Smart Cities

Digital media and the global cultural divide. The global digital culture and the global digital perspective from South Asia.

Updated May 24,2016

Smart cities are  focusing on an intersection of bio technologies, art and science. Artists are using digitization tools to enhance their perceptions with the environment.  For example, sensors, bio mapping devices, tagging , Geo locations, are woven together in London’s landscape. How all these technologies are shaping people’s lives in smart cities is under scruty in this article?  There are detailed examples and visuals to reveal the logistics and the technical choices artist’s and the public are making. And towards, the latter end the author bring in the example of Mumbai to understand how developing countries are adapting to western choice of Smart cities.     

Introduction  :

Author’s comment : City life is changing. On the one hand, personal and social memories are both temporary, and they are affected by emerging new structures such as fiber networks that are transforming data flows into digitized numerical data. Citizen’s have access to real time technologies, and technology is evolving faster than our cultural experiences. This piece encapsulates how speed of technology is interlinked to satellitcal communication networks, and it is producing different kinds of expressions for the people in the city. London is a great example as it seems to offer the euphoric vision of the future city.

In the preceding section Saskia Sassen is a leading researcher on smart cities and technology, and in this video she tells us that :

 “It is the need to design a system that puts all that technology truly at the service of the inhabitants—and not the other way around.”

video Attribution : Lift Conference video’s

Place Emilie Gamelin, Canada

In the following paragraph, Montreal’s geo coordinates gives the reader a sense of society’s environment.  Through this black and white image showing the  multiplicity of how radar technology is surrounding and affecting the architectural landscape, and also the humans.

  • 2477529

Image: Senses & Society, June2007, Vol. 2 Issue 2, p189-200, 12p, 4 Black and White Photographs, 1 Diagram; found on p190 Accessed May 06, 2016.

Park Emelie Gamelin is a public place in Montreal. It is frequently visited by homeless people and activists, and it is also a tourist destination. Sensors were embedded to collect data  during WW2 by the military. But the photograph above shows the location of Geo coordinates in Montreal today. These powerful sensors detect minutest changes in the environment on humidity, noise, pollution, traffic and much more. The sensors are relying on wireless networks and transmitting and communicating significant data through networks that are self configuring. As  the communication is among machines,  it  has far-reaching consequences beyond the internet and  satellites. In this way, the historic Montreal’s Park Emilie Gamelin is managing its urban environment, but Montreal is not alone. Other western cities are using similar technologies as well.

Locomotive Media

The following section explains why the  landscape of digital cities is changing rapidly. As we have seen above how information systems and instantaneous communications are increasing. Humankind is being reduced to a miniscule by the complex technological systems surrounding the city’s landscapes. The latter section explains how human beings are driving the change   because of locomotive media and ubiquitous Art in our environments. Initially,  Latvian Electronic Art and Media Center and Riga coined the word locomotive media to deorcorpolarize the experience of screen based art and took it   beyond the art galleries and laptops. A number of artists are now crossing the boundaries and thereby altering time and space in the external environment and internal systems. The systemic and cybernetic idea’s are delineating the shape and form from conceptual artworks to superscientific cultures. As the tools are advancing so is civilization This section examines how artists are preparing new codes and analysing data through metaprograms. The next two paragraphs outline how the art in the future is evolving. And it for the reader to  absorb how the fundamental shift  is transforming the city and the architectural structures. And how the aesthetic relationships between ourselves on one hand and the computing technology on the other is using us?   

Ubiquitous Art

For the artists of the 21st century -Art is omnipresent. Traditionally it was thought that art in the galleries was distinct from our real surroundings. However, It is not about escaping from a real world into a digital space. On the contrary these artists move through thoroughly structured environments that are connected with gadgets. This is a pervasive concept because the virtual world coincides with the real world.   We are connected to  sensors and digital technologies,  and our actions have  become immersed in our surroundings, which is thoroughly structured by microprocessors. Umbiquious technology allows us to connect to other parts of the world through many communication spectrums, and at the same time with other people’s emotions and thoughts.  Digital technologies are bringing about sociotechnical changes in the environment, and it is changing the way we perceive, because there are no spectators as each and every human being is involved. Whereas, historians used to create unprocessed art data in galleries and museums. However, real-time activities have replaced or removed the art experiences that were idealised from the flow of time. The problem is traditional art like Renaissance or Van Gough where the artist was perceived as nostalgic, today what is being delivered is information art with no hardware value, but with software significance. And it is affecting the awareness of events that are in the present. It can be hoped for the future that complete absorption of art into media will be a fundamental shift, because art is real. Therefore, it is necessary to keep the unreal apart by cybernetic analogists and artists. The artists will have to become aggressive in directing the artificial intelligence of machines otherwise they may risk and get used by the technology and machines itself.


