As the city is becoming an ever more complex assemblage of human and artificial non-human entities [1], questions of relationships, rights and democratic values at large are becoming prominent [2].

In particular, the growing presence of artificial entities (such as delivery robots, partially automated vehicles, surveillance cameras, smart assistants) we share our cities with and the less acknowledged presence of digital representation of ourselves (digital twins) we delegate part of our existence to, asks for addressing the controversial consequences of such urban innovation based on technological determinism [3].

How do we and should we relate to things that track our behaviors? How can we consciously engage in or disengage from interactions with such sensing things? How can subversive strategies help gain a better understanding of AI’s limitations and opportunities, and how can that ultimately contribute to designing AI more responsibly? Could we co-create with living organisms to find new subversive tactics? 

Relating to the biennale’s topic of “More-Than-Human Cities,” the workshop will tackle these questions by engaging researchers and practitioners to look at aspects of human and artificial entities’ interplay as interactions, contestability, and governance. Investigating subversive practices can help to disclose how a system works and produce new knowledge about it. Contestation can help users be more aware of the technologies around them and their limitations and amplify their agency by releasing them from a contract of normative behavior imposed by the system [8, 9].  

Our premise steams from discussions on existing subversive practices that are currently emerging in smart cities (see the protesters in Hong Kong taking down surveillance cameras [4], citizens polluting the Waze app data stream to fight traffic congestion in their neighborhood [5], and artists tricking Google into traffic jam alerts [7]. In this vein, we will explore the design space of contestation within the more-than-human city. To de-center the human perspective and highlight ecologies and complex relationships with artificial agents, we will employ thing-centered-design techniques, like Interview with Things [6] and role-playing, for envisioning a manual of subversive strategies to disengage or mingle with artificial agents in the smart city. These will be collected in a provocative document: The Subversive Citizen Manual for the More-Than-Human City.


(1) Maria Luce Lupetti, Iskander Smit, and Nazli Cila. 2018. Near future cities of things: addressing dilemmas through design fiction. In Proceedings of the 10th Nordic Conference on Human-Computer Interaction (NordiCHI ’18). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 787–800. DOI:

(2) Maria Luce Lupetti, Roy Bendor, Elisa Giaccardi. Robot citizenship, a design perspective. In Proceedings of the International Conference on Design of Form and Movement (DESFORM 2019).

(3) MacKenzie, D., & Wajcman, J. (1999). The social shaping of technology. Open university press.

(4) Mozur P. and Qiqing L. Hong Kong takes symbolic stand agaist China’s high-tech controls. The New York Times. Retrieved on February 18th, 2020, at:

(5) Hendrix S. Traffic-weary homeowners and Waze are at war, again. Guess who’s winning? The Washington Post. Retrieved on February 18th, 2020, at:

(6) Chang, W. W., Giaccardi, E., Chen, L. L., & Liang, R. H. (2017, June). ” Interview with Things” A First-thing Perspective to Understand the Scooter’s Everyday Socio-material Network in Taiwan. In Proceedings of the 2017 Conference on Designing Interactive Systems (pp. 1001-1012).

(7) Alex Hern; Berlin artist uses 99 phones to trick Google into traffic jam alert; 2020

(8) Mitchell, Scott. 2011. “Objects in Flux: The Consumer Modification of Mass-Produced Goods.

(9) Lenneke Kuijer, Iohanna Nicenboim, and Elisa Giaccardi. 2017. Conceptualising Resourcefulness as a Dispersed Practice. In Proceedings of the 2017 Conference on Designing Interactive Systems (DIS ’17). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 15–27. DOI:

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