27 September 2016

adelaideImagine a city that is capable of using data produced from a range of interactive technology and communications to decide by itself which roads to open and close to assist traffic flow and which lights to leave on or switch off at night.

The concept of a “sentient city”, of a new spatial awareness created through the use of touchscreens, virtual landscapes, geo tagging and augmented realities, is a tantalising one, but with the advent of driverless cars expected on roads with a decade or two, such a notion could be moving out of the realms of science fiction and closer to reality.

It’s a subject that one of the world’s leading geographers and social scientists, Professor Sir Nigel Thrift, will discuss at  the 2016 Hawke Research Institute Annual Distinguished Lecture at the University of South Australia tomorrow night.

The lecture will see Professor Thrift consider what a city which is aware of itself might look like, and what this means for city dwellers in the 21st Century. 

“The ambition of a lot of people in information and communications technology is to move towards a sentient city – one in which large numbers of systems in the city are under control and able to be modulated so that gradually the city might start to “think” about things and change things – make things more efficient and safer,” Professor Thrift says.

“What I want to do in this lecture is ask what we mean by “sentience”, and to consider what other kinds of things are already sentient in the city – it may well be that cities “think” in all sorts of ways that we haven’t yet considered – this includes various animals and objects present in the city, already there’s a palette of thinking things before we get to considering a sentient city.”

“I’ll also consider the way in which cities will have to change if we really want a sentient city in terms of urban design, and this crosses many different topics – arts, humanities, engineering, sciences. We are at a turning point, as people have said very many times, cities can’t carry on the way they are.”

Professor Anthony Elliott, Dean of External Engagement at UniSA, described Professor Thrift’s Masterclass and Lecture at UniSA, as “inspiring”.

“Nigel Thrift has been at the forefront of geography worldwide for many decades now and at UniSA, we are delighted that he is our Distinguished Researcher for 2016,” Professor Elliott says.

“It is evident that the world is facing massive global transformations, and Professor Thrift’s very precise understanding of what is truly modern in contemporary social experience is of great inspiration to our researchers here.”

The Hawke Research Institute Annual Distinguished Lecture will take place at 6pm in the Bradley Forum, Hawke Building, City West campus. To register to attend click here.

Media Contacts: Will Venn office (08) 8302 0096 email will.venn @unisa.edu.au mobile 0401 366054 

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