About LabGov New York
LabGov New York involves a variety of projects focused on testing, refining and exploring the Co-City Methodology. Each project has, at its core, the idea of collaborating together to better understand the urban commons as a shared and inclusive space where all residents of a community can live, work, and play together fairly and equitably. LabGov New York is an evolving, every growing, living lab, which currently centers around three projects; each is described below.
The Harlem E-Project
The LabGov Harlem project is focused on improving access to fast, high quality digital resources, notably including broadband internet, to neighborhoods in Harlem where such access remains lacking. The project will be an example of a constructed commons, bringing together residents and other local stakeholders in an iterative process to design and develop a co-governed, community-based high speed network. Formally entitled, “A Novel Architecture for Secure Energy Efficient Community-Edge-Clouds with Application in Harlem (SEEC Harlem),” the Harlem project has secured a National Science Foundation grant and is in the early stages of development. A combination of private and public actors, as well as community members and scholars, are collaborating together to bring about the project’s goal of ending the digital divide in Harlem. Those involved include Silicon Harlem and researchers from the Universities of Arizona and Virginia, Georgetown, and Fordham. The project is supported in various ways by the City of New York and internet service providers such as Microsoft and Cisco.
This project takes a holistic approach to address the technical, legal, and social challenges facing underserved urban communities experiencing a growing digital divide. A novel community-owned edge cloud computing architecture is investigated that disaggregates the edge equipment for lower cost, improved energy efficiency, simplified management and intrinsically stronger security. The project targets a community within Harlem for initial concept exploration. Indeed, the Harlem community like many diverse urban communities is facing obstacles that extend beyond broadband access and include the entire home, office and IoT/smart city technology eco-system. Beyond the edge cloud, the project will include development of low-cost KVM (Keyboard, Video, and Mouse) systems that will be used by a diverse set of community members to establish proof of concept and performance metrics for the edge cloud, and identify system usability by community especially as it relates to closing the digital divide.
Prototype hardware and software will be developed to study this architecture in both a lab environment, user trials, and in participatory technology assessments by users in the community. Optimal design rules will be derived based on experimental performance data and incorporating user constraints and use cases within the Harlem community. Community ownership and governance will be investigated as a means to overcome longstanding legal and social challenges. The project will provide a new dimension to and understanding of edge clouds and community network ownership that can be widely applied in smart city environments elsewhere. Disaggregated devices open up the potential for a new breed of consumer interfaces with dramatically lower cost and energy use – as well as simple software and hardware management and security. By virtualizing these technologies within the edge cloud, potentially transformative benefits can be realized. Such technology would provide a powerful tool in combating growing digital divides.
Community engagement is a key part of the SEEC Harlem project. Community representatives and actors work closely with the technology experts, scholars, and other private and public actors involved in the project and are key to its implementation.
Each of the 5 actors from the “quintuple helix” are actively engaged as the project moves through the co-city process. These include public authorities and representatives from the Manhattan Borough President and Mayor’s Office of Technology, community business leaders and small business owners, civic organizations such as church leaders and local nonprofits, university researchers, and the local social innovator Silicon Harlem.
Community Network + Edge Cloud
SEEC Harlem seeks to create low cost, secure user devices, which are governed by a shared, centralized IT management team that oversees a high performance edge cloud accessible to everyone in the community.
A community network is viewed as a digitally constructed commons resource. Internet resources are co-governed; the benefits are shared equitably and are transferable; and the community is not only given access to the new resource, but opportunities to be trained and educated about how to best utilize the new resource.
Participatory Technology Assessments
Another key part of the Harlem project will be ensuring that assessments are performed along the way to ensure its operability and functionality. This will be a further way in which the community will be involved in bringing about the project’s success, as community members, as the primary users of the new technology, will report back on their experiences with the new technology.
The Harlem Project’s Goals
This project will provide a new dimension to and understanding of edge clouds and community network ownership that can be widely applied in smart city environments elsewhere. Disaggregated devices open up the potential for a new breed of consumer interfaces with dramatically lower cost and energy use – as well as simple software and hardware management and security. By virtualizing these technologies within the edge cloud, potentially transformative benefits can be realized. Such technology would provide a powerful tool in combating growing digital divides.
Project Leaders and Collaborators
A variety of individual are working collaboratively on the SEEC Harlem project; these include: Dan Kilper (Lead, University of AZ), Clayton Banks (Silicon Harlem), Bryan Carter (University of AZ), Rider Foley (University of VA), Sheila Foster (Georgetown University), Bruce Lincoln (Silicon Harlem), Olivier Sylvain (Fordham University), Malathi Veeraraghavan (University of VA), and Ron Williams (University of VA).
Private and nonprofit actors assisting with the project include: Microsoft, Cisco, and Silicon Harlem.
Additional Info on the Harlem Project
This web-story provides an overview of the Harlem project’s historical evolution.
The Harlem project is possible thanks to a National Science Foundation Award.
NYCx Co-Lab Project
The NYCx Co-Lab Project was inspired by the Co-City approach under the direction of LabGov’s collaborator Jose Serrano-McClain of the NYC Office of Technology and Innovation. It represents the world’s first municipal program to transform urban spaces into hubs for tech collaboration, research, testing, and development. Announced in November 2017 by Mayor Bill de Blasio, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, and Chief Technology Officer Miguel Gamino, Jr., the NYCx Co-Lab project engages the tech industry to solve real-world problems and to help the City advance its goals of becoming the most fair, equitable and sustainable city in the world.
The NYCx Co-Labs are neighborhood-based partnerships focused on identifying and addressing a neighborhood’s most pressing challenges by testing new technologies. In Brownsville, Brooklyn, for example, community partners and local youth advised the City on areas of opportunity where technologies could play a role in improving neighborhood quality of life and local economic development. The Co-Lab in Brownsville created an unprecedented opportunity for researchers to work directly with local residents in order to understand and address those problems most important to the community.
For additional information on the NYCx Co-Lab see this article published on the official New York City website.
A New Course on the Urban Commons at the New School’s Graduate Lab
A new course, “Civic Imagination: The Urban Commons,” is a year-long inquiry into the urban commons, housed at The New School’s University Transdisciplinary Graduate Lab. The course seeks to inspire and create space for the sharing of ideas and skills between students and faculty trained in different disciplines, including Design, Management, and Architecture, Organizational Change, Urban Planning, and Public Policy.
The course was part of an experimental collaboration between its two instructors, Professors Eduardo Staszowski and Nidhi Srinivas of the New School’s Transdisciplinary Lab, and Sheila Foster and Christian Iaione, the Co-Directors of LabGov Georgetown.
The Urban Design Lab gathered people from a variety of sectors and disciplines with a shared interest in the commons. These included academics, policy makers, local politicians, design experts, and others. Their goals were to:
- Document the current uses, relationships, and interactions in the urban commons around 14th St. in Manhattan;
- Imagine new uses, relationships, and interactions in this area;
- Explore strategies for protecting, growing and more deeply understanding the Urban Commons and commoning.
The lab hosted a panel and conversation at the Verge 2017 Conference at Parsons, on “The Invisibility of the Commons.”