Speculative Dashboard as part of the project Alternative Imaginaries for the Smart City.
A collaboration between Roy Bendor (TU Delft), Richard Vijgen, and V2_ Institute for the Unstable Media, and funded by the City of Rotterdam.

The Alternative Imaginaries for the Smart City project seeks to surface and materialise the different ways in which the public perceives and relates to the city. Hoping to help counteract the homogenising, universal imaginary that currently shapes the smart city and inspire the design of urban sensing technologies that reflect local, neighbourhood-specific values.


Based on ethnographic research conducted in the two Rotterdam neighbourhoods of Bospolder Tussendijken en Reyeroord, six neighbourhood characteristic data themes were identified. Three themes each, and all of them important to the comings and goings of the neighbourhood. Themes such as Outspokenness, and Care. I was asked to interpret the research findings and come up with speculative ways of sensing and portraying thematic neighbourhood data.

These ‘speculative ways of sensing and portraying thematic neighbourhood data’ could be divided - albeit less separable in reality - in three parts / designs. A design for the municipality and its policy makers:
a speculative dashboard. And a design to be interacted with by the residents of the neighbourhood: a speculative dashboard and (prop) sensors. Both designs having different purposes (e.g. funding vs. participation).
The project described here mainly focusses on the first: the speculative dashboard for the municipality. In reality the dashboard for the municipality largely overlaps with the neighbourhood one, and is designed in such a way that it can be easily adjusted.
The envisioned sensors used in the dashboard are conceived with an eventual materialisation in mind.


The speculative dashboard consists out of two layers: the ‘general interface’ meant to ease the user into the design. And a second layer - the Sensor Tags and Displays - nested within the general interface and being more speculative of nature; to explore ways of (portraying) urban sensing, and sensing technologies. The former references known dashboards and known ways of interaction, and uses more obvious use-cues, and schemes and colours relating to the ‘Rotterdam visual identity’. The latter references actual physical sensors, sensors implied being geolocated within the neighbourhood, while questioning that what possible, acceptable and sensible to sense, source and display.


Each of the six identified neighbourhood data themes have one to three ‘speculative ways of sensing and portraying’ designs substantiating them. Expressed through Sensors and Displays within the dashboard. The theme Care, for instance, consists of three Sensors. All of which contribute to a general metric of Care. One of these sensors is the ‘Gift wrap’ sensor: a sensor which distributes and measures the amount of gift wrap (gift size, etc.) used in the neighbourhood. An other one - being part of the theme Trust / Mistrust - is the ‘dog leash’ sensor: a sensor representing the trust between dogs, their owners and their surrounding through leash dynamics.


To convey the concepts behind the interface, the sensors and alternative ways of urban sensing, the dashboard maintains a certain logical flow and pace. Known ways of interaction come first, and new concepts are introduced along the way. The sensors, which come after an introduction to the interface, leave room for interpretation and imagination and, when needed, provide further guiding information and clarification through situational information buttons. The underlying working of the dashboard, and how sensors and Displays are interconnected, can be experienced through an alternative route within the dashboard.


The Sensor Tags and Displays, and the general interface were designed to contrast each other. From flat design to more skeuomorphic, and from pale to more saturated colours. At times these contrasting elements morph into each other too. The general shape and colour schemes, although intended to convey something between ’tech’ and ‘analogue’, are inspired on the decorative tiles characteristically used throughout the common space of Bospolder Tussendijken. To maintain a certain consistency throughout parts of the design, the same characteristic aesthetics were also used for Reyeroord, albeit slightly altered to fit the neighbourhood characteristic aesthetics: lots of stone, concrete, grass and hedges.

Peter Kalkman

Main View
Underlaying View
Sensor Tags. Reyeroord
Displays. Bospolder