The Human Futures Toolkit is a collection of projects that demonstrate ‘best practice’ for making our cities more sustainable and more livable.
Presented here are useful approaches that fit within the five topics of Human Futures:
Sharing in the Cognitive Space – Culture as catalyst for sharing individual and collective memories
Sharing in the Digital Space – Urban wireless networks as platforms for participation
Sharing in the Living Space – New media tools for exchange within urban housing complexes
Sharing in the Urban Space – Urban media facades as agora for communication in the public space
Sharing in the World City – New media art projections as intercultural display to the world
This toolkit is a collection of solutions and ideas we encountered during the two years of Human Futures through the participating artists and through the speakers and guest of our network events in Montreal, Berlin, Aarhus and Liverpool. We hope that the toolkit will serve as a good starting point for future projects and as an ongoing resource of information.
The toolkit links to two important present discourses that seem to be very important for our cities’ future.
Smart City versus Smart Citizens
Smart City is an ubiquitous buzz word used by almost every municipality. The ‘Smart City’ is being propagated as an approach to make our cities more sustainable and environmentally friendly, especially to deal with cites’ massive energy consumption and pollutant emissions. However, on closer consideration there are large differences with regards to the meaning of the word “smart”.
In fact it seems only to be logical that we will need both: new technologies as well as socio-cultural developments in order take advantage of smart technologies while at the same time taming their impact on daily life and privacy. How could life become more sustainable and livable without democracy, participation and without protecting our data and privacy? We cannot sacrifice the basic values of our societies in order to keep our cities green.
The usage of smart technologies, based on private consumption and traffic movement data offers an enormous potential for abuse. Imagine a corporation or government being able to trace every movement in the city as well as your households’ daily profile of energy consumption. To gain control of these risks we will need participatory processes to accompany technical developments from the bottom up and an active public discourse. We need a fresh sense of democracy and self-empowerment otherwise smart technologies might turn against our fundamental rights. That’s the reason why we have paid particular attention to projects where the production of technology takes place locally and is controlled by the users themselves.
Sharing: Economy versus Self-Empowerment
There is a special potential to raise efficiency and at the same time to reduce the amount of resources needed simply by sharing things. From an economical point of view an underused car, an underused device or an underused room is a source of income or a source of private or collective value. Taking advantage of underused resources is nowadays much easier because of cheap mobile communication technology. A smart phone connected to the Internet is the key to unearth the treasures of underused goods. Just think of the value of a new car and the fact that it is only used 2 Hours per day by its owner – and the 22 other hours it could be used by others. In economical terms there’s a potential to use that other 90% of the car’s value. The same logic applies to devices like tools or sports gear and finally to rooms and apartments.
There are now large corporations like UBER, car2go, drivenow and AirBnB that begin to access that value.
Uber and other carsharing corporations target the 24 / 7 availability of individual mobility without the need to own a car.
Here’ s a vision by Alex Stephany from his Book: The Business of Sharing:
‘Perhaps the most impactful sharing economy corporate partnership, however, is the one that will flow from Google’s investment in Uber. Today, users can summon Uber cars from the Google Maps app. And one day, these cars will be the self-driving ones developed by Google. In fact, since Google will know where you need to be and when from your calendar, it may summon the vehicle on your behalf. The pick-up and drop-off times will be exact as Google knows how much traffic is on the roads, in part by acquiring the crowd-sourced traffic app Waze. Google won’t only deliver people either. Uber aspires to be an urban logistics giant, moving everything around cities. It has tested distributing red roses on Valentine’s Day and Christmas trees in partnership with The Home Depot. If all goes to plan, Google will outmaneuver Amazon and, in partnership with Uber, bring people and companies anything they will ever need at the tap of an app.’
At first sight this offers a lot of benefits to consumers but at a closer look it will also increase dependencies, as large corporations like a hybrid of Google and UBER might result in a monopolistic control of individual mobility. – this has nothing to do with “sharing“ in its original sense. Sharing should not only lead to a boost of efficiency but also to a deeper sense of community. Associations and cooperatives e.g. for housing and farming have had an extremely successful history.
With the enormous and easily accessible potential to raise money with crowd funding and to organize the collective usage via the Internet, we would be wrong to away the control of these basic functions to Uber, Google and Co. The corporations will not only concentrate enormous amounts of money but also a terrifying amount of data about central aspects of life.
Therefore, the examples collected in this toolkit may inspire you to setup a project in your city. Projects that benefit you and your neighborhood controlled by you and you neighbors.