The public spaces digitised and connected to the proposed National Broadband Network (NBN) will rise in social prominence above those that remain analogue, according to a Melbourne University academic.
Associate professor, Bharat Dave, who is from the university’s Faculty of Architecture Building and Planning, is co-leading a Social Infrastructure and Communities research theme as part of the recently formed Institute for a Broadband Enabled Society (IBES).
His research, and that of dozens of colleagues, will look at the impact on society and communities of the information and services that flow over the NBN.
“If I had to put it in a nutshell it is the human and user-centric view of what happens with this technology,” Dave said.
The IBES researchers have already gone through a workshop that involved academics interested in the field from a broad range of faculties, including from Arts, Science, Economics and Building design.
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“Once you have things like very large scale broadband services, for example in the urban environment, it changes the very nature of the public space,” Dave explained. “Then once you take that into account you will start designing different kinds of places.”
This applies to new neighbourhoods, like that in Kelvin Grove Urban Village in Queensland, which is a case study for the IBES researchers.
“What has happened is it has brought some groups of residents together much more intensely than before,” he said. “Many of them don’t know each other face to face but they do know each other electronically.
“The design of spaces has changed as there is increasing awareness of certain areas. They are constantly being monitored and informatised. The other places become secondary and lose significance.”
In short, Dave contends analogue spaces could lose importance in society if they are not linked up to a smart network backed by the NBN. Additionally, the materials we use to construct buildings will also be plugged into the network.
“The focus is going to shift in terms of what we do with the building fabrics which traditionally have been inert.”
So, buildings will be plugged into the smart network and be monitored for energy use and potentially energy creation. It could also help with assistive technologies - such as remotely monitoring patients, adjusting temperatures, etc – for the elderly and nursing situations.
“With the new infrastructure, what can happen is you get real time information with what is happening anywhere,” he said.
The research is at a formative stage but is expected to produce results over the next few months.
According to the IBES website the Social Infrastructure and Communities research theme is looking at:
- public policy concerning access and governance, social diversity and social inclusion
- needs of and utilisation by different community sectors, such as local government and NGOs
- the impact of smart buildings and ‘Hertzian’ public spaces on social life
- implications and opportunities for diverse communities in urban, rural/regional and remote parts of Australia
- possibilities for addressing social disadvantage, such as that experienced by many Indigenous communities
- the reconfiguration of ‘home’ life, including the changing relation between work and leisure the recent Federal government initiative to investigate strategies for ‘Government 2.0’
- Locative media and situated technologies (e.g. installations and performances, museums and heritage sites)
- Assistive technologies- at home and on the move
- Belonging and identity in broadband-enabled neighborhoods and communities
This week, it was revealed researchers and vendors will be able to test their applications and equipment on a fully operational model of the NBN hosted at the university and run by IBES.
IBES is also running a series of workshops around the university for researchers to interact and throw up ideas for new projects and possibilities for the network. In its short existence, the institute has already attracted between 30 to 50 researchers working on projects across its initial five research themes: Education and Learning; Health and Wellbeing; Social Infrastructure and Communities; Service and Business Transformation; and Network Deployment and Economics.