The fifth MEDIACITY conference reflects on a social smart city. 

MEDIACITY 5 promises to expand our understanding of both media and the city today, and to articulate new sites of practice and working methods for an expanding field.

Much of our thinking around technology and the city is based around polarising paradigms. On one hand we have the smart city agenda that is underpinned by a vision of data-centred optimisation of urban systems and on the other hand we have a open-source, citizen driven approach based around ad-hoc practices and prototyping of counter-culture scenarios. These paradigms of city visions are described variously through terms such as “digital city, screen city, media city, sentient city, u-city, fusion city, hybrid city, intelligent city, connectiCity, pervasive city and the smart city”and we seek to look beyond the rhetoric and critically reflect and imagine new models and approaches to media and the city. In particular we want to challenge over-simplified assumptions around terms such as smart city, and understand in more detail the complex interactions between social actors and technological transformations of the city. The aim of the conference is to consider more fully the multiple, subtle, and interdependent spatio-temporalities which together work to constitute ICT-based urban change. In particular we will discuss models of participation, action and agency, shifting capacity to act beyond the ‘like’ button and to take responsibility for the future shape of the city.

The conference addresses the approaches and the corresponding design responses that meet the challenges of social, citizen-centred, smart cities and communities. It will offer reflective, high quality theoretical and design-based responses to the question of how media and ICTs create can alternative responses to current societal challenges.


We will look at urbanity and digital media and ideas of place and space and reflect on new models, landscapes and frameworks in the social smart city. We explore how the ‘the city’as a site of participation is enabled through media and technology and modes of citizen participant, agency as well as how temporal installations and urban prototyping enable us to imagine other possible futures. We will also look to the Internet of Things to explore the way in which objects increasingly become sentient actors in urban life. Through this we will address broader issues of resilience and sustainability and how these intertwine with media and technological frameworks.

We provisionally propose three main sub-themes:

  • Place
    Urban Design, public place-making, network infrastructures and resilience
  • People
    Citizen participation, urban prototyping, big data and agency
  • Things
    The Internet of Things (IoT), sentience, social memory and networked objects


The conference will use the host city as a site of experimentation for the duration of the conference to explore how the media city approach can have value and impact for the local citizens and organisations. These will be developed in the run up to the conference, be showcased at the conference and will aim to make a sustainable impact on Plymouth post –conference. This will include a series of events, a city-wide exhibition and a set of test-bed scenarios working with local partners on addressing the particular challenges of the host city.

The Exhibition will develop these themes by integrating a data trail of interventions and commissions around the city. These interventions will feed of, play with or supplement the data harvested from the City infrastructure through an ‘Urban API’ being developed by i-DAT as a component of its Operating Systems.


We invite contributions in the form of research papers, projects and case studies. The conference programme will focus on contributions that are high quality, reflective, thoughtful and challenging. We anticipate contributions from academics, practitioners, activists close to disciplines such as media studies, architecture, urban studies, cultural and urban geography and sociology –using in innovative ways and reflecting critically on processes, methods and impacts of public participation and technologies in urban realm, within their theoretical and practical research, teaching, or activism roles.