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Smart in city performance: More to practical life than hardware and software


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Visions of Smart cities claim to offer better liveability and sustainability through information and communication technology. This study promotes the importance of focussing on spatial aspects and affective factors that impact smart urbanism. It seeks better to inform city governance, spatial planning, and policymaking to focus on what Smart does and what it can achieve for cities in terms of performance rather than on using the notion for prestige purposes. Also, the study recognises the importance of establishing a new meaning for urban progress by moving beyond improving the city's basic services to enhance the actual human experience, which is essential for developing authentic smart cities. The topic presents four overlooked areas: the efficiency paradox, the social aspect, connectedness with nature, and utilising untapped resources. The argument does not invite exploring these themes in silos; it collectively examines smart cities in performance, arguing that there is more to the practical life of smart cities than software and hardware inventions. The research uses a case study approach, presenting Milton Keynes as a living example to learn from while engaging with various methods for data collection, including multi‐disciplinary semi‐structured interviews, field observations, and data mining.
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Received: 5 September 2022
Revised: 31 October 2022
Accepted: 3 November 2022
IET Smart Cities
DOI: 10.1049/smc2.12045
Smart in city performance: More to practical life than hardware
and software
Faten Hatem
Open University, Milton Keynes, UK
F. A. Faten Mostafa Hatem, Open University,
Walton Hall, Kents Hill, Milton Keynes MK7 6AA,
Visions of Smart cities claim to offer better liveability and sustainability through in-
formation and communication technology. This study promotes the importance of
focussing on spatial aspects and affective factors that impact smart urbanism. It seeks
better to inform city governance, spatial planning, and policymaking to focus on what
Smart does and what it can achieve for cities in terms of performance rather than on
using the notion for prestige purposes. Also, the study recognises the importance of
establishing a new meaning for urban progress by moving beyond improving the city's
basic services to enhance the actual human experience, which is essential for devel-
oping authentic smart cities. The topic presents four overlooked areas: the efciency
paradox, the social aspect, connectedness with nature, and utilising untapped resources.
The argument does not invite exploring these themes in silos; it collectively examines
smart cities in performance, arguing that there is more to the practical life of smart
cities than software and hardware inventions. The research uses a case study approach,
presenting Milton Keynes as a living example to learn from while engaging with various
methods for data collection, including multidisciplinary semistructured interviews,
eld observations, and data mining.
city brain and smart cities metrics, governance, planning and policy, smart cities applications, smart cities
making, smart cities standards, sustainability
The paper examines the positivist visions of Smart by
investigating the smart city on the ground while investigating
progress meaning, its direction, and its impact on the po-
tential of offering a betterlived experience. It also claried
the contradictory outcomes of specic rationalities or
thinking patterns associated with a longstanding focus on
Smart's technical, engineering, and economic aspects in using
the city as a market for technological innovations or software
and hardware installations. The paper introduces the relation
between this overreliance on technology to dene what Smart
is and the mixed outcomes and contradictory elements of its
making on the ground. After establishing the features asso-
ciated with this focus, the paper reveals ndings around the
impact on the city performance in terms of the overlooked
social aspects translated into migration rates and people
satisfaction trends. Then the discussion shows how the
existing logic uses elements like nature to favour quantity
over quality. The paper recognises the importance of intan-
gible aspects of the city; therefore, it presents the ndings
associated with a lack of attention paid to policies and pre-
serving and utilising untapped resources, despite rendering
smart cities more efcient than other cities. The research
explores how the different parties involved in policymaking,
technology, and design of smart cities, think, apply, and
reect on their production concerning the lived experience in
the city. Investigating the attention they pay to the human
experience, the paper describes the level of recognising the
expertise in the current practice of smart cities, what they
know, the meaning of progress, and how they prioritise and
balance tradeoffs.
This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is
properly cited.
© 2022 The Authors. IET Smart Cities published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of The Institution of Engineering and Technology.
IET Smart Cities. 2022;115.
To gain a deep understanding of the process, a case study
strategy combined data mining, interviews and direct led
observations. A total of 8 semistructured interviews were
conducted with an interdisciplinary group of ve professionals
considered to be the experts. These interviews were analysed
manually, as part of this research data collection, in addition to
20 different multidisciplinary interviews conducted as part of
the Smart Cities in the Making: Learning from Milton Keynes
project funded by the Economic and Social Research Council
[1]. The selected case study, Milton Keynes, is not only known
for its agenda and vision, rendering it a smart city, but it is also
known for its status as one of the fastestgrowing and
economically successful cities in the UK. Since 1967 Milton
Keynes, containing many preexisting towns, has been devel-
oped as a New Town to relieve housing pressure in London. It
is known for its grid road system, and a thriving agenda very
focussed on promoting it as a smart city presented by its
council (see Milton Keynes City Council website). The results
explained in the next section were generated by exploring the
city's performance and aspects affecting its lived experience.
