martes, 2 de diciembre de 2014

Constructivismo social y tecno-determinismo en la smart city

A lo largo de este texto hemos avanzado en diferentes momentos una idea central: la forma en la que pensamos, nombramos o relatamos la ciudad y los fenómenos urbanos tiene una importancia fundamental en la forma en que se despliegan nuevos proyectos, iniciativas, estrategias y propuestas reales sobre la ciudad. También, siguiendo la idea del despliegue tecnológico como un proceso de negociación (Galloway 2008), hemos planteado cómo el despliegue de la smart city se puede interpretar como un proceso de construcción de un régimen discursivo conformado por una serie de recursos explícitos, significados implícitos, agentes, soluciones, infraestructuras, etc. Con ello hemos querido superar el determinismo tecnológico como esquema que pretende explicar el automatismo entre la tecnología y sus impactos sociales. Dicho de otra manera, proponemos una visión desde el constructivismo social de la tecnología (Aurigi, 2005) como modelo de interpretación de la forma en que la tecnología despliega su capacidad transformadora en la ciudad.

Famed Hitachi Poster: Technology in Action, CC BY 2.0 (Hitachi Data Systems Hitachi)
Por ello, el modelo de diseño, los procesos de diseño del instrumental tecnológico que se despliega en la ciudad tiene una importancia crítica y, siguiendo a Kresin (2013b), puede ser modelado para atender la perspectiva ciudadana siguiendo una serie de principios de diseño desde las políticas públicas:
  • “Your citizens know more than you. Don’t coerce or just pretend to listen, but engage in a dialogue about what should be done, and how. Employ violently neutral facilitators that will take power out of the equation.
  • Don’t separate the design and development process: they are one. Prototypes will make design issues tangible and understandable to the people that participate. Prototype early and fast, engage the stakeholders, iterate quickly and be prepared to start all over.
  • Embrace self-organisation and civic initiative, but help to make the results sustainable and scalable. Bureaucracies can never muster the passion and energy that citizens have to start new ventures, but do play an important role in further implementation and scaling. Where possible, become a launching customer.
  • Know what you are talking about in the face of technology. If you procure a platform, product or service, have people that built them in the procurement team in leading positions. Never rely on consultants that will sell you more consultancy, not solutions.
  • Have binding decisions made at the lowest level possible and actively preach self-governance. No good system was ever built by committee, and no committee ever improved a decision that was made by the people who have to use it.
  • Favour loosely coupled, smaller systems over monoliths and mastodons, and use peer-defined standards to glue together the parts. Small systems tend to fail sometimes; large systems fail for sure. Furthermore it enables small, local companies to do the work: they work twice as hard for half the money.
  • To raise and deserve trust, build systems based on data reciprocity and transparency. People want to know as much of the system as the system knows about them. Be open of what it captures and who has access, and let the people be in control of their data.
  • Reuse existing parts and design your additions for reuse, adding to the public domain and thereby strengthening its capacity to act and learn. Open content, open source and open data will be beneficial to all and “make all bugs shallow”.
Desde esta posición, los dispositivos, aplicaciones o infraestructuras asociadas al relato de la smart city necesitan ser relativizados (De Waal 2013) en función de la interpretación, diseño, significación y regulación que hacemos de ellos, tanto en el plano institucional –qué tipo de dinámicas de negociación y relaciones de poder existen como contexto en el cual se da una particular implantación de proyectos de este tipo- y a nivel social –qué tipo de apropiación, uso y agencia se generan en las condiciones reales de funcionamiento de estos proyectos:
“Through observations and research on web-based digital city facilities, I have noticed how initiatives apparently very similar, based on the same technological objects and developments, can be shaped and function very differently according to the ways their entrepreneurs look at the "city," and to what vision they have of urban reality. I have also noticed how the same initiative can change its character and functionality thanks to the dynamic changes of its underlying interpretationos f the city and the role of high technology within it”. (Aurigi 2005)
La visión tecno-optimista tiene un engarce directo con una suerte de determinismo sobre la aplicación de las tecnologías smart en la ciudad, que idealmente funcionarían como una relación de causa-efecto permanente. Sin embargo, esta visión oculta la capacidad de modificación de esa relación que tiene quienes están sometidos al régimen del código en cualquier elemento de la ciudad:
“Today, a nascent movement of civic hackers, artists, and entrepreneurs have begun to find their own uses, and their own designs, for smart-city technology”. (Townsend 2013:119)
“Arduino becoes an excuse to build relationships between people. What happens every time somebody sits down with an Arduino is they turn to ask somebody else for help. Every time somebody makes a new project they´ll go and show it to somebody else. Tehy´re using it the same way we´vve used games and oter technologies as social lubricant. They get people talking to each other. Richt now the problem with the internet of Things is we get so focused on the thing itself that we fail to recognize that the potential to find new ways to express ourselves to each other through this medium” (TOM IGOE, entrevistado por TOWNSEND 2013:140-141)
Ya hemos señalado en diferentes ocasiones que el potencial para la ciudadanía de las tecnologías es únicamente latente, y requiere diseños conscientes para que sus usuarios retengan su agencia como agentes activos del uso de las aplicaciones:
"The infrastructure of these new technologies and the way they are programmed now co-shape urban life, just like the physical infrastructures and the spatial programming of urban planning have always done"), but to reach that scenario “ this depends on one condition: citizens must retain agency. The design of a platform must be genuinely interactive: this gives participants the opportunity to establish or change protocols instead of being forced to comply with rules laid down by companies. Magical software automatically arranging everything for us sounds very attractive, and the services provided by commercial parties will undoubtedly make life more pleasant and agreeable. There is nothing wrong with that, but, ultimately, we are better off when platforms for such services are accessible and citizens themselves can appropriate the related data and protocols in their own way.” (De Waal 2013)
Desde esta perspectiva, diferentes autores, y en especial Bell y Dourish (2006) han apuntado la necesidad de transformar la agenda de investigación en la materia hacia el constructivismo social como el mejor esquema a través del cuál comprender el uso real y práctico de las tecnologías en su contexto social:
“What this suggests, then, is that we need a deeper understanding of how social and cultural practice is carried out in and around emerging information technologies. If ubiquitous computing is already here, then we need to pay considerably more attention to just what it is being used to do and its effects. Interestingly, while considerations of the social and cultural elements in ubicomp’s agenda has traditionally been thought of in terms of ‘social impacts,’ our focus here is more on technology as a site of social and cultural production; that is, as an aspect of how social and cultural work are done, rather than as something which will inevitably transform social practice. Indeed, it may be quite theother way around.”

