Smart Cities in the Making website is now live!

One of the most pressing questions emerging from all the hype about smart cities is how  people in a smart city actually engage with smart technologies. That’s one of the questions driving the ESRC-funded project Smart Cities in the Making: Learning from Milton Keynes, and I’m delighted to say announce its website is now live, at www.SCiM-MK.org.

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SCiM-MK is a research project which will examine Milton Keynes as a smart city ‘in the making’ by a whole range of actors, including MK citizens, the city’s governance, smart products, smart data and various visualisations of smart. SCiM-MK will look at the social effects of all these aspects of a smart city. In particular, SCiM-MK will find out how social difference affects participation in smart, and whether smart creates new forms of social difference.

Since a better understanding of how different kinds of people in a smart city actually engage with smart technologies is now clearly needed in order to maximise the gains that those technologies offer, the project’s findings will be of local and international significance, learning lessons to be disseminated to cities across the UK and worldwide.

You can find out more about the project, the team, our partners and our activities on the site, as well get in touch with us, at www.SCiM-MK.org.

Flickr as a research tool

I’ve just spent a couple of hours uploading photographs onto Flickr.  These photos are part of my current research project, and they’ve been taken to record various things going on at the project’s fieldwork sites, which are various kinds of offices.  I’m finding Flickr to be a very useful way of organising the photos into groups, as a preliminary form of analysis.

The project is generating lots of different kinds of data, and most of it will go into NVivo – but co-ordinating NVivo between three researchers is tricky (we are all NVivo newbies), so we’ve decided to use Flickr for our own fieldwork photos.

I’m using Flickr’s abilities to group photographs into sets and also to add tags to individual photos.  I’ve put the photos into different ‘sets’ to attach their specific location and their location type to each image (for example, ‘architects office’ is one location type, ‘visualisers office’ another).  Then I’m tagging individual photographs with codes.  Some of these codes are the same ones that the project is using on its interview transcripts and ethnographic observations; but I’ve added a few more, suggested by a preliminary overview of the photos themselves, particularly around the details of the offices’ layout and the what the people in them are doing.  In this way I’m assuming that the different codings will integrate – but that the different data sources will also offer their own insights.

I then plan to use Flickr’s tag-searching tools to gather together all the photos I’ve coded with, let’s say ‘table top’, to look at all the photos we have of the stuff that accumulates on the tables in architects’ and/or visualisers’ offices.  And then I can ponder on what those images tell me – which will be the difficult part!

In case my surprise at Flickr’s usefulness might seem bizarre, I should admit that I’ve never used Flickr to share photos.   And given that Flickr is indeed all about sharing, I’ve also spent a bit of time on the privacy settings so that Flickr only shares the photographs with my co-researchers.

I’d be interested to hear from anyone else who’s used Flickr as a research tool in similar – or indeed different – ways.