Increased reliance on basic services
and efciency paradox
Infrastructure, living and experience
The most prominent features that focus on essential services in
Milton Keynes as it develops as a smart city include autono-
mous delivery robots and cars, ample car parking spaces in the
city's central area, and a grid system of straight and efcient
roads with fewer trafc jams than in London. Driving the car is
heavily used as the primary way to move around the city, which
affects how and how often the city is experienced around car
parks; priority over pedestrians and underpasses is imposed on
human encounters and experience.
The city celebrates the car instead of the human as noticed
in signs around the city in Figure 1. Direct observations of bus
and cab drivers' comments on the density of direction signs
and the location of bus stops and streetlights, witnessing
passengers having to go underground. Also, they seemed
happier to drive in Milton Keynes than in London and about
roundabouts than trafc lights. However, they commented that
too many led them to be confused or overwhelmed sometimes.
However, planning and developing data hubs and phone
applications show that teams and managers of these projects
focussed on people's experience using the app or the data. The
qualitative analysis revealed that the makers prioritised making
data readily available with helpful and vital contexts to make it
easier and more efcient to utilise the collected data. Also,
application developers thought repeatedly about what the user
would nd appealing. For instance, application developers for
the 50th anniversary of Milton Keynes thought about what
could be motivating or demotivating instead of just providing
pieces of information or a basic solution. Also, others focussed
on making technology easier to access and use by senior citizens.
However, the main pattern is to develop apps, marketing
channels and technical infrastructure following a techno
computational logic. This is the typical trend of the revolu-
tion of smart urbanisation. Processes of smart city making,
construction and development seem to be heavily invested in
enhancing basic functionalities while assuming such techno-
logical innovations will lead to more liveable cities and improve
residents' experiences. The direction of enhancing experience
is often bound by technology, which is more about improving
infrastructure than the living, the human and culture. The in-
sights behind these projectsas discussed in interviewsrarely
specify the ‘how’, scope and multimodality of the intended
impacts on the residents' experience.
On the other hand, statistics and observations on the eld
reveal the reality of mixed results and failure to realise the pur-
ported potential. Nevertheless, discussions with the experts
involved in a range of Milton Keynes development projects show
that they are aware of some paradoxical results resulting from
rapidly changing technology; however, only some. For example,
overcoming accessibility or userfriendliness challenges was a
driver to providing classes, support and features that suit users
from different age groups, especially senior citizens. On the other
hand, the level of awareness appeared to be different when
autonomous vehicles, deliveries and online services were dis-
cussed to realise the risks associated with making everything
readily available at the doorstep. This isolates the human from
socialising, interacting with the surroundings, and having an
active encounter with the city. This is also noticed in focus on
maintaining efcient roads in the city planning and increasing
cheaper transport alternatives, doortodoor and faster like
rideshare booking applications. This phenomenon produced the
efciency paradox as the heavy reliance on applications to solve
all city problems, including communicating its heritage. For
example, it results in a high potential to produce individuals
overly overwhelmed with smartphones' basic activities with ab-
stract input. This makes it also harder to appreciate, contemplate
and ultimately truly experience living in the city or with the
surrounding environment. On the other hand, adopting more
valuebased practice suggests that we can eliminate the efciency
paradox by readjusting the making of smart cities to pay more
attention to the incentives of the built environment and its close
relation with human needs, reactions, and impressions of the city.
A balance must be maintained when using, producing, or
encouraging dependence on individual applications or other soft
or hardware development.
