How places shape our futures

At the recent Sprout event held by Urban Growth NSW at Parramatta North I spoke on my work with digital storytelling in place-making. I found myself reflecting on the different qualities and spirits that cultures have attached to places through time, and what we might have to learn from valuing the local when we embark on future developments.  

Radiant Matter

What is matter? 
What is energy? 
What is light? 

Curious minds have asked these questions since ancient times. So begins our Radiant Matter installation for Rutherford's Den. Featured as a centrepiece of the new space, the installation creates an immersive space in which to experience historical ideas about the nature of light, matter and energy.  

Thinking Spaces: A new physical interactive

How do the spaces around us change the way we think? This question is the focus of a new physical interactive I've developed with the Esem Projects team for the Arts Centre of Christchurch. Do we really do our best thinking in an office, or classroom, or maybe its the best ideas that come in the shower, or while working in a cafe? Let the coloured magnets be a guide... 

Keynote: Cities in the Age of the Platform

I was very honoured to be invited to deliver the Workshop Keynote at the Smart Cities and Urban Innovation Symposium held at the University of NSW on June 1 2016. The event was a part of a rather excitable co-mingling of two Sydney festivals: the Vivid Festival and the Media Architecture Biennale. 

The topic of my talk was 'Cities in the Age of the Platform'. This is all about the new practices, policies and problems for cities emerging in an era of platform scale. A full recording of the presentation is here. 

What might Jane Jacobs say about smart cities?

This May, urbanists around the world have been celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of Jane Jacobs. The American-Canadian author and activist’s spirited defence of inner-city neighbourhoods inspired a generation of urban activists and place-makers. So what might Jacobs have to teach a new generation of urbanists and planners?

When Two Worlds Collide: Data Strategy and Strategic Planning for 'Smart Governance'

As the dashboard model grows traction and is embraced by Australian governments, this paper reflects on the institutional design of city dashboards, as they cut across the worlds of ICT policy and strategic urban planning. Based on recent case study research across Sydney, London and New York, this presentation compares a series of dashboard examples with a view to understanding the relationship between data-driven discovery programs, open data release channels or platforms, and the mechanisms of city performance management and strategic planning. In particular, it addresses the ‘back end’ support programs that support data discovery and harvesting; the challenges of persistent ‘data shadows’; and the forums needed to support alignment between data discovery, citizen engagement and strategic planning. 

Platform Urbanism: The politics and practices of data-driven urbanism

I was invited to attend an Urban Studies Foundation Postdoctoral Research Forum at the University of Glasgow in April 2015 to present on my research underway at the University of Western Sydney. It was a chance to set out a research agenda for 'platform cities' from both a practice and a research perspective. For me the term has more resonance than 'smart cities' because it addresses the dynamics of digital disruption as led through the platform-based business model.

This is Parramatta

While based at the Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University, I've become more and more fascinated by the transformation of Parramatta as one of the epicentres of urban growth currently in Australia. How can open data and digital platforms be better leveraged to capture the scale of the transformation currently underway? 

Sounds Different: Listening to the city

Reflecting on the impact of public conveyances in the city of Berlin during the first years of the twentieth century, Georg Simmel wrote,

"The interpersonal relationships of people in big cities are characterised by markedly greater emphasis on the use of the eyes than that of the ears. This can be attributed to the institution of public conveyances. […] Before buses, railroads and trains became fully established during the 19th century, people were never in a position to have to stare at one another for minutes or even hours on end without ever exchanging a word."

Valuing Open Data: Not so simple, Simon

In this piece for The Conversation (March 2014) I examine attempts to put a dollar figure on the value of open data.

Governments have typically signed on to the open data agenda through initiatives such as the Open Government Partnership and the G8 Open Data Charter and made various high-level announcements, but there are many obstacles when, as the report authors remark, “agencies and those within them find ways to delay openness to minimise institutional risk”.

Putting a dollar figure on open data isnecessarily speculative. Where open data has the potential to be a game-changer for many industries, currently the data is not being released in sufficient volumes to realise maximum potential.

Read the full article on The Conversation: Open data and the G20: the value is there to share

Appyland or Geekistan? The open questions of open data

It’s hard not to get excited by the promise of a more enriched and open digital ecosystem that makes the way we digitally interact with governments a whole lot better. But as we stand at the cusp of this open data-driven transformation, we should also take a deep breath and consider how “openness” is being used to drive public sector change.