Using the Concrete Case “Bristol Is Open” to Explore the Future City in the Making

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 14:30
Location: Hörsaal BIG 1 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Jingwen YIN, University of Bristol, United Kingdom
Technology plays a leading role in imagining and shaping our future cities, which is reflected in the current trend of Smart Cities. According to Living Lab Global, there are 557,000 local governments worldwide involved in smart-city innovation (Townsend, 2013:10). There are many research studies on Future Cities (Read et al, 2005; Brook, 2013; Dunn et al, 2014), but we still know little about the real-time socio-technical vision of the Future City in the making. Informed by Actor Network Theory(ANT) (Law, 1987), Future Studies (Bell, 1997; Adam and Groves, 2007) and expectation studies relating to Science and Technology Studies (STS) (Lente et al, 1998; Borup et al, 2006), this paper aims at filling this knowledge gap through an empirical case study of the project “Bristol is Open (BiO)”. BiO is a smart city project launched by Bristol City Council and the University of Bristol. It aligns various old and new technologies, such as lampposts, Optical Fiber Network, Driverless Car, Software Defined Network (SDN), Super Computer, Internet of Things and Big Data, to experiment with the idea of “the world’s first Open Programmable City”[1]. Similar to most technological innovations which seek to transfer models from one region and society to another, BiO also plans to mobilise its future city solutions to another context. This research will use the ethnographic technique of participant observation to follow a series of BiO related events, activities and webinars. The paper will shed light on the building process of BiO’s heterogeneous network/ prospective structure (Law, 1987; Lente et al, 1998) and BiO’s moments of translation(Callon, 1986). It seeks to understand better the role of engineers-sociologists/professional visioneers (Callon, 1987; McCray, 2012) in shaping the Future City Landscape. It also tries to understand better how citizen might participant in a high technology city innovation (Bell, 1997).


[1] http://www.bristolisopen.com/partners/