A wellbalanced experience in the city
Interviewing experts who often come from a purely scientic
background like engineering, mobility, or IT, conveys a difculty
to get convinced of not only the importance of places for people
but also to appreciate that decisions making and the nature of
being humans are not rational but emotional. In other words,
cognition is embodied, and humans know things using their
bodies, not their minds. The body is exposed directly to the
qualities of these great works that communicate powerfully and
beautifully. This reected the role that visual arts, design and
architecture can play in the smart city, their complexity, and the
difference they make in residents' daily lives. Hence, neglecting
that we, as humans, are continuously affected by our surround-
ings is not safe. Another factor contributing to how architecture
is used and understood inefciently appears to stem from hon-
ouring iconic architects instead of learning more about the hu-
man; for whom we design. Different studies revealed that our
wellbeing is proven to be affected by the quality of the built
environment [2], our decisionmaking is mainly relying on our
intuitive feelings rather than rational thinking [3], and our
cognition is embodied; we think with the body and not the mind
[4]. Another assumption that seems to occur in ways of thinking
of ‘Smart’ and the city results in an understanding of smart cities
having a singular dimension instead of appreciating the multi-
modality of design, as interviews reveal. The issue with this
thinking pattern is that complexities, diversity and changing
nature of cities integrating places and people cannot be grasped
only by a single mode of logic, science, approaching cities as a
system to manage.
Ignoring the consequences of lack of acknowledgement and
action on how important it is to shape a wellbalanced experience
in the built environment will result in more people leaving the city
as there is still going to be an experience, nonetheless. The stress
of boredom and lack of attachment is most likely the main im-
pressions as noticed in eldwork and experience living in the case
study. This is mainly because of fatigue that results from a lackof
motivation, interest, or meaning that will persist, and the mental
and physical health of the population will continue to suffer. This
reects a need for a logic that appreciates the noneconomic
value of the city being smart to the people who are not for
healthy interaction with their surroundings, especially in times of
lockdown when they have no access to indoor activities and
services and need sensations of change, distraction and explo-
ration that is gained outdoors as they go out for a breather. These
issues also relate to ethics and practical wisdom in making design
and smart cities, as organisations strive to be creative enough to
stand out in a competitive and rapidly changing market as they try
to keep up with the pace of development and to survive their
business. This understanding of the impact of how cities are
made, ethics and the human seem to be more apparent in the lines
of Al‐Muqaddimah book by Ibn Khaldun, the ancient Arab
philosopher, sociologist, and historian. Justice is the basis of
urbanisation is the letteral translation of one of the famous lines.
However, the word that Ibn Khaldun used was not literary ur-
banisation. Given the nuanced differences between and uses of
phrases of the same terms in the Arabic language, the original
Arabic word Umran’, which Ibn Khaldun chose is to describe a
type of urbanisation that results from justice reveals and good
quality to prosper as an environment and civilisation. Ethics and
creativity are not often discussed as intertwined nor conditional
in the various capacitybuilding programmes across the world,
although they are. In the BSC Gems of all Mechanisms podcast
that explored ethics and effects of 21stcentury tech., Catherine
Miller, CEO dot everyone, asserted that there is overreliance to
depend on apps to solve all problems. The CEO explained her
organisation's position from the dominant trend stating: there is
a horrible tendency for the belief that everything can be turned
FIGURE 1 Car parks in Milton Keynes, after
into an app.One of the things we look at is:how we serve the
furthest first.How do we meet the needs of those who may be in
the most vulnerable position? That is good for them and makes
the possible products good for everyone else’ [5].
The social aspect and performance of
the city
Table 1and the graph in Figure 2show statistics on annual mid
year data on migration between Milton Keynes local areas across
the boundaries between the four UK nations: England, Wales,
Scotland, and Northern Ireland, measured in several moves per
year between 2012 and 2020, a period of nine years. The data
collected to generate the charts were extracted from datasets
provided by the Ofce for National Statistics (ONS). Overall, the
number of people moving into Milton Keynes increased,
whereas those who decided to leave to live elsewhere decreased.
The rates for the year 2020 are considered not representative but
exceptional due to travel restrictions caused by Covid19.
The number of people moving out of Milton Keynes was
mostly the same or higher than those who moved into the city
in the same 12month period for years between 2021 and 2020,
with an exception in 2013; when 10,980 moves were made into
the city compared to 9670 moves out. This trend shows that
people who experienced living in Milton Keynes are not keen
on remaining in the city; on the contrary, they decided to leave
to live elsewhere.
Statistics show that in all years from 2012 to 2020, the
majority have decided to move out of Milton Keynes to start a
new life in South Northamptonshire. The second chart shows
the percentage of people leaving to move to South North-
amptonshire over the same period from 2012 to 2020. The line
graph in Figure 3shows a signicant increase from slightly
over 6% to double. However, the ONS conrmed that there is
no further data on why people left for a new life elsewhere in
the UK.
