IEEE Computing on Urban Computing

The last issue of IEEE Computer is a special edition about urban computing. Here is the stance of the editors (Irina Shklovski from Carnegie Mellon University and Michele F. Chang, from ReD Associates):

This special issue focuses on the topic of urban computing because we feel it is important to consider public spaces as potential sites for the development of computing. The articles presented here point to issues of theoretical understanding of these spaces, as well as the technical feasibility of technology design and development. We are not calling for technology designers to become urban planners and social scientists, but we do suggest that there is a wealth of research in these areas that needs to be taken into account when designing new technologies. Collaborations are crucial to understanding social life and creating technologies that can augment it in positive ways. We believe that research in urban computing can be useful for augmenting and extending existing theories in relevant fields and for greater blending of these fields to develop a coherent understanding of public social life.

The articles seem to be very promising, as attested by the editorial summary:

In “Imagining the City: The Cultural Dimensions of Urban Computing,” Amanda Williams and Paul Dourish (...) point out that understanding the aspects of public spaces that make them legible to the inhabitants is critical to understanding the diverse needs of their inhabitants. (...) In “Facilitating Social Networking in Inner-City Neighborhoods,” Marcus Foth explores the friends and strangers component of public spaces (...) The article suggests that there is a need—indeed, a market—for collaborative systems, which will be difficult to provide if we rely on existing ideas about “communities.” In contrast, Vassilis Kostakos, Eamonn O’Neill, and Alan Penn further explore the concept of legibility in “Designing Urban Pervasive Systems.” (...) Both propose usable analytical frameworks for designing and evaluating urban environments. (...) In “Public Pervasive Computing: Making the Invisible Visible,” Jesper Kjeldskov and Jeni Paay address a com- bination of sociality, mobility, and legibility issues as they describe lessons learned from testing an interactive prototype system for use in a public space. (...) One of Kjeldskov and Paay’s observations is that when people spend leisure time in a public space, they do not necessarily desire to meet everyone in that space. They are comfortable with the space being populated by strangers (familiar strangers concept) (...) “Simulations for Urban Planning: Designing for Human Values” by Janet Davis and colleagues (...) describe a full-scale system that has been piloted and used to support public participation in developing policies in urban communities around the world.

Why do I blog this? because the issue gives a very clear overview of currently identified problems related with urban computing.