Standing out in a crowd: Big Data to produce new forms of publicness

Silvio Carta, Rebecca Onafuye, Pieter de Kock

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


In opposition to the perception that smart cities are synonymous with computer generated standardisation, where people are considered a generic sampled category, this study claims that extensive use of smart and sensing technologies in the urban environment will result in an elevated future role for the individual over the public. The assumption that a process of unified standardisation will envelop human activities in the public space is superseded by a new focus on individuality, characterised by the increasing amount and accuracy of available information in the public domain underpinned by big data. Tomorrow’s public space is a granular (Rabari and Storper 2014) and complex (Batty 2005) combination of individual contributions to public life. This work discusses the positions proposed by Kitchin and Dodge (2011) Carpo (2014), Mayer-Schönberger and Cukier (2013) et al. where the idiosyncratic role of the individual is put at the forefront of the production of the public space. Through several case studies based on open datasets in different cities, this study analyses how the individual will influence and play a vital role in the making of tomorrow’s public realm, with its attributes and unique spatiotemporal characteristics. Unique data about each individual are perceived by sensors and computers within a generic machine-learning framework that continuously scrutinises the built environment. This rich vein of information is then stored, interpreted, identified, and converted by AI-based machines to return a highly accurate definition of publicness. A blockchain-based system will ensure individuality of expression is cherished throughout the public realm: protecting both the individuality of the occupant, as well as individuality through idiosyncratic, ‘imperfect ‘design. This work supports that smart technology will enhance, not replace individual expression or endeavour in cities. Cities will instead become more people-centred through the innovative harvesting and use of information, manifest in big data.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2018
Event15th Architectural Humanities Research Association International Conference - Department of the Built Environment, TU Eindhoven, Delft, Netherlands
Duration: 15 Nov 201817 Nov 2018


Conference15th Architectural Humanities Research Association International Conference


  • big data, smart cities, complex cities, smart technology, public space, public realm


Dive into the research topics of 'Standing out in a crowd: Big Data to produce new forms of publicness'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this