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HOMEWORK PART 1 - Due Sunday, February 1, 2015


    Sign-up & read one of the following articles and write a short reflection/response.

Reading Option 1:  Montgomery, C. (2013). Happy city: Transforming our lives through urban design. (Ch. 2)

Description:  After decades of unchecked sprawl, more people than ever are moving back to the city. Dense urban living has been prescribed as a panacea for the environmental and resource crises of our time. But is it better or worse for our happiness? Are subways, sidewalks and tower dwelling an improvement on the car-dependence of sprawl?  The award-winning journalist Charles Montgomery finds answers to such questions at the intersection between urban design and the emerging science of happiness, during an exhilarating journey through some of the world’s most dynamic cities.

Sign up: Sharon, Tiffany, Stephanie S, Archon, Jim


Tiffany - It’s very interesting to see the way different cities and structures have changed alongside happiness, and how it’s viewed (e.g. Aristole’s concept of eudaimonia, Benthem’s pleasure and pain utils). I liked the point that public life changes based on the architecture and layout of the city. For instance, in Athens, there seemed to be a strong theme of politics and philosophy tied to physical space whereas the Palais-Royal was described as a “hedonic diversion” portrayed as an entertainment complex with cafes and bookshops. Moreover, I also liked the author’s critique of happiness and affect ranging from the Disneyland case study to considerations with body hormones (e.g. oxytocin). When the author spoke about the design of Disneyland, it reminded me of their other project called Celebration, which is a town they designed. Based on the author’s closing goals on urban happiness, I wonder if all cities/places can achieve these goals? Are these goals that all cities should consider for urban happiness? Are there any additional factors that should be considered?

Sharon: It was interesting to learn about the beginning of the promotion of happiness through city design during the Age of Enlightenment. This thread continued into the late 19th C where beautification of the city was a priority as it was seen as something that could reform society and "conjure new virtue from citizen".  Stalin's elegant city aesthetic in Eastern Europe was meant to give a feeling of higher status to its citizens (ie. 300 m empty boulevard in Berlin). Some argued that happiness is obtained through escaping from the city. Others thought detached urban sprawl homes are the key to happiness. Ryff demonstrated, through developmental psychology research that the formula for happiness includes less measurable factors such as challenge, purpose, self-acceptance and good relationships. The goals laid out by Montgomery are indeed "not radical' but the challenge lies in finding the ratios, aesthetic, systems that meet the personal desires of the largest proportion of a city's population. What kind of reseach methodologies allow for the citizens voice to be best heard? How can we trust that the designers' interpretation of happiness is one that is equitable?

Mari: It was quiet interesting to track down men’s intention of life and happiness by cities’ architecture. Cities are full of history and cultural themes and there exists a relationship between how cities are designed and the personal stories carried out by each individual.  However, throughout the history, elite always had  the privilege of choosing cities designs. I was thinking, If every day people along with low income families had a chance to share their opinion is formation of cities, would we have different cities’ architectures today as a result of their influence?  

Also, I agree with author in saying that there is no single definition of happiness. Toronto was recently nominated to be one of the best cities to live in. Does this mean the rate of depression is lower among Torontonians?  How do you measure happiness really?! 

Stephanie:  As I read through this article, my mind drifted back to a golf course designer Gordon Desmond Muirhead

As an innovative and sometimes identified as "radical" designer his  1966 philosophy contemplated aspects of aesthetics, community and logic. "A golf course should be beautiful, not a whole bunch of tees and green coming to a point, but a thing of logic and sequence with a road running around it, so that the whole community can look in and enjoy it — can catch a glimpse of the trees and lakes as they go driving by — a fascinating vista of rolling green fairway terminated by a great beautiful green with its red flag fluttering bravely in the distance."

Archon: It is really interesting to see how people’s view about happiness and the definition of city interact with each other. This article suggests that cities should be shaped to meet people’s need. However, I cannot stop wondering that what if this conclusion is not true. Instead, what if, in reality, cities shape most people’s understanding of happiness. After all, if our child never went to the suburban area, would they become no interest in grass, trees, or ponds? I am afraid that it is us who are being shaped according to the cities we lived in.

