Today, in collaboration with Camden Unlimited and Dark Matter Labs we are launching Alt.Cmd [Alternative.Camden] – a test vehicle for prototyping a new type of economy, powered by technology, for the common good. Alt.Cmd aims to develop a new type of local, democratic institution for Camden, putting innovation in the hands of the community.
Euan Mills says the future doesn’t have to be bleak.
Today the future can, in many ways, feel quite threatening – rapidly expanding digital monopolies, creeping surveillance, monetisation of our private information, and proprietary algorithms influencing the democratic process. It’s hard to keep up, and all too easy to worry.
This is why it’s time we take the reins and create an alternative future on our own terms. But to do this, we need to stop seeing technology as a threat, and instead as a tool that brings us together, to collaborate and build the future we want.
Using tech for good
Over the past decade, we have seen how cities and neighbourhoods around the world have changed for the better when people with vision, passion and drive come together to create change. We have seen digital platforms for organising everything from park runs to social-care; from community-led renewable energy networks to food waste reduction programmes and open source manufacturing workshops. Technology has catalysed civic engagement and collaboration like never before, helping make our cities healthier, more enjoyable and more inclusive.
This is the kind of innovation Alt.Cmd is seeking to nurture. We are not just another Silicon Valley-esque, tech-startup, unicorn-chasing innovation hub. Alt.Cmd will place its community at its core – residents, businesses, technologists and the public sector – and deploy technology to scale and amplify civic innovation on our terms.
What are we going to do?
- Start new, all-inclusive conversations about technology through co-designed and co-hosted public events, workshops and publications
- Experiment and build prototypes of civic technology across a range of issues. Some might be highly visible and intuitive, whilst others might delve into less obvious or thornier issues such as ethical questions around deploying augmented reality in public space, or new ways to fund shared infrastructures like the Camden Highline based on voluntary data tracking of health and wellbeing.
- We will set up a testing ground (or ‘sandbox’) to explore how shared rules and regulations – from the planning system to licensing – could evolve in response to new innovative technologies that require civic and regulatory oversight.
Why Camden (Euston, and King’s Cross)?
Alt.Cmd’s test-bed site includes Camden Town, Euston and King’s Cross. The area provides a rich snapshot of London, being home to leading arts, culture and educational institutions, brilliant technology and scientific research organisations, as well as proactive and innovative local government. It’s a place where thousands live, visit and work everyday. But it also embodies some of London’s most acute challenges: from rising inequality and housing unaffordability to chronic air and noise pollution.
As such it’s the perfect place to test our assumption that technology can help everyone. It means we’ll be able to share our learnings with cities across the UK and even worldwide. But for it to work, we need your involvement.
If you’re actively engaged in your community, passionate about a challenge or injustice, are working within the Camden/Euston/King’s Cross area, or if you have an idea about how technology can help shape an alternative future for Camden – we want to hear from you.