Curious Controversies: A systemic design lens to understand value conflicts in the smart city

Format: Papers, RSD11, Topic: Policy & Governance, Topic: Sociotechnical Systems

Anouk Geenen, Julieta Matos-Castaño, Deger Ozkaramanli, and Mascha van der Voort

Human Centered Design Group, University of Twente

This paper explores sociotechnical controversies in the smart city context and proposes that controversies are valuable concepts for systemic design research and practice due to their multi-dimensional nature. Smart city visions and initiatives tend to be sources of friction and debate: multiple perspectives and expectations come together, leading to value tensions. In our work, we conceptualize controversies as a constellation of value tensions in the public realm. In this work, we stress the importance of embracing controversies and explore how to stimulate ethical deliberation regarding the soft impact of technologies in smart cities. Using an exploratory workshop approach, we empirically examine smart city controversies and propose that such controversies consist of conflicting concerns and value tensions at the micro-, meso- and macro-levels of system analysis. Our findings indicate that value tensions can arise within (inter-level conflict) or across these levels (intra-level conflict). Controversies can contain both types of conflicts. This analysis highlights the complex nature of sociotechnical controversies and how a better understanding of controversies may eventually help grapple with complexity in systemic design research and practice. Moreover, dissecting a controversy in this way into its formative elements allows for triggering ethical deliberation on smart city practices, as it reveals pressing value tensions.

KEYWORDS: sociotechnical controversies, value tensions, ethical deliberation, multi-level architecture, smart city, systemic design

Citation Data

Author(s): Anouk Geenen, Julieta Matos-Castaño, Deger Ozkaramanli, and Mascha van der Voort
Year: 2022
Title: Curious Controversies: A systemic design lens to understand value conflicts in the smart city
Published in: Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design
Volume: RSD11
Article No.: 104
Host: University of Brighton
Location: Brighton, UK
Symposium Dates: October 3–16, 2022
First published: 23 September 2022
Last update: 30 April 2023
Publisher Identification: ISSN 2371-8404

Copyright Information

Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design (ISSN 2371-8404) are published annually by the Systemic Design Association, a non-profit scholarly association leading the research and practice of design for complex systems: 3803 Tønsberg, Norway (922 275 696).


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Author(s). (20##). Article title. Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design, RSD##. Article ##.

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