The district shown on the map in Figure 4is located in the
centre of rural England, midway between London and
TABLE 1Number of moves in and out of Milton Keynes during the
year ending in June (2012–2020), generated by the researcher
Year Moves in Moves out
2012 10,640 10,230
2013 10,980 9670
2014 11,090 10,510
2015 10,610 10,550
2016 10,740 11,300
2017 12,220 13,670
2018 12,844 13,722
2019 12,925 13,723
2020 11,612 11,735
FIGURE 2 Migration in and out of Milton Keynes over the period (2012–2020), generated by the researcher.
Birmingham. It was abolished on 1 April 2021 to merge its
responsibilities with that of the unitary authority of West
Exploring the ndings of the study Best
Places to Live in The UK Quality of Life Index evidently
revealed that Milton Keynes's performance was not improving
over the years. On the opposite, there was a massive decline in
the ranking as it dropped 40 places from 57 to 97 out of 138
statistical regions in the UK in 2013 and 2015 respectively (for
more information on the study and qualityoflife index, see
the press release in [6]). On the other hand, West North-
amptonshire was ranked 50th in 2015; it has moved up 11
places since the last rating in 2013 to rank 50th in 2015, while
North Northamptonshire has risen one rank up to end up
being the 76th on Uswitch's list of best places to live in the
UK. The study ranks the local area (e.g. Nomenclature of
Territorial Units for Statistics (NUTS3 regions)) in terms of
overall quality of life, based on an index derived from a wide
range of ofcial data on factors affecting the quality of life,
such as house prices, cost of living and the labour market, and
less nancially oriented factors such as local broadband speeds
and class sizes at school. However, the study notes, there is
more to life than rankings,stats and figures,and our Qualify
of Life Index merely highlights the vast differences in people's
experiences across the UK’. Twentysix factors were used in the
ranking to ensure a complete picture of the quality of life in
FIGURE 3 Percentage of Moves to South
Northamptonshire, generated by the researcher.
FIGURE 4 Map of the South Northamptonshire Area after the GeoPunk website,
each NUTS3 area, including salaries, disposable household
income, and the cost of basic commodities, including food,
fuel, and energy bills. The study also considered lifestyle issues
such as the hours of sunshine, hours worked and life
By analysing websites promoting Milton Keynes as a good
place to live and work, it is noticed that the main reasons are
employability, house prices compared to London and transport
links in addition to the prestigious shopping mall showcasing
efcient but essential services. However, rates of feeling happy,
satised with life and worthwhile revealed in the Annual Popu-
lation Survey done by the ONS are proven to be among the least
in the UK in 2015–2016, whereas anxiety levels were around
average [7].
The survey asked people aged 16 and over, living in the
area, to express their assessment and reections on their life in
terms of how happy, satised, worthwhile, and anxious it was.
By examining the results of the same study over the period
2011–2021 shown in Figures 5–8, it is proven that levels of
happiness, life satisfaction, and worthwhile started at 7.2, 7.4,
7.7, respectively, and reached the peak in 2016/2017 at 7.7, 7.7,
8.0, but declined over the following years to score the least at
7.2, 7.4, 7.6. On the other hand, the level of feeling anxiety
increased markedly to achieve the highest amongst the years at
3.3 and 3.4 in 2019/2020 and 2021/2022. Rates of stress are
also among the highest levels nationwide.
Whereas statements conrmed that Milton Keynes was
conceptualised around developing community spirit, the city's
overall performance does not suggest that the impact is still
valid. Dr Phyllis Starkey, the MP for Milton Keynes Southwest
in the time from 1997 to 2010, stated that initially, families
arriving were given a welcome pack with information on local
amenities and a house was designated as a temporary
community centre to provide a focus on the new neighbour-
hood. Theo Chalmers of campaign group Urban Eden con-
rms that recent growth of the city has ‘betrayed’ its original
principles and values, adding that they slowly eroded things
that made Milton Keynes ‘extremely special and a userfriendly
community’. In contrast, former planner Lee Shostak states,
‘By real city standards, it is at best an adolescent’ [8].
