The future of local memory websites as empowering niches in Amsterdam

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Published on: 31/07/2013

I presented a paper with the above title during the Sociable Smart City, a workshop with nine papers and wise people, at the 9th International Conference on Intelligent Environments 2013 in Athens. Here is the abstract of my paper:

In this article, we explain how we envision the further interconnection of existing  initiatives of online local memory collecting into a new social infrastructure, that is beneficial to the whole of Amsterdam. Three  examples of local memory websites show how large districts in the East, South and West are represented thoroughly by local residents, in spite of differences in organizational characteristics. The concept of empowerment, as a multilevel construct, lends itself to frame these examples as  important building blocks of  socially sustainable districts and neighborhoods.  Local knowledge, experiences and people become connected across Amsterdam when local memory websites become interconnected, by introducing city-wide compelling themes. Discussing this social infrastructure in relation to the concept of smart cities, leads us to a plea for more research focus on sociably smart cities.

The full paper can be found here as a part of volume 17 of the series on Ambient Intelligence and Smart Environments at IOS press and here is my presentation.

Very interesting topics were discussed during the workshoppresentations and during the wonderful diners (oh, the pastry wrapped feta cheese with honey and sesame!). In general, I enjoyed being confronted with the following questions/ topics:

  • At the end of the Sociable Smart City workshop three groups attempted to define its definition. Our group attempted to do that by adding two words to the definition from Eleni Christopoulou et al.’s definition: “A sociable smart city is one rich in infrastructure, which combines and exploits both people and artificial intelligence, empowering and engaging people in activities where urban social interactions thrive aiming to advance the quality of life and culture [of everybody]” (Christopoulou, E. & Ringas, D. (2013) Towards a Sociable Smart City, pp 675). Furthermore, we emphasized that future applications/infrastructure should “facilitate affective communication to fuel the formation of reflexivity, a concept that is related to respect, self-knowledge, acceptation, empathy, etc.”.
  • The phrase affective communication or similar had already crossed my ‘PhD-path’ about a year and a half ago, when I was reading Jean Burgers articles, in some of which she quotes Jim McGuigan: “The concept of a cultural public sphere refers to the articulation of politics, public and personal, as a contested terrain through affective – aesthetic and emotional – modes of communication.” A few months later I read two of Anna Poletti’s articles in which she cites Berlant: “This affective response to the process of making and watching digital stories ‘provides a complex of consolation, confirmation, discipline, and discussion about how to live”. Anyway, I never really got into unraveling this concept of affectivity, until Dimitris Charitos (thank you!) gave me the proceedings of the Hybrid City conference that was held the end of May 2013 also in Athens. In that proceedings I found two articles specifically on affect and, surprisingly they were both of Dutchmen, both present in my networks: Feelings in the air: Notes on Political Formation in Hybrid Space – Eric Kluitenberg and The Smart City You love to Hate: Exploring the Role of Affect in Hybrid Urbanism – Michiel de Lange. I will be studying that for applicability in my research of local memory websites.
  • We more and more generate data that can be fed back in aggregated forms to their origins or other users in real time (see for example this article and this article). In the case of car traffic, this can be very useful in order to avoid traffic jams, but in other cases it also involves ethical issues. But, the human easily following the herd, it might also make the popular places on a night on the town even more popular. Should it be like that? Anyway, heaps of applications are and will be developed sending aggregated information back to society synchronously or asynchronously and we will have to discover the ethical sides for each of them.
  • Connected to the last question is the idea that the nerve system of our body gets extended by all the networks or other data-sources (see this article and this article). We get a lot more information about our environment nowadays that we received just with using our senses in our surroundings before. I am not sure whether this something completely new, but surely our networks and information flow have changed through fundamental changes in space (I can be in different places at the same time) and time (people can contact my Facebook profile any time). What are these changes and what happens ‘on the other side’ where others can get a lot of information about me?


The little port of Naoussa on Paros where I did three days of wonderful windsurfing at the of

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