Learning from the Smart Trash Can: Implications of the The Internet of Everyday Things

Authors: Fiona McDermott*, Trinity College Dublin
Topics: Cyberinfrastructure, Urban Geography
Keywords: Internet of things, Instrumentation, Urban design, Urban governance, Critical design
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 1:20 PM / 3:00 PM
Room: Studio 5, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


While an existing body of smart city literature has been acknowledged as being vital in pushing back on the dominant technology-driven narrative of smart cities, it has also been criticized on the grounds of a number of inadequacies including over-generalized accounts and a shortage of empirical case studies or genealogical explorations of individual smart city applications (Kitchin 2014, Luque-Ayala & Marvin, 2015). In addressing some of these noted limitations of smart city critique, this research focuses on the singular example of the ‘smart trash can’ as a means through which to articulate the effects of instrumenting ubiquitous, everyday objects in the public realm with Internet of Things (IoT) technologies. This paper features three main components. Firstly, it charts the evolution of the trash can, exploring the shift from innocuous street furniture object to multi-component and multi-functional smart object. Secondly, using ethnographic fieldwork with various stakeholders engaged in the deployment and operation of smart trash cans, it investigates the varied modes by which the contemporary smart can is imagined, mediated and operationalised and what the potential implications are in terms of urban governance and city design. Thirdly, by borrowing methods from the traditional city making practices of architecture and urban design, the research explores how critical design can be applied in order to expand and rethink models of IoT infrastructure development in cities beyond the existing normative discourses.

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