The focus on economic growth through new development
projects causes impacts of this change on people living in the
city, which reects the extent to which the direction and focus
areas of progress are that of little to no regard for the
importance of sensations, atmospheres, and impressions of the
place. Evidence of this was found in people's comments
expressing their dissatisfaction with the lost elements of new
developments in the case study, including the city's historic
roads and heritage buildings. One of the unique landmarks is
the entertainment complex The Point shown in Figure 9,
which did not keep its original effect losing its uses and
different lighting as it used to be known for its red glow that
can be seen for miles. It opened in 1985 and used to house
Britain's rst multiplexed cinema complex in the central areas
of Milton Keynes. Until the day people tried to sign a petition,
it started 7 years ago on websites like 38° to help protect
it from being entirely demolished. Tracking the number of
people who signed the petition over the years indicates a low
level of ownership likely to be caused by losing the ability to
attract people to know about its history and how it used to
affect the surroundings. Also, the disconnection between the
past and present manifested in many ways in Milton Keynes, as
stated by a building historian who was one of two archaeolo-
gists working in the council.
The memorable formal image, which results from a
powerful concept, forms iconic architectural works such as
FIGURE 5 Happiness rates in Milton Keynes,
2011/2012–2020/2021, source: Annual Population
Survey, Ofce for National Statistics (ONS),
Fallingwater House by Frank Lloyd Wright and Villa Savoy by
Le Corbusier. Also, experiences are narrated through archi-
tectural images full of ‘epic scope’. For example, cultural
buildings such as museums convey heritage and consistency,
and theatre and opera buildings offer fantasy cosmos of
ceremonial and social meetings. Architectural works have
technical qualities in the physical world and poetic artistic
qualities in the mental world. They should always be as helpful
and touching as a complete architectural work, not as a work of
art alone. This refers to the fact that the ontological essence of
architecture asks for a meaningful awareness and empowering
experience involving actions of the visitor not to view but also
to enter, approach, occupy…etc. [9].
Contact versus connectedness with
Data collected from interviews and eldwork show that the
concept of Garden City is the standard way to think about a
FIGURE 6 Life satisfaction rates in Milton
Keynes, 2011/2012–2020/2021, source: Annual
Population Survey,
2Dbeing%2Dby%2Dlocal%2Darea Ofce for
National Statistics (ONS).
FIGURE 7 Worthwhile rates in Milton Keynes,
2011/2012–2020/2021 Source: Annual Population
2Dbeing%2Dby%2Dlocal%2Darea Ofce for
National Statistics (ONS).
connection with nature is to give people access to heart in the
case study through designating areas for green spaces in the
form of parks, boulevards, and grass platforms on the side of
the road. Data mining concerning the ratio of shrubs to
humans reveals that Milton Keynes does have plenty of green
elements around the city, with more than 22 million trees and
shrubs, about 100 per inhabitant [10]. The horizontal planning
in most city areas allows for more space for the horizon than in
other cities, with less room for people to experience their
natural surroundings. Different vertical smart city architecture
and planning cases are more restrictive to biophilia (i.e. the
inherent afnity to connect with nature and living beings). This
is because these elements block the view and access to high
rise buildings and crowded areas that isolate humans from
the natural elements, phenomena, and scenery. These elements
provide an opportunity to engage with rich colours and fractal
patterns and share other people's reactions to them. Losing
access to various options to access the everchanging nature of
the city affects its ability to leverage people's daily experience.
This, in turn, affects their feeling that life is worthwhile or the
level of how motivated they are to stay alive, to feel alive and to
strive to maintain being alive and accomplished human beings.
However, experiencing living in Milton Keynes, there is a more
signicant opportunity to notice nature than connect with it.
Research on nature connectedness conrms that people's na-
ture connectedness (emotional attachment) better predicts
wellbeing than contact with nature or seeing it. Contact with
nature is reported to explain only 1% of the impact towards
FIGURE 8 Anxiety rates in Milton Keynes,
2011/2012–2020/2021, source: Annual Population
Survey, Ofce for National Statistics (ONS),
FIGURE 9 The Point in old times, after 38°.
higher happiness, a life worth living and greater wellbeing [11].
Statistics from the Annual Population Survey done by the ONS
(see Figure 10) show that people's rating of their feelings of
being worthwhile, happy, and satised with life in Milton
Keynes declined severely in 2020. The precaution was taken
when examining the trend as the year of the lockdown scored
the least in the period from 2011/2012–2020/2022. However,
the average score over the years remains one of the lowest
nationwide, whereas anxiety scores were among the highest.
