Showcases | Social Cities of Tomorrow

Social Cities of Tomorrow

Our everyday lives are increasingly shaped by digital media technologies, from smart cards and intelligent GPS systems to social media and smartphones. How can we use digital media technologies to make our cities more social, rather than just more hi-tech?

At our conference we featured a number of showcases in the design of our ‘social cities of tomorrow.’ All of them make use of urban media in an innovative way and their initiators will share their ambitions as well as their ‘lessons learned.’

We are exited to announce the following project-presentations, selected out of more than 80 applications (see here for a shortlist) by our committee of experts consisting of Maaike Behm (ARCAM), Ingeborg van Lieshout (Bright Magazine) and Chris Sigaloff (Knowledgeland/ Kennisland).  

In alphabetic order:

Ambient Learning City

Greater Manchester Area, UK
Partners involved: Manchester University, JISC, LSEN, Museum of Science & Industry, Ambient Learning Open Network Group
Presented by: Fred Garnett Website

Ambient Learning City is a project that explores how various institutions can make use of digital media to develop new ways to contextualise learning in the city. It is based on the belief that the social city of tomorrow needs to integrate learning and citizenship not learning and certification. The learning model explored in this project re-casts the learning process around social interactions. This has been done through digital story-telling, the participative curation of ‘social objects’ and techniques related to cultural content and personal histories.

Amsterdam Wastelands

Amsterdam and Zaandstad, NL
Partners involved: Citizen’s initiative, Municipality of Amsterdam 
Presented by: Sacha Stolp, Barbara Ponteyn en Jurgen Hoogendoorn

Amsterdam Wastelands is a project that actively approaches the problem of the lagging urban development of wastelands in Amsterdam and Zaanstad. The project grew out of a group of citizen’s concern for these unused urban area’s. In collaboration with the local administration, they created a number of digital tools that allowed for the temporary appropriation of these vacant lots. Up till now it has led to more than 80 initiatives, supported by a range of mapping and network tools.

Apps for Amsterdam

Amsterdam, NL
Partners involved:  Municipality of Amsterdam, Hack de OverheidWaag Society
Presented by: Alper Çuğun

Apps for Amsterdam was a Dutch, Amsterdam centered application contest where civic hackers were invited to build applications using open data from the city of Amsterdam. To this end the city released a series of datasets and initiated a competition program where developer were invited to submit their civic apps for a chance to win prize money. Alper Çuğun will present a number of outcomes from thel contest as well as some thougts on the next steps for opening up institutions for civic engagement.

Give Me Back My Broken Night

London, UK
Partners involved:  Theatre Sandbox, Pervasive Media Studio, The Soho Theatre, Uninvited Guests
Presented by: Paul Clarke Rachel Feuchtwang

Give Me Back My Broken Night is a mobile theatre work using pervasive technology that asks audiences to collaboratively imagine the future of their city. Using a combination of location sensitive mobile devices and portable projectors it creates a magical, relevant and cinematic experience for participants. Rachel Feuchtwang and Paul Clarke will discuss how pervasive media and dramaturgical structures can help in envisioning future architectures, present a film clip of the performance, and consider possible applications in enabling public conversations around urban development.

Homeless SMS

London, UK
Partners involved:  Homeless SMS, Delft University of Technology, The Connection at St. Martins-in-the-Field, Bethnal Green Ventures, Common Ground
Presented by: Ohyoon Kwon, Will Brayne

More than 70 percent of homeless people in London own a mobile phone and Homeless SMS is the first service to make use of this untapped resource for their communication needs.

The service provides an information network for the homeless based on basic text messaging technology and Twitter. The service empowers homeless people to access information they need, when they need it; it makes them aware of opportunities to participate in, contribute to and enjoy whilst facilitating the exchange of information with their peers, service providers and the general public. The presenters will discuss their experience of co-design practice with and for homeless people as well as appropriation of existing technologies.