Photograph : poster 16/08/2012 source coca cola


Those artists that want to  move into public spaces of the streets and place themselves  to perform within the happenings of that particular time. In addition we find that   locative models and art designs have significantly increased in public spaces because of umbiquitious computing. Besides, Locomotive artists  network with other artists and connect to the audiences for a terrific experience which is beyond our perception.  The reactions of emotional outbursts occur when the artist experiences the art and the adrenaline because it  basically ties up the communication space and the geographical space as one space. Since the pubic space and digital space are both figments of our imagination these artists experiment with technological gadgets such as Geo locations and bio-mapping.. These artists are futuristic by crossing over the line of traditional art which was in the galleries and captured the spaces in the cities and thereby emancipated social changes.  While the city spaces are being negotiated by politicians , social activism and at the same time the artists are engaging with audiences through social relations. Even though art could take multritude of directions in the future, yet the aesthetic relationship between the audience and computers and psycological makeup and psychic truths will reveal human behaviour and how humans are responding or becoming mechanical!

                         Source :  EskimoInferno’s channel

Ambient commons

Our environment is surrounded by data surveillance and the rise of electronic tagging. Ambient is the surrounding area of our environment whereas ubiquity tends to imply connections to one similar internet where there is endless networking .  On the other hand, ambient is unobtrusive without links to other places so the shared public qualities in an ambient environment differ from other forms of umbiquity. For example environmental policy and intellectual property law are both common.  Ambient commons become a cultural domain in itself, and as pooled resources are suffering depletion in the ideological terms. Tagging is one of ambient cultural awareness where the artist is performing crime or social  good. Hence, ambient is the surrounding by media information it is inescapable that engulfs urban cities with communication sensors,  displays, and memory chip. The Ambient Common is our surrounding we are oblivious to, and it is a cognitive reaction to noise, pollution and nuisance. Ubiquity is not just limited to the net, but is embedded in information appliances,  art installations,  and the complexity of the relation of these media to other non digital media in the same sites. Whilst the new technologies are bringing about social change, and crystalisation of culture in actual time. In the same vein artists are consumed by the life-style-cultural change as they begin to use computers instead of paint, canvas and wielded steel to produce exotic art styles.

By exploring different contemporary technologies one is led to belive that a new era is ushering in. It may be daunting to some!But, the technology is operating at speed beyond human control or perception. The next three paragraphs examine biomapping, bikers, tagging and radio frequency identification.

Technological mapping of smart cities


What is Bio mapping technology? Artist Christian Nold said, “In structured workshops, participants re-explore their local area with the use of a unique device invented by Christian Nold which records the wearer’s Galvanic Skin Response (GSR), which is a simple indicator of emotional arousal in conjunction with their geographical location. On their return, a map is created which visualises points of high and low arousal.”

An example of bio mapping technology :

  • biomap3

Photograph credit : Artist Christian Nold Photo subject to strict copyright laws

As the boundaries between public space and private spaces are becoming blurred ;  cities around the globe are  now being compartmentalized in regimental zones because of indiscernible rules in city public spaces. As the public spaces are becoming private spaces the observation of cities and surveillance is happening in a concealed manner.Guardian. The next four concepts are explained by You tube presentation. To understand what is making the city so appealing please press the link on : Boris Bikes,The day of the figurines and Blast Theory . Again, it is for the reader to decide whether the possibilities of technology are optimistic as time goes on or is it generating pleasure and distraction respectively?

Boris Bikes


BLAST Theory

Blast Theory Can You See Me Now? Blast Theory members can play from anywhere in the world. How members play a game   simultaneously online and on the streets is shown in this video. Players from across the globe can play online in a virtual city against members of Blast Theory. Tracked by satellites, Blast Theory’s runners appear online next to your player on a map of the city. On the streets, handheld computers showing the positions of online players guide the runners in tracking you down.

Video attribution for education purpose goes to : Blast Theory

Day of the Figurines

What is Tagging?

The rise of electronic tagging ! This section highlights various examples of  the relationship between the tagger and the ambient commons. It has created a new genre of artists that favors mark ups in the urban commons. Furthermore, ISBN numbers are used on library shelves and by book publishers. Tagging  has now become trendy as it is less risky than removing grimes from the walls. The web allows the sharing of files on Flickr and You Tube. Taxonomy verses folksnomy. Today tagging is part of a larger cultural discourse for researchers.  The question is the high – tech complexity the designers use which is spell binding and the  social complexity of hand held devices such as the mobile phones. This is has shifted the agendas for social planners and environmental managers because civic participation in the field of urban computing and the ambient connectivity has risen.

