Urbanism Lecture Series, Session 1 - Robotic Restructuring: Cities

UI - Robots Restructuring Cities

Event details

Wednesday 4 October 2023
Attendance in person or online: £FOC


Robots are moving out of the closed environments of laboratories, factories, and hospitals to augment and replace the maintenance and management of human and non-human life as part of a broader process of societal and ecological automation. Robotic delivery vehicles, driverless cars, service robots and police drones and robots are starting to appear on the streets and in the skies of cities. Robots are being used to monitor, augment, and reshape nature, ecology and climatic process via robotic insects, automated agriculture, and many other robotic entities.

This lecture series explores the impact and implications of robotic applications and new cyborg environments for human and non-human life in different global contexts. For example, how do we grasp the impact of robotics and robots, as robot-enabled automation moves out of enclosed environments and comes to mediate social, ecological, and infrastructural relations? What is unfolding in terms of robotic restructuring and mediation? What is on the horizon? What matters and why?

The lecture series will be of interest to anyone interested in the future of cities, climate change, ecology and the prospects for ever more sophisticated AI-enabled robots and automation.


  • Speaker: Aidan While (Urban Institute, University of Sheffield, UK)
  • Chair: Beth Perry (University of Sheffield, Urban Institute, UK)

Robots are transforming many aspects of economic, social, and political life, including the nature of warfare, the way we work (and if we have to work) and the ways in which nature is governed and managed. Robots also have profound implications for the ways in which cities and settlements are designed and managed and the ways in which people consume and are policed and controlled. This lecture examines the various ways in which robots are shaping urban life and what that might mean for the future of cities. How are robots transforming social and political relations in the city? For whose benefit? What do they mean for future planning and design? What questions need to be asked of robots given the potential benefits and harms? Drawing on the speaker’s current ESRC project on ‘Robots as an experimental urban infrastructure’, the lecture presents a comprehensive overview of the issues raised by urban robotics and the different roles of robotics in the remaking of cities.

This is a hybrid event and a drinks reception will follow for those attending in person.

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