Jim: I like the way this book is encouraging people to shift toward a more intentional, reflective stance regarding cities.  It seems to be happening quite broadly in our society, evidenced through discussions about transit, tearing down the gardiner, "walkability" scores for neighborhoods, etc.  I think Toronto is a very interesting example of a big city with neighborhoods that grew without much intentional design (basically grabbing stretches of Bloor or Queen).  And the trend toward Condo high rises is clearly not very reflective or intentional about city design.  I wonder how we can include such structures and high density living, but still have real communities?   

Reading Option 2:  Townsend, A. M. (2013). Smart cities: big data, civic hackers, and the quest for a new utopia. (Intro)

Description:  We live in a world defined by urbanization and digital ubiquity, where mobile broadband connections outnumber fixed ones, machines dominate a new "internet of things," and more people live in cities than in the countryside. In "Smart Cities," urbanist and technology expert Anthony Townsend takes a broad historical look at the forces that have shaped the planning and design of cities and information technologies from the rise of the great industrial cities of the nineteenth century to the present. A century ago, the telegraph and the mechanical tabulator were used to tame cities of millions. Today, cellular networks and cloud computing tie together the complex choreography of mega-regions of tens of millions of people.  As technology barons, entrepreneurs, mayors, and an emerging vanguard of civic hackers are trying to shape this new frontier, Smart Cities considers the motivations, aspirations, and shortcomings of them all while offering a new civics to guide our efforts as we build the future together, one click at a time. 

Sign-up: Cynthia, Ming, Peter, Yudi, Cady, Chenxi


Ming: What is a smart city?  Townsend tried to provide answered to the question in his introduction. First of all, a smart city, on the physical side is a well-connected place, where the connectivity is hard-wired into the infrastructure, the architecture, every possible thing that we see and we use. But that’s not enough, a smart city is not only a collections of wires and chips, but also a system on top of the hardware that respond to the human needs of interaction and social, be recognized and respected. And furthermore, a smart city also enable its residence to achieve personal goals in economical and political fields. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs may be a model to understand a smart city. 

Cynthia: Townsend’s historical account of the development of smart cities seems extremely daunting since it appears that for our city to become smarter there needs to be a crash first. Especially in big cities, the tension and gap between government control/the rich and the “have nots” does seem to be amplified by the increase in monetary investment in technologies. As a teacher, it seems like the field of tech start-ups, civic hackers and Smart Ethics will be a growing field and it should definitely be an area of learning that should be incorporated into schools since current K-12 students will be a formidable force for ensuring that Smart cities benefit the people instead of a small group of Elite. 

 Peter: I really like Townsend's approach. He knows the capabilities of technology, but he keeps a critical distance and is wary of technological utopianism. My favourite idea from this introduction was the tension between corporate definitions of the smart city (from IBM, Cisco, etc) and the emergent smart city created by civic hackers, etc.Townsend seems slightly more supportive of the civic hacker approach;but continuing from Cynthia's comment above, how can we best educate and equipa new technological civics?

YudiHappiness is such a general and wide topic when concerning the relationship between human and city. This article clearly defines that people can not be segregated and human happiness is bounded with city happiness. The city was more than a machine for delivering everyday needs or providing the infrastructure; it was a concept that bound together with culture, politics and urban history. Therefore, when considering the ideas of designing a smart city, the maintaining and ultimate goal is to understand the nature of humanity and people’s desire to seek happiness. 

Cady: Reading Reflection on Townsend’s Urbanization and Ubiquity - What an interesting and provocative read this was. It made me consider aspects of my environment and its history that I had not before, such as the fact that there are more objects communicating than humans, and that North American cities have been deliberately designed for cars. I related to other parts of the text like the balance of quality of life and efficiency that is the experience in cities and how the smartphone is the city survival kit, or the digital swiss army knife.Then there were things that the text crystallized for me such as the idea that cities compress the human experience of time and space. I appreciated what Townsend was saying about not falling for the idea that technology is the answer to social ills, and also the concept that when it comes to designing something used by so many different people, don’t put all your eggs into one basket. That said, I think he could have explained a bit better the have and have-not gap and how smart cities can widen it, but this could just be that this was an introductory chapter. In the article he says we need to ask ourselves “What do you want a smart city to be?”, and my answer is I don’t know yet, but hopefully after the next two weeks I can revisit that question with an informed answer!


