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Smart Urbanism Lab

Investigating urban life in the digital age
This research lab examines urban life in a digital age, as described in the phrase ‘smart cities’.

New digital technologies that will change our cities are being rapidly deployed. There is a profusion of ‘internet of things’, digital platforms, automation and sensors across all domains of urban life. National, state and local governments worldwide are implementing smart city policies. The Lab takes a multidisciplinary approach to smart urbanism, bringing the perspectives of design thinking and planning to the visions and practices of smart cities in Australia and worldwide. We have particular expertise in housing, transport, governance, and digital infrastructure and aim to:

  • Foreground the interaction of citizens and smart cities
  • Foster critical evaluation of smart city policies
  • Design and demonstrate digital interventions to improve urban liveability
  • Facilitate multidisciplinary smart cities conversations that traverse university and urban policy settings

Engagement

We collaborate with a range of industry partners.  

Funded projects

Funded by the Australian Research Council (DP170103384), in this project Robyn Dowling and Pauline McGuirk (University of Wollongong) examine the roll out of smart city policies in Australia, what they aspire to, and the potential social, economic and political implications. It consists of an audit of key policies across Australia and in-depth case studies to provide insight into how new technologies are altering the coordination and governance of city life in Australia as well as the new interests and alliances that are emerging through smart capabilities.

Placemaking has become a cornerstone of urban policy thinking, expressing the vision for engaging local communities towards the creation of high quality public spaces that people can relate to and thus want to experience and enjoy. The increasing pervasiveness of internet access, combined with the explosion in online conversations through social network platforms, and the proliferation of digital urban displays and interfaces, has led to unprecedented forms of human engagement with public urban spaces, which in turn have become increasingly responsive and open to public participation. This research investigates the use of digital technologies and media in the design of distinct urban precincts conducive to social interactions and commentary, community creativity, engagement in civic debate, cultural liveliness and sustainable city living.

This project, led by Tooran Alizadeh, develops new algorithms and tools to capture citizens’ voices and better inform local government decision making. It investigates active and passive crowdsourcing channels and their potentials for reaching out to citizens and collecting their opinions and attitudes on major urban development and infrastructure projects. A range of online sources will be used to source data including social media, public comments on relevant online media releases and news articles. The project will produce a flexible digital platform that will enable local governments to capture and visualise citizens’ voices. Using machine learning, the platform will be able to predict citizens’ responses to urban interventions before their completion. This project received grant funding from the Australian Government.

Our researchers

Publications

  • Tomitsch, M. (2017). Making Cities Smarter: Designing Interactive Urban Applications. Berlin: Jovis Verlag
  • Alizadeh, T. (2017). An investigation of IBM's Smarter Cites Challenge: What do participating cities want? Cities, 63, 70-80.
  • Selin, C., Campbell Rawlings, K., de Ridder-Vignone, K., Sadowski, J., Allende, C., Gano, G., Davies, S., Guston, D. (2017). Experiments in engagement: Designing public engagement with science and technology for capacity building. Public Understanding of Science, 26(6), 634-649
  • Hespanhol, L., Tomitsch, M., McArthur, I., Fredericks, J., Schroeter, R., Foth, M. (2016). Situated interfaces for engaging citizens on the go. Interactions, 23(1), 40-45
  • McArthur, I., Tomitsch, M. (2016). Diagnostic Design: A Framework for Activating Civic Participation through Urban Media. Journal of Design, Business & Society, 2(2), 163-181.
  • Hespanhol, L., Tomitsch, M. (2015). Strategies for intuitive interaction in public urban spaces. Interacting with Computers, 27(3), 311-326.
  • Tomitsch, M., McArthur, I., Haeusler, M., Foth, M. (2015). The Role of Digital Screens in Urban Life: New Opportunities for Placemaking. In Marcus Foth, Martin Brynskov, Timo Ojala (Eds.), Citizen’s Right to the Digital City: Urban Interfaces, Activism, and Placemaking, (pp. 37-54). Singapore: Springer Science+Business Media. 
  • Tomitsch, M. (2014). The History and Future of Interaction Design in Public Transport Environments. In Nicole Gardner, Dr M. Hank Haeusler, Briedy Mahar (Eds.), Interchanging: Future designs for responsive transport environments, (pp. 103-107). Baunach, Germany: Spurbuchverlag.