Smart Cities and Society

The concept of Smart Cities is one appearing more frequently in academic and popular discourse evoking images of urban utopias with seamless traffic flows, safe neighborhoods, and data command centers that identify and resolve urban issues such as air pollution, traffic, and crime. These utopias have animated several initiatives, most notably the White House's Smart Cities Initiative (2016). Implicit in these scenarios are the material infrastructure that supports them: high-speed connectivity, sensors, the Internet of Things, and Big Data.  In the light of ethical and political issues such as surveillance, algorithmic biases, and digital divide, this research probes whether smart cities technologies would be part of the solution to the problems of communication and community within the city, thereby improving the lives of citizens? Or, would they work to expand modes of participation and citizenship; or instead suppress communication and further distance and disintegrate communities? 

My research addresses these questions through theoretical inquiry and experimental designs. Currently, my research group and I are conducting an ethnographic case study of the smart cities initiatives in Atlanta while at the same time creating experimental designs that probe the relationship to sensor-based urban technologies, place, storytelling, and community.

Recent work also includes a feminist analysis of algorithmic morality within the application area of self-driving cars; and an exploration of location-based technologies such as Mixed Reality apps, urban screens, and location-based polling systems in their (in)abilities to mediated location-based modes of social engagement and participation. 

Related publications and presentations:

[1] Nassim JafariNaimi, Kathi Kittner, Beth Coleman, “Smart yet (in)Sensible? Feminist Critical Perspectives on “Smart Cities.” (Open Panel, 2017 Annual Meeting of the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S), August 2017). Panel I. and Panel II.

[2] Nassim JafariNaimi, Our Bodies in the Path of the Trolley; Or, why Self-driving Cars Must *not* Be Programmed to Kill.” Journal of Science, Technology, and Human Values. (Online First)

[3] Nassim JafariNaimi, "MRx as a Participatory Platform," Digital Creativity 26, no. 3-4 (2015): 207-220.

[4] Rebecca Rouse, Maria Engberg, Nassim JafariNaimi, Jay Bolter, "MRx: An Interdisciplinary Framework for Mixed Reality Experience Design and Criticism," Digital Creativity 26, no. 3-4 (2015): 175-181.

[5] Rebecca Rouse, Maria Engberg, Nassim JafariNaimi, Jay Bolter, "MRx Design and Criticism: The Confluence of Media Studies, Performance, and Social Interaction," Digital Creativity 26, no. 3-4 (2015): 221-227.

[6] Rebecca Rouse, Nassim Jafarinaimi, Maria Engberg, and Jay Bolter, “Writing, Performance, Design: Frameworks for Understanding & Creating New Narratives in Augmented Reality.” (Paper presented at HASTAC 2013 – The Storm of Progress: New Horizions, New Narratives, New Codes. York University, Toronto, Canada. April 2013).