An Open Source Neighbourhood AI in Rome

Dear colleagues

I am writing this message to bring to your attention an innovative project which we are doing with a grant of Italy's Ministry of Culture (MIBAC), which addresses many of our current concerns with the entrance of AI in our communities and society.…

An open source, accessible, documented and usable AI infrastructure has been made available in Torpignattara, Rome's most multicultural neighbourhood, supported by an education program for children, adults, creatives, artists, technologists and humanists who are conceiving and designing all of the artworks, design interventions, educational projects, games, services, AI-enabled archives and more that can exist when an infrastructure of this kind becomes available in a territory.

In the project, artistic interventions play a crucial role: to expand people's immagination through suggestive and innovative AI and data driven art installations and performances (which have the benefit of showing practical, iconic ways in which AI can be used in the territory and with the community), and to work in the public sphere to engage inhabitants into a participatory discussion on the role of AI in our society.

Furthermore, this AI infrastructure comes with interesting features which are able to support the formation of meaningful relationships in multicultural environments, such as the possibility to work in 54 languages through the semantic databases which are available in the system, and the ways in which they have been connected to the AI.

Together with all the partners, we are documenting all the impacts that the presence of this new AI infrastructure is bringing to the neighbourhood, as well as the process in which we are bringing the themes which are more critical for AI (such as the ethical ones, rights and liberties, algorithmic control, privacy, interface biopolitics, biases and more) to the people (through workshops, education sessions, public conversations and the availability of tools, instruments and documentation) to understand the issues and to choose how to deal with them through public, informed, transparent and inclusive processes which are supported by the institutions.

We are understanding how to replicate the project in other cities and communities. For this we welcome questions and conversations, to form new partnerships for upcoming projects.

We are also very curious about what other colleagues like you have to say about the perspectives which open up in a scenario like this one: we ourselves have emerging questions which are compex to confront with, and would really benefit from constructive confrontation with you all.

Thank you very much, and feel free to get in touch

Salvatore Iaconesi

Culture Artificial Intelligence data smart cities art cities Ethics Citizenship


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Submitted by Luca Sambucci on Fri, 24/05/2019 - 21:27

Congratulations, fellow citizen. :)

Let me know of the next workshop.

- Luca


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Submitted by Maximilian J. … on Sat, 25/05/2019 - 14:51

Dear Salvatore,

congratulations, your project sounds amazing! How did IAQOS come to be?

All the best,


In reply to by Maximilian J. …

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Submitted by Salvatore IACONESI on Sun, 26/05/2019 - 06:29

IAQOS was made possible thanks to a grant from the Italian Ministry of Culture, which was made available for AI projects for urban regeneration. The project was inspired by a thing we did years ago, around 2007, which was called Angel_F, an AI which was born to investigate the transformation of our rights and freedoms whith digital technologies




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Submitted by Francesca TERNULLO on Tue, 04/06/2019 - 21:55

Dear Salvatore,

I found this a great project and really innovative in the Italian scenario - well done!

Being Italian and knowing how life in a neighborhood could be, I was wondering if you have done any preliminary research before implementing your AI and how people are currently perceiving it. I deeply studied design thinking and I know how hard it could be to implement even the greatest ideas so I would love to hear your experience and how is it going. 

Thanks for sharing it!

In reply to by Francesca TERNULLO

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Submitted by Salvatore IACONESI on Wed, 05/06/2019 - 07:15

Hi and thank you!

we have done some preliminary research through an on-the-field and online ethnographies, to understand the cultural profiles which we would have been exposed to, and their different languages, styles and imagination. And, of course, to have a sense of all the differences that these bring in terms of being able to bring different people onboard in a project like this. And this type of research is ongoing, as we get in contact with even more people in the neighbourhood, and try to understand how they could benefit from AI.

In this, we have chosen to focus on trying to understand what happens for different people when a new infrastructure comes to a territory, just like it happened for electricity, tv, internet. When these arrived, really interesting adaptation, adoption and cultural evolution processes happened, about what people do (eg: there's electricity, so I don't have to go to sleep when there's no natural light, and I can read at night, talk with people after the work hours etc, with multiple transformations with deep cultural, psychological and relational impacts) and what they can imagine and realize.

Art, in this, helped us out really a lot, because through art we were able to create real, physical experiences and objects which do not have the constraints which you have when you are making something "useful", like a product or a service, and you can use this freedom to expose people to unusual, uncommon, unexpected, unknown scenarios in ironic, playful and engaging ways, so that people can reflect on them individually and collectively.

All is supported through an education program: if you want you can come to the workshops and learn how you can make things with AI, how you can use existing things for your purposes, what are the implications of all of this stuff, and how you can join your community to decide which data to use, how to collect it respecting people's rights and freedoms, how to process it, how to use these results in the community, for artworks, designs, services, objects, environments etc, and how to make all transparent, inspectable, discussable and open in the community, to avoid algorithmic-governance's critical derives.