Cityscapes #3 – The Smart City?

Cityscapes 3

Date: March 27, 2013 Time: 18:00pm-19:00pm
Venue: The Book Lounge, 71 Roeland Street, Cnr Buitenkant & Roeland Street, Cape Town

The latest instalment of Cityscapes, the hybrid current affairs and culture magazine devoted to “re-thinking urban things”, will be launched in Cape Town on 27 March 2013. Featuring interviews with Lagos governor Babatunde Fashola and novelist Imraan Coovadia, the bumper 140-page third issues has as its thematic focus the “smart city”.

This fuzzily defined term speaks to the increasing use of networked information and communications technologies in ordering of large-scale urban phenomenon. The magazine visits Rio de Janeiro to find out what this means practically. “Technology gives you a faster response,” explains Dario Bizzo Marques, a technology systems coordinator at Rio’s $14-million integrated city management centre, home to Latin America’s largest surveillance screen.

“We increasingly share the space and time of cities with semi-autonomous agents of a nonhuman, indeed non-biological, nature, from drones to algorithms,” offers Adam Greenfield in his provocative 100-point manifesto appearing in Cityscapes and addressing the pervasive use of tech-savvy urban management solutions. Noted urban theorist Ash Amin, in a cornerstone 5000-word interview with Matthew Gandy, is also wary of the ideological implications of reducing city management to the top-down marshalling of abstract data.

“The positivist legacy has been rekindled in the ‘big data’ approach to the city,” offers Amin. “Its conceit is to think that the availability of sophisticated mathematical models able to work large data in nuanced ways, allows the city to be visualised and understood in all its complexities and evolving changes.”

Also included in the latest issue of Cityscapes: an intimate account of living in the Nairobi slum of Kibera; a description of Sao Paulo’s oppositional graffiti cultures; a fond appraisal of the career of legendary Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray; a look at Kigali’s ambitious master plan; a profile of artist Theaster Gates; a speculation on the city without the automobile; and a photo essay describing life in Kowloon, the famous Hong Kong tenement slum demolished in the early 1990s.

About Cityscapes: Launched in 2011 and jointly edited by Sean O’Toole and Tau Tavengwa, in collaboration with Professor Edgar Pieterse, Cityscapes offers a disparate blend of in-depth interviews, enquiring journalism, polemical editorialising and illustration rich content to document and theorise urban experience in the global south

Map Kibera – digital technology in Africa

Here is further information on another groundbreaking African grass-roots project using information technology and creating the “intelligent city” in  modest way with open source technology and local resources… from MAP KIBERA

Kibera in Nairobi, Kenya, was a blank spot on the map until November 2009, when young Kiberans created the first free and open digital map of their own community. Map Kibera has now grown into a complete interactive community information project

Kibera is the largest slum in Africa, situated in Nairobi, Kenya. Many UN agencies, including UN-HABITAT, US Government agencies such as USAID, and NGOs, like Carolina for Kibera, have presence nearby in Nairobi, and as a result, Kibera is one of the most well known, researched, and serviced slums anywhere. Despite this focus, Kibera was literally a blank spot on the map, its patterns of traffic, scarce water resources, limited medial facilities, etc. remain invisible to the outside world, and residents themselves. Without basic knowledge of the geography of Kibera it is impossible to have an informed discussion on how to improve the lives of residents of Kibera.

Map Kibera has produced the first complete free and open map of Kibera. In November 2009, local motivated young people learned to create maps using OpenStreetMap techniques. This included surveying with GPS, and digitization of satellite imagery and paper based annotation with Walking Papers. Individuals from the blossoming Nairobi tech scene helped train and make connections with the larger community, and created a sustainable group of map maintainers beyond the initial three week November effort. Data consumers were consulted for their needs, to help add direction to feature types collected, and aided to immediately make use of the map data. Projects leads are Erica Hagen and Mikel Maron.

Kibera News Network’s Joe Gatecha discusses Digital Technology and media