Youth City Futures, PhD Project

GB: Welcome! This is a research project hosted at Birmingham City University, which wants to listen to young people and hear their views about urban planning and smart cities. We believe that future cities can be planned in an inclusive manner, involving all citizens. The working title of the PhD project is:  Young people’s perceptions and awareness of the planning of the future ‘smart city’. Engaging, connecting and empowering the roles of young citizens.

ES: ¡Bienvenidos! Este es un proyecto de investigación alojado en la Universidad de Birmingham City, que quiere escuchar a los jóvenes y conocer sus puntos de vista sobre la planificación urbana y las ciudades inteligentes. Creemos que las ciudades del futuro se pueden planificar de manera inclusiva, involucrando a todos los ciudadanos. El título provisional del proyecto de doctorado es: Percepciones y conciencia de los jóvenes sobre la planificación de la futura “ciudad inteligente”. Involucrar, conectar y potenciar los roles de los ciudadanos jóvenes.

BG: Добре дошли! Това е уебсайта за докторски проект, организиран в университета Бирмингам Сити, който иска да изслуша младите хора и да чуе техните възгледи за градското планиране и интелигентните градове. Ние вярваме, че бъдещите градове могат да бъдат планирани по приобщаващ начин, включващ всички граждани. Работното заглавие на докторския проект е: Възприятия и осъзнаване на младите хора от планирането на бъдещия „интелигентен град“. Ангажиране, свързване и овластяване на ролите на младите граждани.

About the research: Advances in technology in the twenty first century are changing the way our society is structured and operates. Data collection on unprecedented scale, exponentially increasing computing power and deep machine learning processes are challenging the institutions currently shaping and driving our cities. (Batty, 2017) However, whereas barriers to interaction between citizens are coming down, others are being erected – mainly in the ownership, control and interpretation of the data being collected. (Kitchin, 2014) The evolution of the ‘Smart City’ concept is part of this societal transition (Yigitcanlar et al., 2018b) and relevant to debates about the future of the city due to its persistence in political and academic discourse. There is, however, a under researched grey area of the smart city – the lived human experience and the scope for involvement by citizens in the co-production of future cities.  Communities, traditionally excluded or overlooked in the urban realm, can benefit from this transitional period by empowering their voices utilising new technologies, nevertheless, they can also be easily excluded once unrepresentative systems are put in place. (Datta, 2015a)

This doctoral study will focus on one such section of society, traditionally overlooked as an active stakeholder in the planning of cities (Frank, 2006) – young people (15-19 years of age). A transient and diverse community largely equipped with digital skills, in the European context the percentage of young people is on the decline. (Coyette et al., 2015) The focus of the study will aim to uncover the perceptions and knowledges amongst young people about the smart city projects in Bulgaria, Spain and the UK, as well as, their ability to participate or shape their cities and their preparedness to be the future users of the ‘smart city’.  This extended proposal aims to contextualise the research questions in the current academic discourse on the development of the smart city concept, planning theories of participation in the digital realm and the youth policies in the European context. It will then present the methodological approach adopted, the expected impact of the study and any ethical considerations. Finally, a plan of work is proposed, mapping the study objectives and outcomes against the timeframe of the doctoral degree.

The project is focusing on four cities in Europe: Manchester and Birmingham in England; Sofia in Bulgaria and Valencia in Spain.

Research Questions:  

  1. What are youth’s perceptions and attitudes towards technological developments in the planning of cities within European democracies?
  2. How are twenty-first century technological and digital advances creating avenues available to youth to enable their wider participation in the planning of future cities within the European context?

Research Aim:

The research aims to appraise the perceptions, engagement and level of knowledge of young citizens (15-30 years of age) towards ‘smart city’ developments in key urban areas in the European context and evaluate how such perceptions hinder or enable cases of co-production of urban spaces. The project aims to compare cases of innovative youth engagement within planning practices and strategies of co-production of space in the examined cities and situate those in the context of smart/digital agendas and planning theories of participation.