What do diaries have to do with smart cities? And who do two women think they’re doing trying to reset the agenda for smart cities? Doesn’t everyone know that smart cities are about data technology that goes “ping”?
“Ping” is the notion satirized by Monty Python in its sketch about a team of doctors more concerned with fancy machines than with the patient. The Acostas are part of nascent trend to supplant that notion.
Late last year, this mother-daughter duo set off on a trek from city to city across the U.S. to answer the fundamental question of what smart cities are. What people should expect from the community they live in? How should cities be run and how can data technology help?
For all the talk about smart cities, few have put serious effort on such questions. Even fewer, perhaps none, have been two such disparate women. The result is a polished, entertaining, and important audio podcast series, and soon a video series, called Smart City Diaries.
Deborah Acosta was chief innovation officer for five years at the Bay Area city of San Leandro, and led it from drab to cool. Her daughter, Anna Acosta, is a Latinx millennial described on the Diaries site as “social justice warrior” with widely published articles about music.
Their audio podcast, and soon a video series, will put on lively, at times even hilarious street-level experiments combined with challenging conversations with diverse experts.
So far, they’ve produced three audio-podcast episodes. Soon, they’ll expand to a TV show modeled after Top Gear, the funny and controversial BBC series about cars.
First stop, Portland. It’s a race across the city on city transportation, and along the way there’s a scavenger hunt. But they don’t what it’ll be until immediately before the race begins, when their production team reveals it.
It’s to be the kind of fun in which the audience learns something as it watches this millennial and baby boomer duo compete.
The audio podcast won’t be as funny as the video, but the audio will dig deeper into equity, individuals’ needs, and perhaps a new interpretation of the Declaration of Independence’s “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Should everyone have a guarantee of adequate housing, food, medical care, and education?
More typical city topics they consider are the importance and implications of 5G, fiber optics, along with the equity or inequity. Then there’s the recent power-grid failure in Texas. And data and what it has to do with infrastructure. And unlike most discussions of these topics, it comes with entertaining stories.
And what better time? COVID peeled the eternal scab off of inequity. The elder Acosta says, “Of course, inequity undergirds everything about technology.”
Tune in, and stay tuned. Smart City Diaries.