Fox new : L A Taggers  

” FOX news about taggers in Los Angeles around 93 or 94 think it came out. Enjoy.”

Yellow Art

In 2008 Yellow Art found its way in the New York Museum of Modern Art. In 2006 in the New York Times, Yellow Art was acknowledged for its geo spatial web  which was overlaid by the internet on the physical environment to make cities more browsed. It was so unique that an alphanumeric code was used through text messaging which were connected to the Yellow Art servers. So much so in Copenhagen it caught momentum during political campaigns in 2006. And in Boston  it served to advocate bicyclist rights.

Vodafone Germany :

Attribution : Happinno for The latest TV adverts for Vodafone.

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)

This lucrative technology  for supply change management in defense.

Source :
Source :

RFID Art gathered momentum between 2003 – 2006. It was used for transit passes and passport for personal identification checks. However, in recent years RFID is considered outdated because of data mining technology. And also because marketers, police and security networks felt that the RFID data surveillance led to corrosive behavior from hackers. Yet, there is interest in RFID  Mediamatic runs a RFID annual hackers camp from Amsterdam.  Bruce Sterling is a futurist and a science fiction author who uses an ” arphid watch” on his column and tracks mischievous activities by implanting a verichip.  .

  • Another example of Tagging

    A artist who visually presents art with his aerosol is known as a graffiti artist. But a tagger sprays his name or sign in spray paint. Tagging is used by respectable people on Twitter # hashtags.  In urban computing there may be stylistic motives for these artists .

    download (1)

    Source:  What is Grafedia? It’s Art Jim, but not as we know it. “With Grafedia, I saw that the Web was going away from people’s laptops and computers and more toward being ubiquitous,” says Grafedia founder John Geraci, a graduate student in interactive telecommunications at New York University. “I wanted to do something that was an extreme version of that model, where you did away entirely with the idea of laptops and computers and sort of set the Web free to run through the streets.” The taken from the correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor July 7, 2005   by Elizabeth Armstrong Moore.

    This is true  that the public spaces is facing a crisis  today and in London for example   negotiations  between political  relations and social relations is apparent. The council offices (opinion) is acting like a detention center for citizens and there is clear demarcation that the space of council domain is not egalitarian any longer and freely accessible to citizens. In recent years government buildings are becoming regimented and monitored zones and the transformation of the cities is evident. The entire city shopping malls are blurring the lines of public spaces that are becoming private spaces. The once urban public spaces  are not freely accessible to citizens because the technological in digital cities means constant observation and surveillance. The umbiquious public spaces where cybernetic technologies work on their own rules have led to the demise of egalitarian urban spaces freely accessible to all the citizens. Public spaces are a Utopian space is now a myth!

    The Future 

    Source: Lee Rainie  from Pew Research Center

    India’s  Mumbai

    Author’s Note : Comment is free

    INDIA’S Mumbai happens to be the financial capital , apart from the urban development policies of the BMC : Bombay Municipal Cooperation : the other problems are slums, traffic and pollution. Koliwada areas are breeding ground for unhygienic and illnesses. Noise pollution is a huge problem. Water shortages and rationing of water to the slummer’s does not get enough attention. The dual society of the rich have no social inclinations for the poor and prostitute women. I am using this space to reawaken the people of Mumbai to take a stance and clean up the city. Temples, mosques, gurdwara’s and churches start their day at 5am by simply  shouting slogans and this rhetoric carries on till midnight. There is no courtesy for the children who have to sleep or study. My analysis is based on my own stay for three months in Sion Koliwada.  The next two photograph’s tell a story of their own! My city where I was born is not even  fit for a slum dog.! I am living in London for the last thirty years and I am simply appalled with what I saw. 

    The urban planning in developing countries : This is in deep contrast to the earlier concept of Smart City.

    With the support of the makers of Slumdog Millionaire, Plan is working to improve the lives of 5,000 children in the slums of Mumbai, India. India’s rate of growth has led to rapid urbanization with thousands moving to cities to find work and a better quality of life. However many end up living in crowded slums, earning a daily wage that is insufficient for their families’ needs. A new Plan project aims to improve the lives of 5,000 children in the Garib Nagar and Behrampada slums along the Eastern side of Bandra Railway Station in the heart of Mumbai. It is designed to address issues surrounding health, education, child protection and water and sanitation in an integrated way.
    Photograph source : Plan International USA Flickr ” With the support of the makers of Slumdog Millionaire, Plan International  is working to improve the lives of 5,000 children in the slums of Mumbai, India. India’s rate of growth has led to rapid urbanization with thousands moving to cities to find work and a better quality of life. However many end up living in crowded slums, earning a daily wage that is insufficient for their families’ needs.
    A new Plan project aims to improve the lives of 5,000 children in the Garib Nagar and Behrampada slums along the Eastern side of Bandra Railway Station in the heart of Mumbai. It is designed to address issues surrounding health, education, child protection and water and sanitation in an integrated way.
    8988112592_ce6287e65d_c :
    Source : kazunoriyokoi Flickr

