Avoiding Ecocidal Smart Cities: Participatory Design for More-than-Human Futures
A workshop at the Participatory Design Conference – PDC 2018
20-24 August 2018, Hasselt & Genk, Belgium
Submissions open until 14 May 2018 (extended from 02 May!)
Many early adopters of sustainable smart city technology employed a technocratic approach. The dominant visions of these future cities, such as in the “eco smart city” , address environmental sustainability through the optimisation and rationalisation of urban processes, making them more efficient and therefore more sustainable. However, critics claim that such approaches are too simplistic, are unable to deal with the complexities of real, messy cities  and perform sustainability in specific ways that leave little room for participation and citizen agency [7,11,19]. Furthermore, the technocratic approach limited the actual social benefit people could expect from their urban habitat, and this has led to a participatory turn in smart cities [e.g. [1,12]. For example, many local governments have started using human-centred and participatory design for the integration of technology in urban environments to address issues of sustainability.
However, the turn to participation within smart cities fails to address a human-exceptionalist notion of cities, in which urban space is designed for, and inhabited by, humans only. Within the age of the Anthropocene – a term used to refer to a new geological era in which human activity is transforming earth systems , accelerating climate change and causing mass extinctions  – a human-centred perspective is increasingly seen as untenable. In fields such as STS [10,13], environmental humanities [15,17], geography [2,21], planning , design [5,8,25] and HCI , scholars are expanding and challenging traditional binaries of Western thought such as City/Nature, Human/Non-human, to consider the entanglements between human and nonhuman worlds including in urban contexts, and the ways in which we can conduct participatory research in morethan- human worlds, in order to overcome problematic narratives of human privilege and exceptionalism.
The aim of this interdisciplinary workshop is to move the field of participatory design for sustainable smart cities forward by bringing together designers, practitioners, and researchers to explore what it means to co-design genuinely sustainable cities that take into account the ways in which cities and nature, and humans and non-humans are interrelated and interdependent, for the co-creation of environmentally and socially just postanthropocentric cities. We aim to develop new conceptions that move away from traditional binaries and open up new possibilities for thinking about participatory design for urban environments in hybrid digital-physical space. We also aim to explore practical ideas about how more-than-human perspectives can shape actual participatory design practices and policies related to cities. For example, we might explore design responses to new legal rights of non-humans such as trees and rivers  and how their participation is negotiated in urban processes in hybrid digitalphysical space .
Workshop Topics of Interests
The topics of interest for the workshop include, but are not limited to the following:
.. Participatory design and use of smart cities, urban informatics and IoT technologies that explore human/morethan- human relations;
.. Methodological approaches, including opportunities and challenges for designing in more-than-human worlds;
.. Speculative designs, design fictions, and art projects;
.. Ethical and legal considerations, e.g. design responses to a new legal status of nature;
.. Designs that decentre the human or privilege other species;
.. Cultural aspects of sustainable smart cities in this space;
.. Theoretical perspectives from the literature e.g. Anthropocene, Capitalocene , Chthulucene , and;
.. “World-making”, what could a more-than-human city be?
We welcome researchers and practitioners working on design cases, prototype development and artistic installations, as well as those working on theoretical, critical, legal, or ethical perspectives, including those from STS, environmental humanities, and other disciplines. We welcome methodological contributions, such as object-oriented ontology , non-human ethnographies , speculative design, and actor-network and assemblage theories related to decentring the human in design.
Participants are asked to contribute to the workshop with a position paper or research note, which introduces aspects of the participant’s prior research, future plans, insights, or interests in the area, as well as a short biography (200 words). The max. length of workshop position papers is 2,000 words. Please only submit DOC, DOCX, or PDF files ensuring the file size is below 5MB. Please submit your paper by email to Marcus Foth at m.foth [AT] qut.edu.au
Submission deadline: 14 May 2018
The submissions will be reviewed by the workshop organisers for relevance. Our workshop venue capacity is 40. If participants exceed places, we will choose a balance of different perspectives on the workshop topic.
Sara Heitlinger, Newcastle University, UK
Marcus Foth, QUT Design Lab, Australia
Rachel Clarke, Northumbria University, UK
Carl DiSalvo, Georgia Institute of Technology, USA
Ann Light, University of Sussex, UK
Laura Forlano, Illinois Institute of Technology, USA
Full list of references available at: