SCP E19: Designing for the Socio-Technical, with Laura Forlano

real estate in the city-12

In this episode of The Smart City Podcast, I interviewed social scientist and design researcher Laura Forlano. Laura and I had a really great discussion about the socio-technical aspects of design and how humans and machines come together. Laura talks about a number of her projects ranging from driverless technology to reimagining work and going back in history to think about technology. She is also very passionate about the active engagement of citizens and rethinking that way we do this engagement through design. We also discuss about the differences in the imagined futures of technology verses the reality.

Listen here:


“technology itself is a product of human creativity…ethics, values and responsibilities are embedded into the technologies that we design”

“what’s interesting is really the ways in which discussions around Smart Cities are often being shaped by many different forces and that includes major technology companies and governments but also includes civic technology organisations and activists…rather than a broad application of the same technology around the world…I think you do really have a lot of local geographies that are appropriating and shaping some of these Smart City technologies in ways that are unique in their cities”

“I’m really interested in the ways we might use design to create prototypes and experiments that can engage people in a more visceral and experiential way in what it might be like to live with that technology and then be able to solicit feedback perspectives based on the experiences”

“it’s really important to bring together not only the technical expertise about all of those technologies but also the social expertise from fields like design, sociology and anthropology to understand how people use [and understand] those technologies”

What we covered:

  • Laura’s background in communications and NYC Wireless
  • Socio-technical, human and machines coming together
  • Driverless City Project and highlighting important questions we should be asking before adopting technologies
  • Made in Chicago Project and bottom up approaches
  • Reimagining work and going back in history to think about technology
  • The Smart Cities discussion being shaped by many different forces
  • Improving engagement of citizens in Smart City projects through experiments and piloting Smart Technology
  • How we design technologies for particular communities – the imagined and reality
  • Laura’s book Invisible Algorithms and Invisible Politics
  • Glimpses of potential futures and the importance of getting involved


Laura’s website and her work

Driverless City Project

Made in Chicago Project

Re-imagining Work with Megan Halpern

Alphabet’s Side Walk Labs Project

Big Belly

Laura’s Book: Invisible Algorithms and Invisible Politics



Connect with Laura via her website or Twitter @laura4lano

Connect with me via email:

Connect via Twitter and Facebook @smartcitypod

The Smart City Podcast is Produced by Ellen Ronalds Keene.


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