    A private takeover of public spaces : Will India’s smart city experiment really help to tackle poverty? “In a recent speech, the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, said that the nation needed “to think big and focus on skill, scale and speed to revive India’s growth story”. To this end, Modi has come up with a new business model for urbanisation: India’s ambitious national smart cities mission, which aims to transform a hundred small and medium–sized settlements into smart cities.”

    Attribution :  CityMetric, India, published February 5, 2016

    Concluding remarks :

    Updated June 9, 2016 from Stratford Library Univerity of East London & Birkbeck University of London

    If cities could be sold to Englishmen for money in the future to – will a mythic past into a modern existence remain an utopian concept. A city needs to take prequisites of religious, political and visual literacy of the public embeded with an emblematic language to relinquish this discourse for elites. Here the author wishes to acknowledge Morse for his belief in an elitist republicanism which was threateed by buergeoing popularism and democracy. But more than anything his inspiration drew from the meta physical fall of American goverment into the abyss of democracy in the Jackonian era. Yet he remained optomistic and the same ideology can be applied to developing countries to construct the argument on the rheorical effort that represes the realaties of that moment of historical significance to today’s millenial future.

    In India, the idea of collaboration between artists and architecture remains at an infancy stage. In Mumbai city and Delhi here the communication between the artists and architecture is a general human activity rather than a reconciliation of focussed aesthetic systems ,  In Delhi and Mumbai cities  the communications research is lacking, because human art and activities is compartmentalised. Still, in these cities the conventional definition of art and architecture has a limited efficacy to narrow mutually exclusive areas (Gere, 2006, p. 114). Art and technology is part of a general human activity, the idea of collaboration becomes difficult, because it is not seen as a mode to communication and expression. Two examples highlighting the concern is Delhi street art festival and Roadshow : How 4 artists redesigned taxis with architecture ispired art. The tag factory manufactures the RFID tagging devices   for westerners.

    This paragraph focuses on the terrestria positions of the earth on a map. For simplicity if the reader sees Mumbai, Delhi and   London on a map.


    Has the earth’s relationship to the cosmos have anything to do on how cities are planned in the future? So, how will the cosmic design of future cities change? One has to consider the fourth dimension and beyond. This will depend upon the culture of the city; whether it falls into constitutional liberalism, dialectical materialism or mystical idealism. The first two concepts are concerned with the political layout of the city, whereas the last concept is about engagement with religion and aesthetics (Gere, 2006, p. 76).

    In the western countries the technological advances have moved with greater freedom from the turn of the twentieth century. The thought of replacing the present universe with a supremacist satellite, and extending it to the environment and supremacist architecture was championed by Malevich.  The cities are working at different supremacism levels. For Malevich, the suprematist argument was not only a world in its own right, but a creation of a new world? The laws of supremacism create a supremacist nature, and apparently humanity has to adjust to the new natural world (Gere, 2006, pp. 74-75).

    The cosmic idea is explained by the  pictoral representation of the new world of smart cities which will form satellites around the Supremast city.

    Photographic source acknowledgment :
    Photographic source acknowledgment :

    As, supremacism grows ;in new architectural constructions in time and space then the elaboration of the new idea for new architectural complexities and entities exist. The beauty of this argument is as the supremacist body that is built to include natural organisations and formation of new satellites through space and time which will start moving in orbit creating a distinctive path, and the position of the satellites just like the solar system the movement will be along straight lines, but in a circular motion of intermediate satellite. If for instance London architecture and cities is the supremacist body, then Mumbai Delhi etc. will take their positions accordingly in the natural environment, whereas London is the supremacist because it denotes supremacy (Short, 2012, p. 61).

    Gere, C. (2006). Art time and technology. New York: Berg publishers.

    Short, C. (2012). The role of mathematical structure, natural form and pattern in the art theory of Wassily Kandanskiy: the quest for order and unity . In P. Crowther, I. Wünsche, P. Crowther, & I. Wünsche (Eds.), Meaning of abstract art between nature and theory. Routledge .


