13 Reinforcing the Social in Social Systems Engineering – Lessons Learnt from Smart City Projects in the United Kingdom

Jenny O’Connor, Zeynep Gurguc and Koen H. van Dam

13.1 Introduction

Humankind and the natural world are increasingly governed by technology. In the era of big data, the digital economy, virtual reality and ubiquitous sensing, it is timely to explore whether these artificial systems can be better designed and managed to combat major global challenges and positively affect citizens’ lives and livelihoods. Social systems engineering (SSE) speaks directly to this question, in that it proposes that a purposive, design‐led approach has significant merit in comparison to uncoordinated, laissez‐faire innovation. This chapter seeks to use real‐world examples to identify the challenges and opportunities of taking a SSE approach, and to this end utilizes the ‘smart cities’ phenomenon as an example of ‘SSE in action’.

‘Smart cities’ have become hugely popular in recent years [see, for example, the comparison by de Jong et al. (2015) of citations in academic literature], and there have been a number of useful explorations of the smart‐city phenomenon from a theoretical perspective (e.g., Hollands, 2008; Townsend, 2013; Vanolo, 2013). However, in contrast, this chapter will offer a more functional review, in order to explore how smart‐city aspirants interpret and actuate smart‐city visions, and implement a SSE approach in this context. To this end, we evaluate how a ...

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