Smart City, Art CityNews published on 09 May 2017 in News
Concepts and developments regarding Smart Cities mainly concern practical benefits whether in terms of energy, ecology or transport, etc. One definition of smart city is incidentally: “a city that uses ITC to provide more efficient management”. These days, behind this very promising notion of smart city is a town or metropolis with a complete ecosystem based on the digitization of information and more broadly digital creativity.
Currently, 50% of the global population lives in cities. In 2050, this percentage will be 70%! Hence how important it is to make cities more intelligent.
Smart cities, a mostly utilitarian concept
The Smart City concept incorporates eco-districts, new means of transport, responsible architecture, etc. whether at the time of construction, development or the resulting utilisation. The smart city concept is often very utilitarian, based on efficiency, cost-effectiveness or optimising resources. The welfare of inhabitants or employees and their access to a creative or artistic environment is rarely a priority in these urban development projects.
Making cities smarter and more creative
Beyond simple cost savings and more efficiency lies the idea of making cities smarter. Wired and wireless sensor networks in buildings, public spaces, parks and gardens, etc. make all these facilities increasingly intelligent. They are inter-connected. They share information. When we talk about the opportunities offered by digital today, we talk about a city becoming a platform, one that is connected. From where hence, the term smart grid or intelligent network arises.
The increasingly digital city can create new services, offer greater intelligence, become more creative…and more artistic.
Art in the City, Smart City, Art City
Art has always been an integral part of the city since the birth of cities and has proliferated in recent centuries. A new phenomenon appeared at the start of the 21st century: digital creation, digital art, also called contemporary digital art or technological art.
This new form of art that started on computer screens is no longer confined to them. For example, Digitalarti produced this monumental 9m high installation comprised of 200 large LEDs for Gare de l’Est, the lights fluctuate depending on the number of passengers in the station.
Reinvent places by means of digital creation
Smart cities can be reinvented in many ways. Creativity enables this creative phenomenon to be magnified and digital creation has a role to play.
A good example is the pedestrian tunnel leading to the Stade de France from the Stade de France RER station. This tunnel was always gloomy and a cause for concern according to residents. Digitalarti produced Pixel Avenue, an installation by the french artist Fred Sapey-Triomphe, featuring over an area of 1,000 m, 2,300 large balls of LEDs fluctuating in tune with the number of pedestrians in the tunnel, traffic above and noise for the Plaine Commune urban area, in partnership with the Stade de France.
Scheduled for the next 15 years, this installation impresses passers-by who take selfies, enjoy the interaction and now feel reassured going through this tunnel.
Innovate to attract businesses and inhabitants
For Jean Bouinot, a member of the CRIA laboratory (Networks, Industry and Planning Research Centre, CNRS EA) and the Observatory of Local Communities, the inteligent city is also ‘one that both attracts and retains businesses using highly qualified workforces’.
Providing a creative, fun and remarkable environment considerably contributes to attracting and retaining these businesses and their employees. Smart cities become creative hubs attracting talent, artists and creators, etc. providing an opportunity to participate in the life of their city.
Living together and opening up to the world
Besides engaging in the future of creative hubs, the integration of digital creation within smart cities brings much more, in terms of living together and opening up to the world.
In this regard, it is particularly interesting to analyse the impact of the first digital art festival, Ars Electronica, on the city and the region of Linz in Austria.
The Ars Electronica festival has been a forerunner of the digital revolution for more than 30 years exploring relations between art, technology and society. Linz was a provincial, industrial city in the 70s, with a steel industry based economy and the concerns that came with it including pollution, decline in activity and a bad image of the region. The city is attracting talent today. Several international high-tech businesses have settled in the region, as well as several “cleantech” companies or green technologies. Linz has become an example of a city that is industrial, clean, ecological, cultural and international.
How can the influence of the festival be measured? This influence is of course difficult to measure precisely but by combining numerous convergent factors, it is possible to establish an accurate diagnosis on the significance of this influence. This influence is very wide-ranging. Beyond culture and the economy it even affects the social dynamics, regarding living together and opening up on an international scale. Therefore, the whole population has over a long period become accustomed to various, and sometimes shocking, cultural proposals, in public areas as well as in exhibitions.
Beyond real but quite intangible elements like opening up to others, it is important to take note of much more measurable elements like the number of patent applications. In Austria, the region of Linz is the region with the most. Also, opinion polls show that inhabitants of the region have a much more positive vision of the future than the rest of the Austrian population.
In conclusion: smart cities should also become art cities!
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