One thing that is important for me is that we usually state the positive effects of the smart cities (although the article briefly mentioned about the crash). I do believe in the capacity of the smart cities, for example, video conferencing would replace some business travel and home-automation and e-health would offer higher quality life style. However, along with these improvements, there would be some disadvantages. I think in smart cities, people would virtually be connected to each other, but physically and mentally they would be more far from each other. Also, we would encounter other challenges as well, for example, we would have electronic garbage  which is harmful for the environment. people would probably have less privacy. Also, more dangerous weapons would be invented, considering the evolution of weapons from guns to chemical bombs and now nuclear bombs.  Another challenge would be we would rely too much on technology, rather than human capabilities. For example, if next generation students know the word processing software would correct the mistakes, will they try to learn the correct spelling of words?

Yes, I agree that in smart cities, "Where there is crime and insecurity, there will be watchful eyes." However, we should know that at that time, there would be other kinds of crime, that we can call "smart crimes". Yes, in the smart cities, everything would be smart. So I totally agree with the author that the main question is " when smart cities fail, and how much damage they cause whets they crash." and I think we should try to carefully answer to this question.


Chenxi: We've been talking about the rapid transformation of technology all these years, but still, we never thought technologies could take us to here where we are. 10 years before, the Internet is the thing, but now, it's nothing, just like the air we breathe in. Like Townsend said at the end of the article, the real question now is not "what is smart city" anymore, but "what do you want smart city to be". We already have the "blocks" to build the city, we just need sketch out the blueprint. Designers of the smart cities nowadays are like inventors in the old time, who can boldly follow their imagination to manipulate the new technologies. However, policymakers have a new version of headache. What are city planners going to do about all the emerging ideas? I'd need to think about it.



HOMEWORK PART 2 - Due Thursday, February 5, 2015


Click on this Google Doc to add your design ideas.  Try to name your idea:  some application of ANY of the various media that this class is concerned with: handheld, wearable, "smart walls", computer vision, social networking, 3D printing, Arduino/Maker, online community, information mash-ups, etc, etc, etc.  YOu could apply these ideas in ANY context, including the 4 themes from our course -Health, Cities, Lifestyle, Education.  You can also take inspiration from previous groups' designs, such as the ones we explored two weeks ago in class (see bottom of page) - maybe these could spark some ideas.  As you go through the week, maybe come back to the page a couple times and read through other peoples' brainstorm ideas - if you REALLY LIKE AN IDEA (or multiple ideas), add your name in the far right box, just to keep track of who all likes what.


    Sign-up for one article under any of the 5 topics listed below, then write a short reflection/response on your chosen article.

TOPIC 1:  Transportation & Mobility

Article:  Kostakos, Ojala, & Juntunen, 2013

Sign-up: Robin, Stephanie, Chenxi, Archon


Cynthia- Since transportation and mobility is something that affects almost everyone, this area does seem like a good investment for the well being of everyone in city. However, it seems like this concept of smart transportation/mobility is still at the stages where faceless controllers operate things behind the scenes in order to alleviate problems. It will be interesting to see this technology develop into a more social movement as the information becomes more accessible to the public. Also, it would be interesting to see where it goes in the future, for instance replacement of specific roads with Elon Musk's hyper loop transporter. 

Stephanie  S- Shortly after I moved away from the Sunshine Coast, the city of Sechelt implemented a free Wi-Fi zone

The idea was to create increased connectivity and technological opportunities, however, I began to wonder what else could be involved with free Wi-Fi  If everyone is on a shared network what does that mean?  What does that open up?  Why do most homeowners place passwords on their internet?  Is there a way to monitor the community through this implementation?  Could the city track individuals as they enter the free zone?  Can anyone observe what is occurring online?  It might depend on your knowledge of the city, community, the area, previous crime sprees, common misdemeanors that occur, the types of establishments in the area

Chenxi: Smart transportation is a typical use of big data. Not only geographical information, but also social media, street camera, traffic volume, police information network and a lot of other things can be and should be utilized to optimize the traffic. The benefits are not limited to bettertraffic saving people time and cost, it can also contribute toenvironment protection, energy consuming, safety issues, etc. We should definitely make the best use ofthese information, but should we make it accessible to everyone? I'm not sure. Maybe we need to carefully consider the degree of sharing in case some terrorists take advantage of it.


Archon: It is a robust idea to use city-wide sensing for traffic control. I believe people would be willing to pay anything just to make the traffic problem go away. But I think this idea would be more interesting if we try to connect it with driver-less car. If we could replace the existing cars with driver-less cars, and connect them together, do we still need city-wide sensors? Can we have a control center that instructs each car which route it should take? If we can do so, then the problem would no longer be how we respond to the traffic problem, it will become how we control the traffic. And I think this is the direction we are heading.

TOPIC 2:  Buildings & Architecture 

Article:  IBM Smarter Buildings  (Read through the webpage and watch the 2-minute video)

Sign-up: Stef, Tiffany, Sharon, Cady


Tiffany - I like the point that a smart building is not an island, in that it should consider and communicate with it’s external environment. For instance, a smart building can also be green by using renewable energy sources or contributing back to the environment with rooftop farms/gardens (which can contribute to urban happiness as discussed by Montgomery, 2013). Since buildings are structures and one of the building blocks of a city, it’s important to consider not only the layout of a city but also it’s individual components, and how a city as a whole can be smarter and contribute to happiness, being environmentally responsible, etc.

Sharon - IBM presents the possibility for buildings to work together as an ecosystem to minimize energy consumption. They claim that by data sharing between facilities and IT organizations, smarter building can reduce energy by up to 40%. Real-time data gathering and analysis allows management to address issues proactively and allows developers to visualize energy usage before construction. I worry about privacy issues... data patterns for energy usage could be of interest to criminals and sharing that data with more parties could increase the risks of being robbed. However, in my opinions, the benefits of decreasing energy consumption far outweighs such negative implications.


Cady - This is a really cool product that IBM has put together. After watching the promotional videos, including the case studies, and reading what was there, I do worry that in the process of making the building smart they are focusing only on the machine to machine interactions, when energy efficiency might be just as greatly improved, if not more in some cases by consulting people working in the buildings to figure out how they use the space. By integrating the building’s users, the process of making the building more smart would be a combination of behaviour change as well as facilities changes. There are most certainly human actions in buildings that go on that are not part of what the building and its machines were designed for. When making a building smart, it may be productive to look at the gap between the data the machines are providing about the building and the data people are providing so that the monitored “real-time” information is actually complete. Integrating all the building’s users in the process of making the building SMART, not just installing computer systems, may be most effective.

Yudi: I a hundred percent agree with Cady’s opinion on the relationship between human action and the designing of the buildings. Not only by analyzing the data and optimizing the function of the surroundings, “human” as building users need to be aware of their misbehaviors and friendly use the facilities regarding the energy saving. It reminds me the side effect of Earth Hour even it can be a bit off-topic, which is an annual event that to raise awareness of energy issues by convincing people to shut off the lights in their houses and public buildings for one hour on one specific night. In fact, in places where lots of people participate, there might even be a small, temporary uptick in emissions. When fossil fuel power plants are forced to rapidly increase or decrease the amount of electricity they produce, they also produce more emissions. Therefore, the change of infrastructure and shared systems are the only way to produce the energy-saving into actual work

TOPIC 3:  Resource & Energy Consumption

Article:  Kansari, Motashari, & Mansouri, 2014

Sign-up:  Sarah, Ahmad, Ming


Ming- If we exam the normal idea adoption process, it usually takes four steps from awareness-interest-desire-action. With the smart or mobile technology, it seemsthatuserwilleasily skipped the first two steps. By downloading and using the application, the user already shows the awareness and interest in the concept. Of course, the social networking and social media, can spread the information or idea in a way that none of the early technology can do. The power of creating the market awareness and the interest has never been so forceful. If theappdemonstrategreatvisual representation of the resource or energy idea, the message will be very likely to be accepted and action to be carried on.