AURIGI, Alessandro (2005) “Competing urban visions and the shaping of the digital city”, en Knowledge, Technology & Policy, Spring 2005, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp 12-26
BELL, Genevieve y Paul DOURISH (2006) “Yesterday´s tomorrows: notes on ubiquitous computing´s dominant vision”, en Personal Ubiquitous Computing 2006
DE WAAL, Martijn (2013) The city as interface. How new media are changing the city, Nai 010, Rotterdam
GALLOWAY, Anne (2008), A Brief History of the Future of Urban Computing and Locative Media, disertación de tesis doctoral, Carleton University Ottawa
KRESIN, Frank (2013b) “Design rules for smarter cities”, en HEMMENT, Drew y Anthony TOWNSEND (2013), Smart citizens, Future Everything, Manchester
TOWNSEND, Anthony (2013) Smart Cities: Big Data, Civic Hackers, and the Quest for a New Utopia. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.


Tras la primera presentación que hice de la estructura de la tesis (The myths behind the smart city technological imaginary (PhD brief notes #1)), a partir de ahora iré publicando algunos retazos del texto, que va avanzando. En algunos casos serán notas bastante desestructuradas o incluso una sucesión de citas, pero igual sirven como guía para entender cómo va evolucionado los temas que voy trabajando, qué referencias nuevas van apareciendo, etc. 

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