Anouk Geenen, Julieta Matos-Castaño, Deger Ozkaramanli and Mascha van der Voort
This paper explores socio-technical 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 socio-technical 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 triggering ethical deliberation on smart city practices, as it reveals pressing value tensions.
Keywords: socio-technical controversies, multi-level architecture, value tensions, smart city, systemic design