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Eric Gordon, “Towards a Meaningfully Inefficient Smart City”

Thursday, October 8, 2020 @ 5:00 pm 6:30 pm

[Streamed live at https://mit.zoom.us/j/94087151099.]

Mainstream “smart” city discourse offers a technocentric, efficiency-driven utopian fantasy that elides or exacerbates many urban problems of the past and present. Significant critical literature has emerged in recent years that highlights the importance of lived experience in smart cities, wherein values of equity, quality of life, and sustainability are prioritized. This literature has focused on models that center people in the design and implementation of smart city plans. Instead of maximizing efficiency, these models strategically produce what I call meaningful inefficiencies into process and outcomes, or the intentionally designed productive lag in a system wherein users are able to explore, connect, and invent in a non-prescribed fashion. In this talk, Visiting Professor Eric Gordon will discuss a recent project in Boston, MA in collaboration with the Boston Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics, called Beta Blocks, that uses meaningful inefficiency as a structuring logic for sourcing, questioning and making decisions about public realm technologies.

Eric Gordon is a visiting professor in Comparative Media Studies/Writing at MIT and a professor of Media Art at Emerson College, where he directs the Engagement Lab. His research focuses on the transformation of public life and governance in digital culture, and the incorporation of play into collaborative design processes. He is the editor of Civic Media: Technology, Design, Practice (MIT Press, 2016) and the author of Meaningful Inefficiencies: Civic Design in an Age of Digital Expediency (Oxford University Press, 2020).