In the past years, we have witnessed a drastic increase of technologies in urban areas as our everyday lives are becoming ‘smarter’, for instance in the fields of: health [38], learning [9, 15, 41], community building [1, 10] and sustainability [26].

A crucial step in design and decision-making processes around Smart City technologies is understanding citizens’ needs [21], however, the level of (active) citizen engagement in these processes differs widely. Smart City critique is often aimed at top-down, technocentric approaches [8] and scholars argue for a democratic, participatory approach to collaboratively explore opportunities for technologies and digitalization processes in cities. They call for a bottom-up, open, citizen-driven approach to the design and development of smart cities [8, 21].

Recently, perspectives like Human Smart Cities (HSC) [29] and Human-Building Interaction (HBI) [2] argue for the participation of citizens to create a participatory innovation ecosystem rooted in Human-Computer-Interaction (HCI) principles. While Smart City projects in the past have succeeded in involving active citizens, marginalized citizens are still usually excluded. But in order to build inclusive smart cities, active participation of all citizens is needed to take into account the interests of marginalized and vulnerable groups [23]. During our previous workshop on Ethical Future Environments for Smart Cities [11], we identified vulnerable and marginalized groups in Smart Cities. We discussed opportunities for ethical and inclusive smart cities that consider the perspectives and needs of all citizens. However, to facilitate active participation of marginalized groups of citizens, researchers, designers and practitioners would need to overcome additional challenges, such as the feeling of “otherness”, power imbalances, or cultural and language barriers. For this, inclusive participatory research and design methods that align with the needs, skills and wishes of marginalized groups in Smart Cities are required.

During this workshop, we therefore aim to collaboratively explore with researchers, Smart City practitioners (such as civil servants or other employees of governmental organizations) and marginalized citizens which methods and techniques might be suited for supporting and scaffolding discussions among these groups in Smart City projects. We will use a card game based method to collaboratively discuss different topics in the context of smart cities, focusing on topics and technologies that are relevant to marginalized citizens’ lived experiences. In light of current political developments in Europe [37] as well as globally [17, 27, 28, 39], we focus this workshop around refugees as vulnerable and marginalized group of citizens. We argue that refugees share challenges that other groups of marginalized citizens experience, like cultural or language barriers or power imbalances.


Smart Citites

The concept of Smart Cities is becoming increasingly relevant in the age of digitalization and urbanization processes. We adopt Fernandeze-Anez’ (2016) definition of smart cities that highlights the social and collaborative nature of smart cities: a system that enhances human and social capital wisely using and interacting with natural and economic resources via technology-based solutions and innovation to address public issues and efficiently achieve sustainable development and a high quality of life on the basis of a multi-stakeholder, municipally based partnership. In spite of acknowledging this collaborative and social nature of smart cities, Kitchin (2014b) observes that little attention is paid to the wider implications and consequences of technologically rooted developments for citizens or city administrations. Cities have difficulty in keeping innovation processes in line with the wider range of public values proposed by Jørgensen & Bozeman (2007), such as equity, protection of minorities, and (inclusive) citizen involvement. Often, one-size-fits-all narratives are used rather than focusing on a diversity of citizens, in spite of cities’ awareness of related public values.

In Smart City perspectives such as HSM and HBI, citizens play a central role in design processes. The growing discourse on HBI encapsulates the complex sociospatial roles of the built environment as a result of increased pervasive computing capabilities incorporated within public places [2]. Architecture and physical space serve as a dynamic interface for hosting interactions between humans and computers. In keeping with these aims, HBI and HSM can provide a shared platform for collaboration between the HCI community and built environment designers to generate more inclusive future solutions and scenarios.

Participatory Design with Vulnerable Target Groups in HCI

The exclusion of vulnerable and marginalized groups in the development of technologies consolidates the status quo and furthers it, as technologies that perpetuate harm can scale to have dire consequences [20, 31, 32]. In the field of HCI, Participatory Design (PD) has therefore become an established practice in developing technologies [6, 33], considred especially relevant in the context of designing technologies for vulnerable and marginalized user groups (e.g. neurodivergent children [16], older adults [25], migrant [35] or racially discriminated youth [7]), whose experiences and thus requirements for technologies differ from those of the predominant social or cultural group. From this, PD in HCI has become a tool to include marginalized perspectives in the design of technologies, and to enact justice through design [3]. As visions of smart cities often do not represent the reality of the diverse lives within, but only reflect the needs of a select and privileged few that have access to making decisions or participating in decision-making processes, we argue in our previous workshop statement [11] for the inclusion of vulnerable groups in the planning of Smart Cities as essential to breaking self-reinforcing and self-escalating cycles of harm.

During the previous workshop, participants concluded that the feeling of “otherness” is a challenge in developing inclusive Smart Cities. Looking not only towards past and present refugee crises connected to armed conflict, political persecution, and natural catastrophe, but also towards assumed future increase of climate refugees, we understand the status of being a refugee as a transitional state that any person or other life form can find itself in, becoming ‘other’ in a techno-social environment not by choice, but by necessity. Not only is the experience of seeking refuge and being other and othered shared with other vulnerable and marginalized groups, but in a changing world, including the perspective of refugees also has future relevance for refugees of other species, especially with regards to climate refugees. Access to public technologies and digital infrastructures can create or dismantle social and structural barriers in (Smart) cities. However, these infrastructures are not always suited to the needs of refugees, which are usually not included in their development, leading to digital resources – even those created explicitly for refugees – often not fulfilling their required function [30]. Including refugees in the design processes of smart cities thus contributes to a better understanding of their needs and those of related groups, and better preparation opportunities for cities in light of the uncertainty created by climate change.

Outcomes previous workshop

The previous workshop addressed the research gap of an appropriate consideration of vulnerable target groups in the development of Smart Cities [11]. The workshop followed a Design Fiction-oriented approach [4, 5, 12, 24, 34] with additional inclusion of the Walt Disney method [14] to rethink the currently predominant concept of top-down and economically oriented approaches to Smart Cities in a playful and border-crossing way, and to develop a „new, extended and sustainable model of smart cities“ [11]. The participatory focus was on scientific experts, for whom the main results were the formation of so-called Caring Communities [18, 36] and the establishment of a certain habitus that enables the sustainable design of such a community. Flora and fauna were included as inhabitants in the Smart City, with a focus on healthy co-habitation, and Space itself was understood as another actor in a successful overall ecosystem, within which social practices must change to ensure inclusion of marginalized human and non-human actors in the long term.

Collective cohesion through the formation of community-based identification with one’s own neighborhood makes the Smart City feel local, but requiring a practiced willingness to help. A new habitus based on constructivist values, deep respective lifeworld. Some of the important questions that have emerged against this background are: How do I want to mutual respect, the recognition of equality and mutual tolerance, as well as participatory inclusion supports establishing a culture of sharing and common participation. This requires trust between various stakeholders, mutual coordination of individual interests, as well as consideration and recognition of individual knowledge as expert knowledge of the live? What is good for me? What can be addressed by me as a private citizen? What is a public task? This is the starting point for the planned second workshop.



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