Cognitive Cities, 10 Years Later

10 years ago exactly, a group of us gathered in Berlin for Cognitive Cities Conference, a 2011 event around the implications of smart cities that I was involved in running. (Thanks to Peter Rukavina for pointing this out to me!)

The website is still kinda sorta online, but after a decade there’s some wonky elements and broken links.

To this day — and I don’t say this lightly — I’m convinced this was conference was way ahead of its time. It was timely and relevant then for the smart city debate, and a lot of what we discussed is just as relevant today. We got extremely lucky with both our speakers and our community of participants: Neither of these folks had any particular reason to believe this would be worth their time, they all took a bet on us and on the event. This is something I remember to this day, and to this day I’m grateful for their graciousness. Whenever I can, I try to pay it forward by accepting invitations to unknown events by younger, driven organizers.

It was one of the first events I ever was involved in running, and the evening before the event was nerve wracking and exhilarating as we hosted a speakers dinner in our shared little office space in Kreuzberg, a somewhat crammed industrial two-floor space that had prior served as a mannequin factory of sorts.

I don’t want to wax lyrical about the event though, just share a few short bits:

  • Somewhat miraculously, the conference talks still live on Vimeo.
  • I just briefly looked at a few of those talks, and they’re still relevant, even though the language has changed a bit and the debate has matured to a degree.
  • Today, the line-up looks nowhere near diverse enough. It probably didn’t then, either.
  • I met a few great friends there, and am still grateful for this opportunity.

The topics, by the way, have partially evolved (we now know how to map cities better by smartphone than we did in 2011), but others are very much the same today, like Adam Greenfield’s talk “Connected Things And Civic Responsibilities In The Networked City”.

Which really is an area that I still work on today, a decade later.

I was glad to discover this again. It’s good to have an opportunity to look back. Those speakers, as well as the participants, were truly ahead of the curve. It seemed like a galvanizing moment for this larger community. And that’s a good reminded of why communities of practice, and platforms for sharing ideas, are so important.

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