Shaping Future Cities Symposium

During my time at the Design Lab, I have been interested in how our work in Open Accessibility can help future students on campus. For example, in the lab we are currently developing tactile maps of the library for the visually impaired. A long-term goal of ours is to not only produce maps for our university, but to create a workflow so that our research can help other universities do the same.  

To continue with this research, I attended the Shaping Future Cities Symposium hosted by Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. The symposium highlighted how new technologies are transforming cities and the opportunities and potential challenges that may arise as a result. The talks covered a broad range of issues that should be acknowledged with new technologies. This included data privacy, ownership, and how technology can change our experience of the world around us as well as highlight the disparities between us. Such vast topics are much broader than architecture. In an acknowledgement of the multidisciplinary work needed for the issues, leaders in practice and academia from across the globe came to access strategies for shaping future cities. Architects, engineers, planners, and academics from the sustainability and school of information all gathered to understand how technology can shape our futures. 

One topic that I especially enjoyed was how we can promote equity through technology. How can we create transparency and agency in smart cities? How can we improve the lives of people with physical disabilities? Those with disabilities face barriers in the built environment. Most buildings are old buildings. How can we then use technology to facilitate end to end mobility? How can we facilitate maneuverability within tight obstructed spaces? Such questions are important to acknowledge for the future and especially impacted me with the research we are conducting at the Design Lab. 

Using 3D-printed maps and other technologies to develop maps can enhance maneuverability with the existing spaces on campus. This is an exceptional state, but not only how can we help enhance the lives of those around us, but how can we get community members involved in such projects? One of the most impactful moments at the symposium was when someone said, “Disadvantaged people are most likely to be negatively impacted by innovation.” Through technology, how can we, as a community, combat this? The symposium was an excellent introduction to the ongoing questions of integrating technology as a tool to improve equity and accessibility in the world.