University of Sheffield and University of Amsterdam

Sheffield, United Kingdom, 5-6th September 2017

Organisers: Simon Marvin, Aidan While, Rachel Macrorie, Andy Lockhart –Urban Institute, University of Sheffield.

Together with colleagues from Centre for Urban Studies, University of Amsterdam.

There is now considerable research and development on new possibilities for radically extended urban automation via robotic, sensors and smart control systems, reflected in the development of commercial products and technical demonstrations and development. But as yet there has not been significant interest from the urban studies community despite the way in which the city is being positioned and used as a test bed for new automated logics of control.

The international workshop gathers together leading interdisciplinary critical social scientists and reflexive practitioners in the field to map and examine the emergence, applications, and socio-political implications of automation technologies and processes, as applied to a widening range of urban sectors.

There are currently four significant gaps in our conceptual and empirical understanding of Urban Automation (UA), which the workshop will examine:

  1. How might the development and application of UA be conceptualised as a distinctive 
socio- technical field and range of cultural practices? What actors and dynamics are 
involved?
  2. How is UA emerging in different areas of urban life and is it (re)producing forms of 
inequality, intolerance and insecurity?
  3. To what extent is it part of logic of centralised hub control or the neo-liberal governance 
of the self? What effects on urban citizenship can we see now and anticipate in the 
future and how significant are they?
  4. What, if any, are the potentials of urban settings of experimental Smart City creation, 
such as “living labs”, to democratize processes of UA innovation?

As such, the core aim for the workshop is to develop new perspectives on contemporary experiments in UA that go beyond the familiar critique of corporate smart cities and infrastructures, to understand how digital technologies and infrastructures, software code, robotics, sensors, and wireless hubs work within different sectors, shaping city processes with distinct socio-political implications.

A copy of the workshop programme is available here