However, the explored thinking patterns need to include
other practical design approaches to the relationship between
human wellbeing, daily experience, and nature, such as bio-
philic and sensory design. On the other hand, discussing
connections and relations with the notion of Smart Cities
claried that connecting with nature is not considered one of
the vital assets as such. They use images of nature when
ltering connections with the idea in the interviews, conrm-
ing that view. Hence, the standard approach of the involved
experts in making a smart city seems too often to consider it
related to working technical systems, interconnectivity in ser-
vices and efciency. This seemed to be without acknowledging
that working with the natural surroundings and other ap-
proaches integrating this in designing environments that make
cities more resilient and of better impact on residents' welfare.
According to Ryan and Browning (2020), ‘Biophilic design
is the process of basing decisions about the built environment
on intuition or credible research—derived from either an ap-
petency for nature or measurable biological responses,
respectively—to achieve the best possible health outcomes’
[12]. Implementing biophilic design is very important in
contemporary architecture as it promotes a better effect on the
wellbeing of individuals and the public, resulting in a healthier
space and a more balanced human experience. A new approach
of a ‘restorative environmental design’ is being developed and
spread among researchers aiming to benet from the positive
effects of connection with nature in the long term while
minimising the environmental impact of built environments
instead of sustainable approaches that only focus on reducing
the adverse effects on wildlife. According to Browning et al.
(2014), 14 patterns proved to support, ‘stress reduction,
cognitive performance, emotion and mood enhancement and
the human body’ shown in Figure 11, supported by the
FIGURE 10 Scores of happiness, life satisfaction and worthwhile rates in Milton Keynes, 2011/2012–2020/2021 Source: Annual Population Survey, Ofce
for National Statistics (ONS),
scientic evidence on the effect of every pattern. This
approach is continuously updated online in addition to the
stateoftheart literature on biophilic design and cities through
the ‘Encyclopaedia of Sustainability Science and Technology’
(see [13–15]).
Even though the focus in such approaches is on the
interconnectivity between the human and nature, technology
has proven to be capable of playing a facilitating role in this
approach as ‘Virtual Connection with Nature’ is another
pattern introduced by Downton et al. (2016) in the context of
‘Nature in Space’ [14]. The new pattern identies articial al-
ternatives providing visual connectivity, such as simulating
natural elements and processes. A further review of scientic
evidence on the outcomes of utilising biophilic design in
FIGURE 11 Biophilic design patterns and biological responses, after (Browning et al. 2014, p.12): ‘Patterns that are supported by more rigorous empirical
data are marked with up to three asterisks (***), indicating that the quantity and quality of available peerreviewed evidence is robust and the potential for impact
is great, and no asterisk indicates that there is minimal research to support the biological relationship between health and design, but the anecdotal information is
compelling and adequate for hypothesising its potential impact and importance as a unique pattern’.
architecture and more emphasis on the psychological value of
space were also presented by Soderlund and Newman (2015)
and Heerwagen and Heerwagen (2017). These works examined
the human psychological and physiological connections to
nature and provided a review of research supporting various
social, environmental and economic benets of biophilic ar-
chitecture [15, 16]. Nevertheless, the case study seems far from
any regenerative approaches and more of a typical case of
modernist design that approaches architecture as the art of the
eye. This emphasised visual dominance and produced intelli-
gent structures, leaving the other senses unengaged. The
fundamental event of the modern age is the consequent of the
world as picture.’ as has been written by Heidegger. Also, as
has been discussed by Maurice Merleau Ponty once: My
perception,therefore,is not a sum of visual,tactile and audible
givens:I perceive totally with my whole being:I grasp a
unique structure of the thing,a unique way of being,which
speaks to all my senses at once [17].
Providing more green spaces or elements might appear
enough on the map when designing a city with a modernist
view and vision like Milton Keynes; Robert Mandrou states
that vision unlike other sensesdetaches us from the world.
Heidegger makes the argument that the sense of sight is the
only sense capable of a nihilistic attitude that disconnects and
isolates the body. This is because the unavoidable nearness of
the importance of touch, for example, makes it impossible to
be as separating and detaching as the eye. Greek architecture
proves with its haptic sensibility that the sense of sight may
stimulate other senses, and celebrating the pleasure to the eye
does not necessarily isolate tactile and muscular sensations.
