The core of Cities of Things Future Studio is the research we perform. In 2018 we established the Delft Design Lab Cities of Things. Through the research activities of postdocs and numerous graduation research projects, we build experience and knowledge on several aspects and domains of the cities of things.

The research projects have been linked to building fundamental knowledge on Things As Citizens (by Louise Hugen) and Future Cities (‘Hidden Civic Futures’ by Sen Lin), and more applied on mobility solutions (‘Mobility hub of the future’ by Jelmer Koedood and ‘Social travel experience in Sea Bubble’ by Ilse van Zeumeren).

Two papers have been published as part of the research activities.

Near Future Cities of Things: Addressing Dilemmas through Design Fiction (paper)

Illustration by Maria Luce Lupetti

In 2018 we (Maria Luce Lupetti, Nazli Cila, Iskander Smit) wrote a paper where we set out the concept of Things As Citizens through sketching some scenarios for possible future city companions. The abstract:

The smart city infrastructure will soon start to include smart agents, i.e., agentic things, which co-exist and co-perform with human citizens. This near-future scenario explores the flexible types of collaborations and relationships between human and nonhuman citizens. Drawing on current technology forecasts and AI/robotics literature, we created five fictional concepts for reflecting on themes we deem important for such collaborations: responsibility, delegation, relationship, priority, and adaptation. The promises, challenges, and threats of these themes are discussed in this paper, together with the new questions that were opened up through the use of design fiction as a method.

Find the full paper here:

Envisioning and Questioning Near Future Urban Robotics

Lupetti and Cila developed a workshop format that was tested at ThingsCon 2018. In this paper the workshop and results are described.

Robotic services, which have started to appear in urban environments, are going to transform our society. Designers of these robots are not only required to meet technical and legal challenges, but also address the potential social, political, and ethical consequences of their design choices. In this paper, we present a workshop format with its related tools intended for enabling speculation about such possible futures and fostering reflection on potential socio-ethical implications that might support/oppose these futures. We report the results and discussion of one particular workshop case, in which the implementation of two particular robotic services for a city was envisioned and questioned, i.e., surveillance and delivery of goods. By discussing the results, we illustrate how such a workshop format might be beneficial for setting the agenda for a more conscious design of urban robots and orienting future research towards meaningful themes related to the emerging coexistence scenarios between citizens and robots.

Find the full paper via Researchgate.

Louise Hugen – Things As Citizens

Poster by Louise Hugen

In her graduation research Louise dived into the concept of Things As Citizens, and created a model for design qualities. She applied it to a autonomous air cleaning vehicle.

The aim of this graduation project is to identify design qualities for things with this kind of agency to perform appropriately during shared practices with citizens in the urban environment. The theme is Things as Citizens; as things are expected to behave conform to the behavior of a citizen in order to coexist with and to be accepted by citizens. The focus is the notion of co-performance in the smart city: a concept that regards the practices of humans and things with agency to be equally important.

The result is the design qualities model. In order to evaluate and validate the design qualities, a concept of things in the city is developed that serves as a demonstrator for the theme Things as Citizens. The concept is designed in the context of air pollution and is a provider and distributor of clean air. The implemented design cues of the concept represent the design qualities model, which is validated by the results of a qualitative study demonstrating to Dutch citizens the interaction with a physical prototype of the concept.

Sen Lin – Hidden Civic Futures

By 2030, 70% of the world’s population will live in cities. With technological development, the focus of building a city has been changing over time. Currently, urban construction is dominated by the dream of the built environment with embedded intelligence. Urban data streams are processed by algorithms that feed to the physical urban choreography, namely the Smart City. But what does this smart-dream- future vision mean to its citizens?
People choose to live in the city for seeking out meaningful jobs, like-minded communities, exciting opportunities, etc. People take delight not in urban technological wonders, but in how the city can empower them to fulfill their own dreams. And this is where cityness lies. Taken as an organic combination of the ‘nexus of technological infrastructure’ and the ‘concentration of humanity’, cityness reflects how people live in and live for the city.

The core of this project is to call for cityness in the future smart age. Hinting Civic Futures is a design practice that explores the alternative futures for cities in the smart age, concerned with the interrelatedness of social and technical aspects. It stimulates a re-envisioning of urban solutions beyond traditional smart city. By exploring how people want to dwell in what kind of city in the future, Hinting Civic Futures strives to find the connection of functionality and desirability, where resides the cityness. And furthermore, to develop the notion cityness in a preferable direction.

By exploring next-generation cities derived from positive value incentives and brings them alive, the project strives to uncover the composition of cityness. This will help further open up space about how cityness can be amplified in enacting policy-making, business-modeling and behavioral change.

Download the full report here.

Future mobility hubs as social connector for the neighbourhood

Poster of Jelmer’s project

Jelmer Koedood did research to the possible future role of intelligent mobility hubs that take an active role in a neighborhood community.

This project revolves around redesigning the future mobihub for the context of the Netherlands. A mobihub (or mobipunt in Dutch) is a brand of mobility hub.

In this report, a mobility hub is defined as
“A recognizable, physical place where different context-driven functions and services (mostly shared mobility-related such as shared cars) that benefit the neighbourhood meet. A connection to public transport is desirable but type-dependant.”

A typology of mobihubs was found and simplified to three types, with a special focus on the type: “neighbourhood hub”. Along with this, a target group was defined: the “suburban citizen”: people that live in a smaller neighbourhood and work in a bigger city.

This type of hub and target group determined the focus of the project. This focus was on social cohesion in the neighbourhood. Vision in Product Design (VIP) was used as the main design & research method.

In the research phase, a broad literature study was done, along with case studies in the Netherlands and interviews with users from the target group (Figure 1), amongst others.

It was found that users on a transport hub always navigate the space between being connected and being autonomous, while they experience positive or negative ‘friction’ (events that slow them down) during their travels. The amount of ‘being connected’ and ‘autonomy’ that a user experiences or seeks, depends on that users personality.

Based on this, the design statement was formed:
“The mobihub needs to wake up people by introducing a kind of positive friction (that literally and figuratively slows them down) at their local or commute mobihub, with which they can choose to interact, together or alone”

Find the full report here.

Tools for stimulating interaction amongst passengers of autonomous vehicles

Ilse van Zeumeren did research into the very different experiences a traveler has when it is sailing the new mobility concept Seabubble, an autonomous floating water pod. The project delivered not only a design for the Seabubble but also a set of design criteria that are applicable to other autonomous passenger experiences.

This project is focussed on a design for stimulating interaction amongst passengers in the Seabubble. The Seabubble is an autonomous hydrofoil that is able to fly above water. The Seabubble can transport 4 to 5 passengers on inland waterways. The hydrofoil-technology creates a whole new travel experience because it provides very stable and silent travel conditions.

More in the full report, that can be found here.

Research in progress

Currently multiple research projects are on-going:

Siddharth Daswani – Design for information transparency Empowering citizens through AI legibility (expected September 2020)

David Valentine – Design for a calibrated trust for acceptance of autonomous vehicles (expected August 2020)

Xueyao Li – Design of a mobility hub as part of a smart living as a service concept (expected September 2020)

Ragna Pettinga – Intersections in the self-driving future: designing an interactive system (expected October 2020)

As soon as the projects are completed a short introduction and links to full report will be added.