We need new ways to make the Internet of Things visible, bring it into sharp focus, so we can see the new fabric of the Smart City. One way to do this is through art.

We are introducing art in CityVerve to engage more people in the project, so that people can see and understand systems that are often complex and hidden, and, we hope, to stimulate the innovative aspects of the IoT technologies.

As computing dissolves into the everyday world all around us, we are surrounded by millions of connected, intelligent objects scattered through the city. A bin, lamppost or coffee cup can be a computing device, a sensor or actuator.

Complex systems pose profound questions on the way we want to live and be governed. When computing moves from the screen and into an ambulance it can be a matter of life and death.

For people to make informed decisions about the technologies we want and need it is essential to make accessible and demystify these capabilities. Awareness and understanding of the latest advances can be low even among experts in closely related IoT fields. A specialist in privacy may not understand the security capabilities of a new platform and so decide not to use it.

One of the major barriers to development and uptake in the Internet of Things and Smart Cities is the lack of engagement, understanding and trust of people who are the end users, or are affected by these technologies.

The role of art in technology innovation

We need new ways to make the Internet of Things visible, bring it into sharp focus, so we can see the new fabric of the Smart City. One way to do this is through art.

Art can enable us to reach out and touch or interact with systems and ideas that are otherwise remote and hard to access. Art can engage the imagination in the future of technology, and ask the big questions about the consequences of new technology. Art can engage the public in concepts and technologies that are not easily accessible, and bridge and translate between the concerns and language of engineers and citizens.

Many artists are technologists too, often working at the forefront of technology innovation, and can bring a fresh point of view on a technology. Observing how people respond to these experiments in advanced technologies can provide insights about what people need and will accept, and this can feed into the design and development of those technologies.

It is the vision and confidence of the CityVerve partners and funder, InnovateUK, that led to the inclusion of art in CityVerve. This sets CityVerve apart, but we are not alone. There is a long history of combing art and innovation, going back to Xerox Parc and Bell Labs in the 1970s. In Europe, introducing artists in innovation is promoted through STARTS (science, technology and arts). FutureEverything is introducing art and creativity to the European Internet of Things Large Scale Pilots through CREATE IoT.

FutureEverything Singapore

For 9 days in October 2015, the FutureEverything festival took over the popular imagination, public space across the city, daytime TV, and the political debate in Singapore. FutureEverything worked for two years with the Singapore Government and local communities to scope issues and challenges facing Singapore today. Designers, technologists, artists and urbanists also devised new innovations to answer challenges facing the near future for Singapore. City wide art and design installations responded to the everyday reality of urban life in Singapore, its urban density and pace of life. The Chronarium was a public sleep lab, in which smart sleep pods induce a change in brain state and a moment to slow down. Hello Lamp Post Singapore invited Singaporeans to pause to chat to newly sentient objects and street furniture about their vision for a smart future. Thousands of people taking part were able to share their data which we analysed to generate insights to inform the Smart Nation programme. The conference created an unprecedented open and critical debate on the future of Singapore and the national vision of a Smart Nation.

“FutureEverything really helps us to reinforce how those capabilities of both artistic and creative talent, and engineering talent, can come together to create amazing things.” Steve Leonard, Executive Deputy Chairman, Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore

“Art is an expression of human creativity. It inspires us to imagine a different reality, and challenges technology to find ways to bring those imaginations to life.” Dr. Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for Communications and Information

“Singapore is the ideal place to make the future; the Future of Everything.” Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation Office

Project Ukko

Project Ukko is a new climate service for wind energy that breaks new ground in the effort to improve the resilience of society to climate variability and change. This is the first time artists, designers and climate scientists have worked together to break new ground in climate services and to develop responses to climate variability and change.

Over 2 years, the art and design company FutureEverything worked with climate scientists from Met Office and the Barcelona Supercomputing Centre to understand the challenge of creating climate services that are useful, usable and effective. This was a part of EUPORIAS, Europe’s flagship project (EC FP7) supporting the uptake of climate forecast services. FutureEverything specialises in using art and design to prototype the future. Here Moritz Stefaner joined the team to develop a visualisation to demonstrate the potential of advanced climate predictions in a beautiful and accessible interface.

Project Ukko combines cutting edge climate science and data design to communicate forecasts not on the coming days, but over months and seasons. Understanding future wind conditions can become a crucial enabler for clean energy and climate change resilience. Project Ukko is an expert tool for wind energy professionals, named after the Finnish god of the sky, weather and thunder.

