From little girls to grand-mothers, women are experiencing urban life very differently to men. It is important to make sure that when we design solutions for cities, that we plan our urban environment and develop technologies that take into account the whole population.
That is why this month, in honour of International Women’s Day, we would like to give a voice to ordinary women from all around the world. How do they live in their cities? What do they like? What are their expectations for tomorrow?
We defend a more gender balanced approach toward smart cities. Discover the extremely interesting testimonial of Hannah below.
Born and raised in Portland, OR (USA), Hannah Concannon is a 30 year old photographer. Hannah also lived in Colorado Springs, CO, San Francisco, CA, and London, UK. She opened the Dress Up Box studio a few months ago. Her artistic practice explores the state of identity in the digital age by engaging with the selfie as a site of performance and working the boundaries between IRL self and aspirational internet fantasy.
In 2013, she started the Dress Up Box project and painted her face differently everyday with amazing results. Her work has been featured by Instagram®, Google®, Juxtapose, Refinery29, Photo+ Korea, and Willamette Week.
Hannah has two favorites cities: Lisbon and Shanghai.
Lisbon has a very vibrant and artistic energy. One of the reasons I love Lisbon is because my favourite hair salon is there. I've been following WIP airport for years, on Flickr®, and now Instagram®. One of these days I'll plan another trip to Lisbon to get a haircut :)
I feel you can measure a city's level of coolness by its hair salons. Lisbon is very, very cool.
Although I've only been to Shanghai once, I was struck by how the public spaces function like the city's living room. I saw people exercising together, dancing, playing, sharing food and living in community in public spaces. It was so cool.
How do you feel as a woman in the city/ in public spaces?
This depends greatly on which city I'm in. In Portland, I feel very safe and comfortable in public spaces. Portland is a pretty alternative and accepting city with well-designed public spaces where tons of different people spend time and hang out peacefully. Even at night, even in my neighborhood which isn't always perceived as the safest, I know my neighbours and we're a tight knit community who look out for each other.
In other cities I've definitely felt less comfortable, particularly at night. Some of my worst public space experiences were walking home late at night from bars or clubs in San Francisco. I liked to dress up in costumes/wild outfits and on the walk home I frequently was yelled at by groups of men or sometimes followed. People would yell offensive things out of cars and speed off. Typical street harassment. Which at the time makes it feel like you don't belong in public space. Almost like public space is only for men, and because of that, it's not safe to be there at night as a woman.
In your opinion, do you have the same access as men to public spaces?
Definitely not. Most men can expect a baseline level of respect, decency and safety in most public spaces, especially at night. I only feel more self-assured walking alone at night now because I've studied various forms of martial arts and feel confident in my ability to defend myself should I need to. The very fact that I have to think about that and my male friends do not is pretty sad. Until women can inhabit public spaces without fear of bodily harm or harassment at any time of the night/day, I don't think we can consider ourselves to have the same level of access.
What is the first thing that you would like to change in your city right now?
1. Free public transit. There's a movement in a few American cities to make public transit free for everyone. One city in Kansas recently voted to eliminate fares and it's working really well. I think Portland could do the same and it would greatly benefit our workforce and communities. It would especially help reduce drunk driving at night. I live in the part of town where all the nightclubs are, and many people get behind the wheel drunk at the end of the night. If the bus home was free, I think people would be more apt to ride transit and get home safely.
2. Create/Design more indoor or covered public spaces. It rains here for 8 months of the year. In the summer public spaces are amazing. Since it stays light here until nearly 10pm in the summer, you can hang out at the parks and squares until the sun goes down. But after October you have to go to a bar, restaurant or club if you want to hang out with people. I'd like to see more public spaces that were comfortable in the winter/rainy seasons where you don't have to drink or buy something to hang out there. You can tell there's a craving for more winter-time gathering spaces, but no one has quite come up with a good or interesting solution yet.
How do you think new technologies can improve cities especially for women?
I think new technologies can greatly improve the safety of public spaces. We've already seen the implementation of more LED lighting in our parks, squares and gathering spaces in Portland and it makes a huge difference just to be able to see space clearly when it's dark out. I think new technologies can activate public spaces in ways that make them more inviting to women and families. When more people use public spaces, because of better lighting, a cool art installation or more activities are offered, those spaces feel less sterile and more home-y.
From your experience, what is a ‘smart city’?
I think a Smart City is one where the local government and communities are working together to constantly improve, leverage new technology and plan for the future. Portland is rapidly growing, and thanks to a group of city planners in the 1980s, we've already built out a robust public transit system which has made it much easier to grow and absorb the thousands of new people moving here each year. That's the kind of thinking that defines a smart city: planning and acting now for the future, even if you don't quite know what it will look like.
Can you share with us some meaningful moments that you have experienced in the public space? The kind of beautiful moments that bring people together
Portland has a Winter Light Festival in February, now in its 5th year, which invites light artists from around the country to display their work along our public waterfront park. Thousands of people attend and it was unbelievably cool to see families, children, women, couples, everyone out on the street in the dark and the cold experiencing interactive installations and enjoy the pretty lights. February is the most depressing part of the year in Portland; the sun sets around 5pm, it's bitterly cold, wet, and dark for most of the month. It was so heart warming to see children running around a playing in these giant light installations/sculptures like it was the middle of the day. You forget sometimes how much the city shuts down in the winter because of the darkness and rain. It was exactly the infusion of wonder, awe, and togetherness I think a lot of us needed to make it through March and April.