This unconscious tactile element in vision is neglected in
modern architecture while it used to be present in the historical
works of architecture. Architecture is not only a three
dimensional construction of visual images; its perception and
spatial experience should understand it. Architectural struc-
tures that neglect the details, measures and tactility designed for
the human body become at and immaterial with no sustaining
power over time. Natural materials are robust and engaging as
they express the age and lifetime of their origins and human
use. The patina that time leaves on these materials makes the
experience enriching. On the contrary, modern materials such
as glass sheets, plastics and metals do not reveal their age or
material essence to the eye. The inhumanity of contemporary
architecture and cities can be understood as a consequence of
the negligence of the body and the senses and imbalance in our
sensory system [17]. Although, there are architects in the
modern world who seek to reinforce a sense of density of
space, materialised light, haptic qualities, materiality, and
texture to develop an awareness of neglected feelings. Frank
Loyed Wright's architecture which reveals a sense of texture,
Alvar alto's tactile and muscular buildings, and the gravitas of
Louis Khan's geometrical architecture are examples of modern
architectural works which are against separating the eye from
its natural interaction with the other senses. Frank Loyed
Wright's Falling Water successfully engages one with nature as
the forest's colours, textures, sound and smell, and the waterfall
provide a unique experience to the user [17].
Preserving and utilising currently
unused resources
Smart cities facilitate efcient services, including trans-
portation, by providing mediums and tools of the service with
“smart” features like WiFi connections, times sensors,
charging points, and announcement displays in means of
transportation and stations. Even though these are essential
means of meeting the demands of the modern lifestyle of the
passengers, maintenance is a critical factor for quality assurance
and helps determine longterm success. Failing to maintain the
service these tools offer is, in turn, a failure to meet the ex-
pectations of customers, which leads not only to disturb the
competitive image of being ‘smart’ but also to feelings of
frustration and disappointment—losing forms of onvehicle
passenger information for the lack of maintenance. For
example, it makes the experience of the ride around the city
and evaluating the service different badly. Journey plc, infor-
mation systems and technical services business, conrms they
are an important technology for enhancing condence,
accessibility, and overall customer satisfaction in public trans-
port. Similarly, maintaining clear sight lines onboard provides
access to the surrounding environment to engage with its at-
mosphere, landmarks, and image and sharpens skills of way-
nding, discovering and reection. Experiencing living in
Milton Keynes and using different modes of public trans-
portation over a long period disclosed a need for more
maintenance of the features. This was accompanied by a
general need for more awareness or consideration of how
signicant it is to use the available onboard tools and resources
to help reduce passenger effort and frustration. As shown in
Figure 12, screens were not used to provide helpful route in-
formation and sightlines were sometimes restricted with labels
on windows put on the eye level, which made the journey to
some extent energy consuming or intense as the travel expe-
rience of the passenger is directly affected by faulty posi-
tioning, onboard tools and features out of order with
misfunctioning time screens and monitors in bus stations
increasing frustration over sensations of a long time or concern
over possibilities of unannounced transfers and delays. Font
size and colour of the station nameif found on the bus station
post were not a good alternative, as shown in Figures 13 and
14. On the other hand, making the most of different elements
in the city, including buses, signposts and streetlights can also
take another benecial direction; as they can also communicate
the identity and history of the place on the street while
encouraging discovering different parts of the city. Such atti-
tude integrating placeness and taking advantage of existing
resources, without necessarily developing technology, was di,
directly noticed and experienced in Bath, Frome and Inverness,
as shown in Figures 15–17 but was not present in Milton
Also, there are factors of utilising unused public spaces to
shape the night experience beyond the architect's control, as a
senior urban designer at the urban design rm Farrells stated.
Even though 24h cities will always require exible spaces
designed for a diverse mix of nighttime activities to encourage
a broader mix of uses after dark, it will be partly the re-
sponsibility of local authority planners and licencing teams.
Having welllit and designed spaces is yet dependent on having
the right businesses or retailers and closing time for parks, for
instance, are essential factors to have the kind of activity that
makes a successful, safe, and vibrant city at night.
FIGURE 12 Screens ineffectively used and unclear sight lines taken by the researcher.
FIGURE 13 Bus signpost in Milton Keynes, taken by the researcher. FIGURE 14 Typical bus shelter from a passenger's view in Milton
Keynes, after
As mentioned at the beginning of the paper, visions of smart
cities in a worldwide trend are promoting and presenting them
as better cities that use software and hardware inventions to
enhance efciency. However, many scholars conrmed that we
need to focus on the performance and not the notion. This is
especially advised to focus on the competency of the city rather
than reputation, using the city as a market and unrealised visions
with no practical outcome for residents [18]. Therefore, this
paper tried to address this need by exploring areas that are
found overlooked, less integrated and somewhat detached from
efcient utilisation to achieve desired outcomes. This is also
motivated by a practical focus on delivering promises of intel-
ligent cities visions in terms of better experience and sustain-
ability, for instance (see also [19–29]). The gap in the literature
FIGURE 15 Using Street elements to communicate the identity and history of the place while encouraging discovering different parts of the city in
Inverness, taken by the researcher.
