Originally posted on WANDERLUST:
“At certain points in the history of architecture and urban planning, the disciplinary debate on how to apply new technologies surpasses the boundaries of the professions involved. At those times, the hopes and fears found in the disputes between architects, policy makers, engineers and planners are extended to a broader discussion about urban and societal change. Then, the central issue is not merely how to solve a specific spatial problem or improve a construction method with the help of a new technology. Rather, the debate revolves around its possible impact on urban society at large. What does this new technology mean for urban culture, what impact does it have on how we shape our identities and live together in the city? When those questions surface, Dutch philosopher René Boomkens argues, the professional debate has turned ‘philosophical’. 
The discourse on ‘Sentient Cities’, that has arisen over the last few years can be understood as such a philosophical enterprise.  What is at stake in the debate is not so much the issue of how to engineer smarter buildings that sense — and adapt to — our daily routines or idiosyncratic preferences. Rather, our in-car navigators, friend finding ‘solutions’, location based information systems and other urban sensing technologies may very well force us to rethink some of the core concepts through which we understand and value urban life.
Here I will show that the debate about the Sentient City can be understood as a dispute concerning the urban public sphere. On the one hand, the rise of sentient technologies is said to contribute to the (already on-going) demise of urban public spaces such as town squares, multifunctional streets and public parks. On the other hand, there is a hope that those same sentient technologies could enable new forms of publicness and exchange. These are no longer based on bringing people with different backgrounds and opinions spatially together (as in coffeehouses or town squares), but on the organization of publics around particular issues of concern.”