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What Else Could a Sustainable Smart City Be? with Sara Heitlinger

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RMIT Garden Building (10.05.89) – above STREAT cafe in Bowen Street

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Co-presented by the School of Design and the Digital Ethnography Research Centre, join us for this talk by visiting researcher Sara Heitlinger, including a light lunch afterward.


What Else Could a Sustainable Smart City Be?

Environmental concerns have driven an interest in sustainable “smart" cities, through the monitoring and optimisation of networked infrastructures. At the same time, there are concerns about who these interventions and services are for, and who benefits, particularly in what has become known as the Anthropocene – the new geological era in which humans are the cause climate change and mass extinctions. Design researchers interested in civic life have started to call for the democratisation of urban space through resistance and political action to challenge state and corporate claims, by involving citizens in the design of Internet of Things particularly in the context of marginalised and ethnically diverse urban communities. In this talk I bring together Lefebvre’s 'Right to the City', and the “more-than-human” literature from feminist technoscience, the environmental humanities and cultural and urban geography to propose a productive lens to investigate the question of the right to the sustainable smart city in the age of the Anthropocene. I will present a case study that involved co-designing networked environmental sensors, data visualisation, and an interactive seed library to support sustainable food practices with urban agricultural communities as an example of a design research project in this space. I will discuss how the study surfaces three alternative visions of what sustainable smart cities could be – the Bioculturally Diverse City, the City of Care, and the Commons-Based City – and reflect on the role of design in creating more socially and environmentally just urban space.


Sara Heitlinger is a Lecturer in Computer Science at City, University of London, where she is part of the Centre for Human Computer Interaction Design. Sara is a sustainable human computer interaction researcher and designer, with a particular interest in smart cities, urban agriculture, and participatory design. She was the lead researcher Co-Investigator on Connected Seeds and Sensors, an award-winning 18-month project based at Queen Mary University of London, where she investigated co-designing digital technologies with urban agricultural communities to support more sustainable food consumption and production in the city. Sara is also a practicing artist and designer, and has exhibited extensively around the world.

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RMIT Garden Building (10.05.89) – above STREAT cafe in Bowen Street

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