Community-based sustainable smart cities and IoT – EPSRC-sponsored workshop

Natalie Jeremijenko, Robotic Geese, 2003

Image: Natalie Jeremijenko, Robotic Geese, 2003

Academic workshop details

EPSRC UK sponsored workshop on community-based sustainable smart cities and IoT:

When: Wednesday 1st of February 2017, 14:00-16:00

Location: Rich Mix Cultural Foundation, London, E1 6LA

Keywords: Smart Cities, Digital Civics, Civic IoT, Food Systems, community design, connected sustainability, sustainable HCI, non-utilitarian HCI

Co-Chairs: Sara Heitlinger ( and Chris Speed (

The workshop is part of a wider day of events to celebrate the launch of the Connected Seeds Library, exhibition and book, funded through EPSRC’s Research in the Wild – Internet of Things call. More info here:

There is growing interest within policy, industry and academia around smart sustainable cities. In this workshop we aim to broaden the field of sustainable smart cities beyond top-down, utilitarian narratives. We will do this by reviewing examples and case studies that embrace grassroots communities and movements, participatory approaches, and playful perspectives on smart cities and IoT.

Within the dominant vision of smart cities the distribution of Internet of Things thechnologies – including networked sensors, ubiquitous computing, mobile devices and big data – will optimise urban processes and resources, making them more efficient and therefore more sustainable. However, critics argue that citizens are downgraded to obedient nodes in a cybernetic city (Gabrys, 2014). Furthermore, sustainability framed in terms of utilitarian technologically-driven, and managerial solutions alienates its intended users because it fails to take into account the complex personal, social, cultural and political factors that impact on sustainability (DiSalvo et al (2010), Hazas et al. 2012; Brynjarsdóttir et al. 2012; Hobson 2002).

We invite you to join our workshop by submitting a short position paper highlighting examples and topics that include (but are not limited to):

*  Urban grass-roots communities and movements that share a strong sustainability agenda and the desire for political, economic, and societal change in the world.
*  Participatory approaches and community design work to articulate issues and provide resources for new forms of collective action.
*  IoT to support for community engagement and education
*  Intersections with critical design, ludic design, speculative design, feminist HCI, action research, design fictions
*  IoT for sharing cultures (Light, 2015)
*  IoT for urban justice, solidarity and sustainability
*  Inclusive IoT design for diverse urban communities

The aim of the workshop is to bring together researchers and practitioners working in this space to start a network and develop ideas for either a special issue of a journal such as TOCHI, IJHCS or Interacting with Computers, or a book proposal, such as in the Springer series of Cultural Computing or MIT Press.

This workshop invites the submission of position papers, to be submitted to Sara Heitlinger ( as a single PDF file, not longer than one page in length.
 Position papers deadline extended to January 27th 2017. These will form the basis of a plan for publication.

Confirmed speakers:
Mara Balestrini is a partner and Director of Research at Ideas for Change, a think tank and consultancy firm advising cities, businesses and institutions on innovation, open and collaborative strategies, citizen participation, and exponential growth. She is a PhD candidate at the Intel Collaborative Research Institute on Sustainable Connected Cities (ICRI-Cities) at University College London (UCL) and is project lead for Making Sense, a European project that seeks to empower citizens through personal digital manufacturing applied to the design of environmental sensors.

Basilia from the Zimbabwean Association


Seed Guardian Basilia is a volunteer with the Zimbabwean Association at Spitalfields City Farm. She is growing Zimbabwean maize and Zimbabwean pumpkin for the Connected Seeds Library.

Listen to Basilia talk about here experiences of growing

Here she talks about why she grows food:

Why she saves seeds

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Environmental sensing units

Over the summer our research associate, Nanda Khaorapapong designed and built custom-made environmental sensing units, which we deployed into the gardens of 8 Seed Guardians. These units take readings from sensors measuring the temperature and moisture of the soil and air, the light, and the air pressure. They then send this data over a 3G network.

Click here to read and download the designs and code.

Here are some pictures of the sensing units in situ.

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First gathering of Seed Guardians

We had an amazing first gathering yesterday at Spitalfields City Farm, piggybacking on their Fascination of Plants festival. Ten of our Seed Guardians joined us, sharing their knowledge, passion and experience about growing food for seed. We had a great mix of more experienced growers and complete novices who were able to make connections and share skills.


It’s great to hear how your plants are doing, and about your enthusiasm for growing your own healthy food. What really stood out are the health benefits, both physical and mental, the way that gardening brings people together, and the importance is cutting down one’s carbon footprint through locally grown produce.





Thank you to the Vegetarian Society for cooking us a delicious vegetable paella.