The authors talked about a number of ways that may help to reduce the energy consumption. They stated “In smart cities, governments and businesses invest in ICTs to improve sustainable development and quality of life, by providing smart urban infrastructures that will inform residents about the desired environmental”. Also, the authors considered an important role for “hidden curriculum” which is mentioned in the article as “social norms”: “Social norms are able to influence energy conservation through interactions between friends, neighbors, family in the community that emphasizes on energy saving”. Although the authors considered an active role for governments, businesses, and the society, they forgot to consider the education systems. I believe education systems have the potential to change the social behavior with less expenses, so I think education systems should take the responsibility to do that. That being said, if we are moving toward smart cities, education systems should well prepare current teachers in order to be able to effectively participate in the process of changing the social behaviour of the next generation.

 The authors stated that “To change energy behavior, belief, value, and attitude should be considered. Combination of information and goal setting strategies is able to motivate individuals to have an energy efficient pattern”. My question is that what organizations can change the behavior, belief, value, and attitude as effective as education system?


TOPIC 4:  Pollution & Waste Production/Management 

Article:  Chowdhury & Chowdhury, 2007 

Sign-up:  Mari, Jim


Jim: Wow - this paper is awesome.  almost 10 years old - and focused on what was then already a fairly "commoditizable" technology of RFID and Wifi.  

Basically, it allows a kind of "surveillance data" about the various forms of waste - recycling, green waste, etc" - which could allow for smarter planning, as well as informational or incentivizing programs, etc.  Could allow people to get tax breaks based on the ratio of landfill to other recycled waste, which would be great.  Also, for accountability, of whether the city is doing well, and how much recycling came in, and what kind of revenue that translated into.  Also automatization - where these RFID tags could allow for robots to do the sorting and processing more easily.  Lots to think about, with waste.  What other kinds of functions could waste containers perform? 


TOPIC 5: Safety, Security & Policing

Article:  IBM, 2014

Sign-up:  Alisa, Peter






1:00-1:15 - Intro to Cities

1:15-1:25 - Disneyfication of Cities

1:25-1:45 - Homework Review

1:45-2:25 - Cities Brainstorm - Google Doc 

2:25-2:40 - Break

2:40-3:20 - Mapping Activity

3:20-3:30 - Smart Citizens

3:30-4:00 - Design Time



Please click on this link, have a look at the Google Doc, which has a table of relevant video examples.

Add your comments in the far right of the table, and add any other examples if you like.  


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  1. Just a note and a warning; the 'new urbanism' presented in the youtube video above is not the new urbanism; as in, it is not the only and newest and best form of urbanism. It's just one form of urbanism current today. It's one of many ways of building a city, putting a city together. I think it's telling where it claims to be the new urbanism as it is, I would say, probably the most privileged of the current approaches to building up a city -- it's made for those who can afford a house, a car etc (where the idea is that you recreate the small town experience around the house, so the kids and homemaker can walk for their groceries, but someone still has to commute to the city).

    I only bring this up because it made me think of Ute Lehrer's “Re-Placing Canadian Cities: The Challenge of Landscapes of ‘desire’ and ‘despair.’” Lehrer is pretty cutting and cynical about the new approaches to developing cities, but grounds her conclusions in case studies from around Toronto. She is looking for sites of resistance, neighbourhoods that retain their sense of place and meaning. It's all questionable. I'll leave it up to you, if you want, to explore. But yea - Lehrer states that New Urbanism (Lehrer points to Cornell, in Markham) creates homogenous and exclusionary neighbourhoods, strictly stratified in race and class. Not the best.

    Anyway, just a caution not to latch on to this perspective on urbanism.

  2. Thank you for your very thoughtful comment Peter! Don't worry, we weren't blinded by the white picket fences and clean, neat neighbourhoods. Even the fact that The Truman Show was filmed there is very telling of the feel of these places. There is definitely a lot of controversy around this form of new urbanism and we will be discussing it in class from a critical perspective!