Instant Master Planning

Odense, DK
Partners involved: Helhedsplanen – Vollsmose v., LasseVegas ApS, Department of Architecture, Design and Media Technology, Aalborg University, Denmark 
Presented by: Anne-Marie Sanvig Knudsen, Niels Skovlund Madsen, Lasse Andersson

How can a master  plan  become  an  on-­going process  informed  by  instant  citizen generated  information  loops (open-­source)  rather than a rigid and detached expert-­driven product? This was the challenge that the Danish project ‘Instant Master Planning’  took on at the Vollsmose housing estate, located in the  outskirts of Odense. The project team reports on an iterative  planning  process, employing digital media technologies as a tool for creating new forms of citizen engagement.


Utrecht, NL
Partners involved:  Hubbub, Utrecht Manifest, Dutch Design Double & the city of Utrecht
Presented by: Kars Alfrink

Social game Koppelkiek, (“Couple Snapshot”), was played in a troubled area of Utrecht in 2009. Kars Alfrink (Hubbub) shows us his hands-on approach of applying game elements in the neighborhood. By reaching out he actively engaged the inhabitants of Hoograven, and encouraged greater social cohesion. He will demonstrate some of his current projects as well.


Amsterdam, NL
Partners involved:  Smart in Public & Archis with Hyperbody TU Delft, De Waag, NDSM, Pachube,  Vurb, Picnic, Intelligent Gaming TU Eindhoven
Presented by: Lilet Breddels, Alexander Zeh 

NetworkLAB has as its mission to create a testing ground where research on the actual effects of new technologies can be put into practice and where assumptions can be tested. They will present two recent projects: a storytelling project at the NDSM wharf where objects were tagged with a newly developed prototag by the TU Delft as well as a project where Pachube was used to organize an issue-community around the debate on air-quality and the maximum speed-limit on the Amsterdam ring road.

Screens in the Wild

London, UK
Partners involved:  The Space Group, The Bartlett, University College London; Mixed Reality Lab at the University of Nottingham; London Borough of Waltham Forest, The Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) Design Council and Leytonstone Business Improvement District E11 BID, London
Presented by:  Ava Fatah gen. Schieck

This project explores how best to integrate a radical and potentially disruptive technology in urban realm: how the urban experience mediated trough connected large screens can be designed to augment real world interactions, support communities, and promote and develop culture so as to maximise the quality of  the public experience within the urban environment. The project is funded by Digital Economy Programme. Ava Fatah from The Bartlett, in cooperation with partners will present the first outcomes of this cross-city and a cross-UK project.

Urbanflow and City Tickets

New York City, USA
Partners involved: Urbanscale
Presented by: Mayo Nissen

Urbanflow and City Tickets are two interfaces to the same backend municipal systems, and different approaches to many of the same thoughts.

Urbanflow is an answer to the question of what should go on situated urban screens. By combining pedestrian-oriented cartography, wayfinding, and journey-planning tools with local service discovery and citizen responsiveness tools, we’ve designed them from the ground up to be useful… and used.

City Tickets asks how existing pieces of real-world urban infrastructure – specifically, pay-and-display parking meters equipped with power, a network connection and a printer, such as NYC’s Muni Meters — might be reimagined as entry points to citizen responsiveness systems such as 311. This makes the most of a city’s existing investment in networked systems by bringing its dialogue with citizens to the place where it is immediately relevant: here and now, on the sidewalk.


Urban Revitalization of Social Capital

Rochester and Utica, USA
Partners involved: Cornell University, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
Presented by:  Karli Scott

Karli Scott will show how existing community networks can be utilized to fulfil a city’s planning goals. In her project Urban Revitalization of Social Capital she analyses social conditions in the cities of Rochester and Utica (NY) by mapping qualitative data sourced from the community and web applications. She will present this methodology as a way to make use of data collection and analysis for urban redevelopment.

UrbanISO:  Urban Sensor Standard

‘Can be applied anywhere’
Partners involved: Private initiative
Presented by: Joshua Noble, Mac Oosthuizen
Website and

Joshua Noble and Mac Oosthuizen will present UrbanISO, a project that envisions opening the characteristics of data feeds from urban sensors, and in extend create opportunities for commercial and civic engagement in urban spaces. Urban Sensors can be anything in their idea: from traffic density sensors to air quality indicators to cell signal strength measurement. They are aiming towards a standard to describe and allow access to every urban sensor.

While in the main program we only had room for 12 projects,  our jury was impressed by a large number of submissions. We have therefore compiled a shortlist of showcases that were not featured at the conference, but which we think deserve your attention as well.