Thursday, 17 September 2015

Performative Urbanisms seminar

Prof Jason Cohen, Prof Judy Backhouse and Mitchell Hughes from the IS for Smart Cities in Africa project were guests of the Wits City Institute on Thursday the 10th September where they presented some of our research at the Johannesburg: Performative Urbanisms seminar. This seminar, subtitled “Fighting for and over the city: Expressing the city: Knowing the city”, brought together thinkers around these themes to develop a special edition of the journal Thesis Eleven on, in and around the city of Johannesburg.

The IS for Smart Cities in Africa project contributed a panel to the second day of the proceedings discussing the analytical frames we have been using as well as research results focusing on the relationship between connected living and quality of life and the preferences residents express for different information sources. Addressing an audience mostly outside of the Information Systems discipline proved to be an interesting and thought-provoking challenge.

The seminar was hosted at the Johannesburg Institute for Advanced Study and the University of Johannesburg.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Research presented at Smart | City | Region symposium

Professor Judy Backhouse was a panellist at the GCRO’s Smart | City | Region Symposium on 26 August 2015, at the Digital Innovation Zone in Braamfontein. She presented some of the project’s research, looking at definitions of Smart Cities and how results show that resident’s expectations of Smart Cities are not homogeneous. Our research highlights the need for the kind of detailed data that the GCRO’s quality of life survey is producing, which enables us to look at specific kinds of residents, as well as the need for debate about the kind of Smart City initiatives that are pursued and who will benefit from them.

Judy Backhouse presenting our research at the symposium

The symposium included panellists from local and provincial government, business and researchers and debated questions such as: What does this mean for local and provincial government in a City-Region struggling with the adequate provision of services? Can smart city projects provide a city-regional solution to address key development and infrastructure problems in the Gauteng City-Region? Is smart city a catchy buzzword driven by corporate profit making with limited benefits for government and general public? Will a smart city approach slowly erode the democratic city as we know it, or produce new types of publics, ways of being and urban expressions that enhance urban society and culture?

Shado Masilela poses next to the seminar logo

Some of our students attended the symposium and took the opportunity to question panellists and to network. The symposium formed part of the Fak'ugesi African Digital Innovation Festival 2015.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Research retreat

From the 12th to the 14th of August the Information Systems for Smart Cities in Africa research team retreated to Foxwood House for three days of writing and thinking. The time was used to advance our research in a number of ways. Honours students were finalising their data collection plans and the team spent time debating those strategies to optimise the value of the research. Others worked on conference and journal articles, while time was also spent on analysing data from the Gauteng City Regional Observatory’s quality of life survey, which is throwing some interesting light on how people in Gauteng use information technologies.

Team members Malefa Topo, Jean-Marie Bancilhon, Jason Cohen,
Tom Grace and Preshlen Reddy, hard at work