    Architecture Engineering and Construction


    July 10, 2016

    I visited the Urban Innovation Centre in London . It is similar to a Fabrication Laboratory providing an innovating environment to learn, but  with multi purpose built spaces offering advanced digital making facilities. It is no longer` a 9 to 5 working hours concept. I was in the building for 12 hours with coders and developers who stayed on working even after I had left. These photographs are showing how software engineers and developers work in digital studios in London. What I understood at this event was the difference between what the machines of digital media look like from the outside. However, the AEC Hackathon in London was crucial  because I saw the actual process of how digital media works with the computational machines that make the digital media possible. I also realized that the machines were only part which most users see directly or use : The  application of the software is becoming a key component.

    Initially, I did not question the building design, because I was not certain about the specifications. There were 17 sensors in the building spread across the basement, ground floor and first floor. These sensors were monitoring air pollution, noise pollution, humidity levels in the building. As a digital culture practioner it became important to me to understand the implications of sensors in buildings. For me the most important aspect was what was the use of the sensors and the second problem was how to make use of the data which was collected by the Urban Innovation Centre from the sensors. A model was required to make the best use of data and the information from the sensors in the building. The BIM  4D model enables the manipulation of data through time.  Although there are many software technologies developed by Autodesk,  I sat with a coder Derek Jones and  found out that by using a programme R to code,  he was able to accomplish this task and then make the information available on the web browser. However, the task was challenging because the information kept changing so a printout of the data helped to analyse the pollution levels and danger areas. The coder was in constant conversation with the staff of the building. I slightly developed my understanding of how traditional smart cities are covered by thousands of inexpensive sensors and how the data is helping build smart city environments.

    The photograph shows the visual representation of the data in different colours for the whole building. The BIM technology is now becoming crucial  to attain higher efficiency, minimize waste at smaller costs. The other advantage of BIM technology is that it tracks and secures project history in real time on an IPad or IPhone. Environmental  kits are available from The photographs below show the data printed in coloured ink (which was manipulated to get efficiency) and the final on the web browser.

    I also sat with a software engineer Thomas Van Bouwel and his team. He was using Unity 3D to design a virtual workspace model and cross office collaboration. He combined C Sharp with Unity 3 software programme to add functionality to his 3D model. He created a virtual workspace model which is demonstrated on the screen, but also notice  the ceiling in the photograph. It is not suspended and the ducts and lights are seen openly.


    For me the most significant issue is the hybridisation of the computer metamedium of evolution – hybridization is in! It is different to digital  and techno-cultural revolution that London saw. I realized that  this was made possible by AEC Hackathon founder Damon Hernandez who welcomed AEC Hackathon London and its partners. The ability to stimulate not one or two, but most media in a computer combined with computer abilities to control the real time challenges, and to calculate transform input tests and send information over networks opening endless possibilities of creativity. I say hybrid because within the common ecology  of space the engineers were interacting, mutilating and making hybrids.  Subsequently, I questioned the technological ecology of this event as it was larger in perspective because of the venue itself Urban Innovation Centre. Previously, I did not think that “non-smart” passive spaces may have become blurred. The ecology needs to be written about because the relationships with ecology is likely to change with time   as consumer-level content access and media developing the software changes. Alternatively, this is perhaps due  software that is continually evolving, so some of the categories are above the popularity as the features are changing. This could be because it is impossible for network architectures  to function in isolation.  Instead participation in larger ecology by contemporary designers is becoming increasingly necessary by those  who are creating software applications for the users of interactive media applications and services. As new techniques are developed constantly which changes the identity of a particular medium that exists in a particular software.

    July 28, 2016

    I interviewed Damon Hernandez on why architecture, engineering and construction was created. You can hear the Podcast : Please open the link //

    An example of an oil Rig 

    An introduction to Virtual Reality Oculus rift VR Head set censors and control gear was available to audiences who enjoyed 360`experience.

    In Britain the Gear VR phone allows the recording of 3D images for construction industry. It is used for design and surveying the surrounding areas . Costain builders in Britain are training civil engineers and environmental system engineers as apprentices to do the role. It is estimated that over 80% female engineers were happy with their jobs. The tideway tunnel project is training students in engineering, design and construction.

    Motor technology is used for engineering and also teaching, and are programmed. The robots in the you tube video below can teach  in any language and have their own IP addresses. There are 600,000 products available for schools and colleges in Britain.  The exhibition at London Festival of Design and engineering featured some of the products. The robots have special features such as  voice recognition, facial recognition and color recognition to mention a few. The robots can also be controlled by an individual. They are manufactured by a German company.

    Gone are the days when scientists used Rotary calculators.

    Success! You're on the list.

    Leave a Reply