Cities & Contexts

A brief history of “Citizen-Generated Contexts” and the City

Overview; my current work on cities and the new contexts in which #CityZens might operate started with with looking at learners and new contexts for learning. We looked at how participatory social media tools (Web 2.0) could help learners construct their own contexts for learning with the Open Context Model of Learning. This lead us to further examine the processes whereby learners learnt, from which we developed the Emergent Learning Model. As this was a design tool to help design new learning contexts we decided to test this by using Manchester as a series of learning contexts in the Ambient Learning City project #MosiAlong. We reviewed what we learnt from this in Social Cities of Tomorrow revising our view of both cities and learning in contexts. Working on setting up Transition Town Stoke Newington we looked at how digital-based transactions could help move to different citizen-centric structures, starting with self-identified Transition Towns in the Transition Network. As UWE think that medium-sized cities (like Bristol) might be the drivers of socially-responsible digital-change we offered a post-social cities analysis concerning with Designing Participatory #SmartCities. This was in accord with the work being done by the city of Timisoara (Romania) as part of their City of Culture #Timisoara2021 and Learning City 2.0 (2016) was presented as part of the ASLERD conference on smart cities and regional development. This focussed on historic change in learning environments and how that might affect the design of cities. Shortly afterwards a similar analysis looking at Third Places and social change in the City was presented in Pula (Croatia) as part of the EU Origin of Spaces project. This looked at how new #digital #TiersLieux might drive socio-economic change in the European City.

We take it as axiomatic that Web 2.0 is about participation and that new technology uses should be designed around user participation. In the newly emerging politics of the digital age this could be labelled as designing participatory citizen-centric systems for a new social category of #CityZens… More below Continue reading Cities & Contexts


Using Participatory City in your City

Stokes Croft or where you live…

Q. John Cook asked “How can we apply Participatory City to Stokes Croft?” (Or anywhere else?) Provide 5 key points!

1. Firstly – life is unpredictable, full of the unexpected outcomes that shape the future, but you need to *bring* a mix of formal & informal strategies. Which means working with differing groups of peeps.

2. It’s the people stupid! As John Cook found in the digital community centres research he did for us, and I am finding out on the Origin of Spaces project, it is the odd people who buck dominant trends to act on what they believe in, who matter. People are unpredictable and have varying characteristics & motivations, but that is what you have to work with & what will make any local activity work (and distinctive).

3. Work with the context on offer, and build around that (it’s where the motivating “hooks” will come from). In Covent Garden it was the market, in Deptford the Creek, in Bilbao the peninsula. What gives Stokes Croft (or your neighbourhood) it’s “sense of place” ?

4. Work with the council, not “for the council” but with them. Find out what you do that can help them in what they do. Do the hard yards. As I say in “Walking into Government” Solve the problem they don’t know they have got yet (it’s the future, so it’s up to you).

5. Use social media to create bridges between people, community & (representative) authority, by telling stories about the new… Which is what Nigel Ecclesfield & I call “citizen-generated contexts”

This is a first go at the answer & so it is (To be continued)

Designing Participatory Smart Cities

Public Lecture – Bristol 18 December 2015

Background; Building on the work referenced on this blog, and a forthcoming book chapter on CityZens (2016) a public lecture will be given using the following slides to prompt a discussion on how we might develop the processes that will enable us to become “CityZens in the Network Society.”

Slideshare; the following slides will be used and will continue to be updated for a few days. This blog post is being made available for comments to be posted for the public session, before, during and after the public session. A fuller blog post will follow after the presentation. If you wish to use Twitter please use the hastag #cmircity

Perspectives on the City

Background; We’ve just had an interesting discussion on Facebook when Carl Smith asked Christiaan Weiler of CAB42 if there are any “radical art / architectural examples of how we should be ‘envisioning the smart city as if people mattered’ do you know of any good examples?”

Christian replied “smart to me is close to martial arts : optimizing energy flows, peripheral vision, perpetual in balance, low cost, high output…. so here are some links that reflect that; Calypso 2001

Book – city as loft
Book – make shift city
OfficeMargen lab Barcelona
Projectde ceuvel (Nederland)

Some interesting links developed from this opening comment. Christiaan added that to him ‘”identity requires adaptability”, putting the user-building relation central.’ Which is a part of Christiaan’s architectural philosophy. “Architecture that’s set in the present and destined for the future, adaptive and evolutive, imagined beyond the initial brief, a sustainable investment,” with examples collected on Pinterest.

Carl responded by pointing to the provocation piece; Cr-eAM FP7 EC Provocation: Experience Design and Perceptual Re(Design) through Post-Digital Context Engineering on Vimeo.

Fred responded by saying his work was a combination of creative Heutagogy, allowing serendipities and that he was Curious; Digital. The synergies of which he which he had been testing in the Ambient Learning City project

Ants, bees, new city metaphors; Fernando Mendes broaden the debate by mentioning Stymergy and the trace relationships between people and places in the city. This raised the issue of emergent behaviours, that Steven Johnson Continue reading Perspectives on the City

unSmart Cities; our background

Social Cities & Citizen-generated Contexts


Fred Garnett has been working on developing post Web 2.0 models of learning, such as th Open Context Model of Learning and the Emergent Learning Model. This resulted in trying to develop learning environments “beyond the classroom” especially as “Ambient Learning Environments.” We tested this in the Ambient Learning City projects in Manchester, developing the MOSI-ALONG community content (JISC) project to develop socially inclusive social media processes designed to help citizens engage with the knowledge economy. We learnt a lot, especially about the need for Social Cities rather than smart cities, and we are now disseminating what we learnt.

Carl Smith is a context engineer, who has been working with mobile technology and on developing “learner-generated contexts.” He is head of research at Ravensbourne

We both take a user-centric approach to the use of technology and are interested in creating future environments that are participatory and democratic, or citizen-centric.


Ambient Learning City


Social Cities of Tomorrow

Everything is a Metaphor

Hello Cities

This is the blog where Fred Garnett, from a social cities perspective, and Carl Smith, from a context-driven perspective, will blog about the future of cities, their Death & Life, their supralinear qualities, emerging pattern designs and, most importantly, how to design for their smart sensors without making Minority Report come true, and all things contextual and innovative.

The title is inspired by Lewis Mumford’s The City in History, The image is from Arles. We like Steven Berlin Johnson The Ghost Mapneighbourhood mapping and Transition Towns too.

We originally started this blog as The City in Context, as that is our view on how to develop social and participatory cities post Web2.0, but we have renamed it to align with the UnSmart Cities movement.

Happy reading!