Study level

  • PhD
  • Master of Philosophy


Topic status

We're looking for students to study this topic.

Research centre


Professor Marcus Foth
Division / Faculty
Faculty of CI, Education & Social Justice


Cities are changing across the globe. Climate change, rapid urbanisation, pandemics, as well as innovations in technologies such as blockchain, AI and IoT are all impacting urban space. One response to such changes has been to make cities ecologically sustainable and 'smart'. The 'eco smart city', for instance, uses networked sensing, cloud and mobile computing to optimise, control, and regulate urban processes and resources. From real-time bus information, autonomous electric vehicles, smart parking, and smart street lighting, such initiatives are often presented as a social and environmental good.

Critics, however, increasingly argue that technologically-driven and efficiency-led approaches are too simplistic to deal with the complexities of urban life. Sustainability in the smart city is predominantly performed in limited ways that leave little room for participation and citizen agency, despite government efforts to integrate innovative technologies in more equitable ways. More importantly, there is a growing awareness that a human-centred notion of cities - in which urban space is designed for, and inhabited by, humans only - is no longer tenable.

Within the age of the Anthropocene (a term used to refer to a new geological era in which human activity is transforming Earth systems, accelerating climate change and causing mass extinctions), scholars and practitioners are working generatively by acknowledging the entanglements between human and non-human others (including plants, animals, insects, as well as soil, water, and sensors and their data) in urban life.

Research activities

This research topic is suitable for either a PhD or an MPhil candidate. It will be embedded within the QUT Design Lab and the program of research led by the More-than-Human Futures research group, which brings together senior and early-career researchers, as well as research degree candidates and practitioners from across QUT interested in design, creative practice, urban planning, urban informatics, architecture, environmental humanities, geography, computing, and related fields.

The project will involve systematically and critically considering smart cities beyond a human-centred approach. The candidate will identify their specific project focus within the first twelve months of the candidature.


The project responds to the complex interrelations between human and non-human others (such as animals and plants, as well as soil, rivers, data and sensors) in urban space.

Through theory, policy and practice (past and present), and thinking speculatively about how smart cities may evolve in the future, this study will make a timely contribution to lively, contemporary scholarly and political debates on sustainable smart cities.

This is of particular relevance now, given how the current pandemic is shifting urban land use and mobility, and bringing issues of environmental and social injustices much more visibly into the public domain.

Skills and experience

The ideal candidate brings an open mind to learning new theories and research approaches. Having a background in a cognate area such as design, creative practice, eco justice, media and communications, or urban studies is advantageous.

The candidate has to meet the eligibility criteria for admission into the MPhil or PhD program.

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