Chattr

Chattr was a digital service and design fiction. It asked a deep question about the internet and our life online – how much of our data are we willing to leak into the public online domain?

Visitors to the FutureEverything conference were invited to sign up to a new service. They could access a luxury lounge if they carry a recording device, symbolically housed in a embedded in a toy guinea pig to share their privacy conversations at the conference forever online.

The Chattr service invited delegates to ambiently participate in an experiment on privacy and ethics. Spoken conversations which occur in public spaces of those who agree to Chattr’s ‘Data Use Policy’ are recorded, transcribed, and published as indelible text on the internet. To use the Chattr lounge people must agree to have everything they say while in the cafe recorded, transcribed and published permanently in a public space online.

The Chattr project aims to highlight questions of privacy and ethical practices in the context of social networks’ and their terms of service and data publication. The project will relocate  the decision making process presented to users online to a physical cafe context, by displaying terms of service for joining Chattr in hard copy, and by offering participants benefits for agreeing to participate in a physical setting, in exchange, participants give permission to have fragments of their conversations recorded, transcribed and published, in much the same way as Facebook does by default. The project aims to provoke deep discussion from conference participants and online observers and provide knowledge exchange  opportunities around questions of ethics to feed into practices for the creative industries.

Researchers conducted a short research interview about the Chattr service with people who have either accepted or declined the Chattr Data Use Policy, to question attitudes and acceptance to data sharing in the digital public space

Art in CityVerve

Two art commissions will be developed within CityVerve; artworks which contribute to the dialogue between technology, innovation, culture and society and have an impact on innovation in the technology sector.

FutureEverything has set up FAULT LINES to support and evaluate the impact of artists working in technology innovation in CityVerve and the European Internet of Things Large Scale Pilots. Artists in the FAULT LINES programme are invited to respond to the commissioning opportunities.

In scoping ideas for the first CityVerve commission, the FAULT LINES artists had the opportunity to question one of the Lead technologist and the Community Champions about the CityVerve project thus far – its aims, ambitions and acceptance by the people of Manchester.

Community Champions in CityVerve have engaged communities in the city to explore what CityVerve and the Internet of Things means to them, to gather insights to inform the development of the technologies and services.

The process for developing the brief for the first CityVerve commission included reflection on the outcomes and reports from the intervention workshops developed and delivered by the Community Champions in the second quarter of the project.

In a forum with technology partners, Community Champions shared the insights on the interests and needs of the communities of Manchester. This was captured and fed into development of the brief for the first commission.

The FAULT LINES artists proposed ideas for a first commission, and these were assessed by a panel involving the lead Technology partner on CityVerve and representatives of FutureEverything, Manchester City Council, and the Corridor Cultural Partnership.

The selected artists will have the opportunity to work with CityVerve partners to identify appropriate technologies for use in their work.

Details on the first art commission in CityVerve will be announced soon.

About the FAULT LINES Artists

The inaugural FAULT LINES Artists for the the 2016-18 programme include:

Kasia Molga, a design fusionist, artist and creative technologist, working on the intersection of art, science and engineering. Her work often looks at the environmental and ecological impact of technology, and the ecosystems that arise as a result.

Dan Hett, a BAFTA-winning freelance creative technologist, digital artist, games designer and live visual performer.

Ling Tan, a designer, maker and software developer interested in how people interact with the built environment and wearable technology.

Helen Knowles, a multi-media artist whose work stems from an interest in the new sovereign territories of the internet and how these grind upon the old ‘horizontal’ sovereign territories of land, sea, and mineral wealth.

Naho Matsuda, a transdisciplinary artist and design researcher whose work investigates the social and cultural issues found within contemporary technological practice.

Chomko & Rosier, an art and design studio creating interactive experiences, installations, products and infrastructures for the public realm.

Peter J Evans, is an artist with a pluralistic practice investigating the patterns which weave through everything.

 

FutureEverything is an award winning agency and festival for the astonishing art and invention shaping the future. For over 21 years it has been exploring the meeting point of art, technology, society and culture. Through art we can reach out and touch the future, and bring new ideas to life. FutureEverything has delivered the UK’s leading digital culture festival since 1995, and is art and culture lead on CityVerve, the UK’s Iot Smart City demonstrator following the success of FutureEverything Singapore, the flagship digital culture component of Singapore’s 50th anniversary celebrations.