements of living together with intelligent things in cities that shape our city life so to say. That can be a new insight or a connection to one of the core aspects. This month I like to dive into one of the latter categories. One of the concepts I ran into while doing research at Delft University of Technology is the co-performance as described by Kuijer and Giaccardi in 2018. It reflects on a notion that we grow into a form of collaboration with technology that is based on shared goals, on a certain leveled interest almost. At least that is what I especially take out of it.
A lot is discussed about DAOs, the decentralized autonomous organization, and last months a couple of interesting articles passed by. In A Prehistory of DAOs Kei Kreutler is looking into what to learn from different earlier types of organizations: “DAO comes from imagining how features of decentralized technology, such as global digital assets, censorship resistance, and automated actions, will change how organizations operate.” It is mainly an organizational form for shaping organizations and processes to deal with decision-making. A basic element of the DAO is the governance mechanism and operating principles. In further exploration, interesting connections are made with gaming environments and a form of guilds. All focused though on the organization of humans in organizations.
Looking back into the future; the last year I had to think more than once on a project we did back in 2013 on the future of e-commerce; Shopping 2020. It would be nice to have a look into the trends we projected back then to see what became true or not, not to prove ourselves right, but more to learn from the thinking patterns. Thinking about this and exploring the articles of June that might be the base for this month’s look-back update, I could not deny the rise in attention for the metaverse for some time now. A new promise for future forecasters from consultancies especially those with a technology focus. As often, without planning to do, links between the stories pop up… First, let’s go back to the shopping future.
Looking back at last month there were two interesting articles that deserve a closer look in relation to the Cities of Things. It connects to some of the basic concepts, and triggers deeper exploring that I probably do later.
One of the core concepts that inspire Cities of Things is the relationships we as humans have with the technology that gets more agency, will make their own decisions, will have more responsibility in taking decisions. The things that are becoming citizens. Things are still representing systems of designed agency, often by organizations. They might however become more learning creatures on their own. We strive for a harmonious society living together with these things, where we can perform in co-performance with the things reaching a shared goal, using each-others best characteristics.
I think I cannot avoid talking about the launch of Apple’s AirTags. I ordered a set but they will not arrive before half of May I think. But that does not matter, the actual experience of using them is not the key point I want to address here. The basic premise of having a tag connected to a valuable object is not so exciting and definitely not new; my tile is still in my bag, just in case. The battery is worn out I think and with the first edition I have, you cannot charge it or replace it. A bad design choice they recognized themselves in the second generation.
This post is also sent as an update via the monthly newsletter. Around the end of a month, I share learning on the Cities of Things. More on the backgrounds of Cities of Things and the current research projects via the website. In my personal weeknotes newsletter Target_is_new I keep track of the news of the week.
Reading back the weekly updates, it is noticeable that there are continuous introductions of new robot-dog applications, mostly Spot from Boston Dynamics; from policing to being a doctor. The last mile delivery pods are also now adopted by new players every week, so it seems, driven by pandemic lockdowns probably. The pods could see these as typically the creatures inhabiting the cities of things, but it is interesting to reflect on some differences.
From an outside perspective, the way they resemble human characteristics is very different. The last mile vehicles resemble other types of vehicles that we use for transport, while the robot-dogs are a new type of living creatures and touch upon more human-animal interactions often. The robot dogs are also a kind of democratization of industrial robots to a smaller and easier to adopt form factor. The new Stretch robot of Boston Dynamics, introduced last month, is another interesting example. It is positioned as a moveable logistics robot, taking stuff from a truck to the warehouse and vice versa. It is like a combination of a human worker with a tool like a forklift. That make these robots into three types of support connected to human capacities: replacing a delivery person with an autonomous moving bag, replacing the warehouse worker with autonomous lifting gear, and a human guarding or communicating position with an autonomous living object.
All of these are staying close to the objects or tools they replace. That is needed for the acceptance and for the transparency in what they do. Here we touch an important aspect; for acceptance in our regular life we need autonomous operating devices that are readable archetypes. For now.
Will this change? Will we give the autonomous operating citythings more credits for their own character, the authentic choices they might start making. Like the painting robots that create art, that is even sold as NFT. If the autonomous thing is just a predictable extension of human-operated things, there is no character to recognise, and would it be also not likely it will produce interesting art. So might it be a virtue to have non-explainable AI driving these characterful citythings, creating a kind of non-transparent working? In that situation, the relations we have are not are based on our human representations in the autonomous things but in the embodiment of the decisions the robotic things make…
The science of behavior, applied to embodied computation in physical media that can be evolved or designed or both, is a new emerging field that will help us map and explore the enormous and fascinating space of possible machines across many scales of autonomy and composition.
Interesting to see how it plays out, also in relation to more hybrid systems, especially in a city context. That is something for another edition though.
Dear visitor, welcome to this compact website dedicated to the research activities under the label Cities of Things. As described in the About-page we (Elisa Giaccardi and myself) started shaping this research program at TU Delft Connected Everyday Lab in early 2017, at that moment still as PACT (Partnership in Cities of Things). The post-doc research of Maria Luce Lupetti and Nazli Cila delivered interesting research insights in the form of a workshop-format and papers (see more on Research page). In 2018 we established the Cities of Things Delft Design Lab, mainly to cater to master research projects with industry partners and building more research knowledge.
We noticed more and more attention to the research topic and now in 2020, we are looking into other forms of supporting services in different partnerships. That is one of the main reasons to start this separate website that is a switchboard to current and future initiatives around the theme. Next to being a start page to jump to other places, we will share in this section remarkable results of research and projects. To begin with, thinking about predictive relations, the more specific research I’m running.
To close this welcome, I like to invite you to contact me if you have any idea for corporations, projects, or partnerships. Also if your organisation is looking for exploring the domain of living together with new autonomous things or systems through the research and prototyping by a master student graduation project.