The “Sustainability means inclusivity” closing festival took place June 13-14 2022 at Campus Norrköping. This festival marked the closing phase of a research project by the same name: “Sustainability means inclusivity: engaging citizens in early stage smart city development”. This FORMAS-funded interdisciplinary project has spent the last three years engaging citizens in conversations around a specific smart city test city, Testbed Kungsgatan, but also around ideas about “smart cities” in general.
The project started from the basic premise that sustainable urban environments depend as much on creating spaces that are comfortable, safe and accessible to all (the inclusivity part of the title) as much on deploying “smart” technologies for energy efficiency or environment monitoring.
– For us, sustainability and inclusivity go hand-in-hand, and this required an interdisciplinary approach, says Katherine Harrison, Associate professor at Gender studies, Department of Thematic Studies, Linköping University.
The project team includes researchers and engineers from Department of Thematic Studies (Tema), Communications and Transport Systems (KTS) and Media and Information Technology (MIT) working together. It has also engaged LiU students from both design and engineering programs.
– This interdisciplinary approach was something we wanted to continue in our closing festival and was reflected in the four keynote speakers whose expertise spanned IoT (Theo Tryfonas), citizen participation (Modan Akbarnazim), digital sovereignty (Ramon Ribera Fumaz) and data feminism (Lauren Klein). It also played an important role in our decision to provide a range of activities, from urban gardening and prototype app testing to panel discussions and work-in-progress sessions, and even a workshop on sensory experiences of the urban space.
The festival was a collaboration with Cities 5.0 and the Smart City and Digital Sovereignty network which raised the visibility of the event, and attracted many international experts. More than 70 people registered to attend this two-day event including municipal staff, researchers (both national and international), and students.
– The participants commented on how much they appreciated the mixture of activities, the inspiring keynotes, and the chance for interdisciplinary conversations in a relaxed setting. With this festival, we wanted to create a meeting point for researchers and practitioners that challenges the tech-centric, top down approach that can still be seen in many smarter city projects, and we think we succeeded!
– With this in mind, it was very heartening to see that the participants came with open minds. Everyone was open to listening and learning, and this resulted in a very rich conversation that integrated different perspectives. For the project team it was also hugely inspiring and exciting to meet in person many of the colleagues and collaborators we have been talking with for the last couple of years, and we took the opportunity to brainstorm ideas for future collaborations.