The Transparency Times
Smart city initiatives are underway worldwide, from Denver to Singapore to London to Oakland. Connected cities build on the promises made by consumer IoT devices: increased efficiency, improved security, and lifestyle benefits. However, they also display the problems of those devices, and at a much larger scale: privacy and security vulnerabilities at the community or national level, and the potential to exacerbate widening socio-economic disparity. There are no easy solutions to these problems, and no clear optimum tradeoff between risks and benefits. We contend that affected communities should engage in discussions around the development of these smart communities to reap appropriate benefits from the technology while minimizing harms.
We created a physical, hands-on installation for citizen stakeholders to explore these issues, build awareness and spark conversation. It is a transportable, modular installation that could be shipped to various locations and used by organizations. By increasing the knowledge-base of social organizations, we think they can advocate for changes that benefit rather than harm the communities they work with and move our society toward preferred outcomes rather than unintended ones. Our installation also acts as a research and participatory design probe, giving us findings that we can report out to other organizations, technologists, and policy makers.