FIGURE 16 Buses in bath and frome, after Geof Sheppard,
that this paper helps to ll is a deeper understanding of and
more expansion on the elements of the city other than tech-
nology that signicantly affects its overall performance. In
addition, it gives more access to exploring examples of metrics
of wellbeing and experience, as the social aspect is found to be
the most difcult to measure and evaluate [30]. By exploring
different areas and elements found in smart cities, like any city,
the paper claries more on the oftenlost part of the notion; the
‘city’ [31]. This is argued using a case study of Milton Keynes,
examining evidence, quantitative and qualitative data collected
and linked to overall achievements or performance over time.
Also, clarications were provided as to whether the vision of a
smart city did or did not lose focus on practical usage, welllived
experience and longterm prosperity. The ndings were ana-
lysed and presented under four main themes to make
communication easier while emphasising not perceiving them
as separate was made at the beginning of the paper. The four
themes examined connections between smart cities' potential
and efciency paradox, the social aspect, the level of connect-
edness with nature, and untapped resources. The different
perspectives in the literature helped clarify the available regen-
erative approaches that were overlooked from the enhanced
practice approach in the case study and the other surveys
focussed on quality, wellbeing, and performance. The relation
between the generated charts, experience on the ground and the
reections on direct observations made it possible to connect
the different themes and patterns noticed, providing a thorough
analysis and argument for prospective works, as literature on
smart cities is conrmed to be still in its infancy [32].
Many studies conrmed that creating and maintaining a sense
of place evokes a better attitude and responsibility towards the
built environment fostering public participation, which is vital
to developing a more liveable smart city. Conversely, lacking a
sense of place, humans typically behave indifferently towards
the built environment, which directly connects the design of
urban space to the behaviour and accountability of individuals
within it.
This paper invited to focus on the potential of smart cities
to develop a more engaging human experience and an atmo-
sphere that fosters a sense of place. By doing this, we avoid
embodied design practices that do not classify humans as
consumers or assets of smart city developments, uncritically
enrolled in their logic. There is a need to develop new design
principles, frameworks, and practices that redene smart ur-
banisation through dialogues amongst corporates, governors,
design professionals, and communities.
Challenging the instrumental rationalities focussed on
installing high technologies in the smart city helps reinstate
valuesbased rationalities (practical wisdom) and human ex-
periences. Instead of focussing on the prestige or status of
becoming a ‘Smart City’ by overreliance on technology and
essential services, the transition promotes a more practical
basis for the notion of Smart. It shifts the focus of agendas and
visions in the future to more on what can be delivered and
achieved for residents in actual lived experience.
Also, the quality and the experience of architectural
design and spacemaking as a process and a product are
potent elements that should be carefully understood, shaped
and utilised in Smart citymaking, which helps to deliver the
visions promising a betterlived experience. The idea is of
great economic benet, and it alters the perspective on the
role of design in making smart cities and their elements
successfully appealing, engaging and sustainable in the long
run, for instance, by changing the trend of moving out of the
city to be moving and stay in to foster the city. Empirical
research proved that this helps address the issues that affect
smart cities' performance, for example, in terms of people
intensity, immigration trends over time, quality of the lived
FIGURE 17 Signposts in Frome, taken by the
experience and making services and facilities more appealing
to solve problems or enhance the life, sustainability, perfor-
mance, and durability/prosperity of the city. Such transition
engages with and benets from a new style of practice and
design for the people by designing efcient elements, expe-
riences, and atmospheres in the city. It is also recommended
to focus on quality rather than quantity and to encourage
using creative methods to promote the city's identity or
discover its range of experiences and history in different ways
that engage people rather than overreliance on technology or
mobile apps.
Faten Hatem is the only author of the work. The author
contributions relate to all aspects of the work including
research, design, analysis, revision and nal presentation. No
other authors or supervisors to include.
This paper builds on Redesigning Smart Cities, a funded
project by the Open University. Supportive data were derived
from different resources claried in the paper.
The author declares that there is no conict of interest that
could be perceived as prejudicing the impartiality of the
research reported.
Data is available on request due to privacy/ethical restrictions.
Supportive data were derived from different resources claried
in the paper and might be subject to thirdparty restrictions.
Faten Hatem
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