The Smart City is an Artwork

Smart citizens will be needed to develop the cultural power of our cities.

Authors: Antonina Puchkovskaia, Natalia Ivanova and Aleksei Lizunov.

The historical and cultural heritage of cities can be saved by means of digital technologies, tools and applications and has become one of the most important parts of «Smart City» conceptions achieving prosperity, effectiveness and competitiveness not only on economical level but on socio-cultural level as well.

Despite the fact that cultural heritage is one of the many directions of the development   and implementation for most of the existing «Smart City» strategies it will be quite difficult to develop this issue without "smart citizens" and "smart specialists". These people should understand how it is possible to collect, use and analyze the data and accelerate the application of analytics “smart data” creating at the same time the smart knowledge and the smart cultural environment.

For example, Saint-Petersburg is the second largest city in Russia and so called “cultural capital” of Russia. Saint-Petersburg is the fourth largest and the youngest of the great European cities, a popular tourist, educational and huge European cultural landmark.  By decision of UNESCO Saint-Petersburg was recognized as a city-monument of world culture. 

Saint-Petersburg is not only a city with a unique architectural appearance but also the city of traditionally high culture with well-educated and intelligent citizens, who understand that they have to preserve cultural heritage around them despite the fact that strong climate and ecological situation.

Saint-Petersburg was founded by the first Emperor of Russia, Tsar Peter the Great in 1703 as the new, western-style capital of Russia. Since its first days, Saint- Petersburg has always been a multicultural city, welcoming guests and specialists from other countries. Along with Russian masters and architects, many European builders and engineers contributed to the glory and beauty of the city. 

Nowadays, Saint-Petersburg has STRATEGY of economic and social development until 2030as well as other cities. The main goal of the strategy is ensuring consistent improving of population living standards and enhancing the global competitiveness of Saint-Petersburg on the basis of implementing national development priorities, ensuring sustainable economic growth and use of the results of innovative and technological activities. One of the most important directions of this Strategy is "ensuring balanced personality development on the basis of unique cultural and historical heritage of St. Petersburg".

At the same time, it is clear that Saint-Petersburg (and other cities such as Amsterdam, Barcelona, London, Paris and etc.) need "smart citizens" and "smart specialists" to implement «Smart City» strategy and support and develop «Smart City» Saint-Petersburg in the future. These citizens and specialists must understand and interconnect together with specialists in digital technologies. In this connection it is important to understand that experts from the cultural sphere have to learn and use computational engineering to learn of cultural heritage applying culture big data analytics and distance learning and interconnection principles as well.

"Information technologies" was historically one of the major specializations at ITMO University. At present time the application of IT in different fields becomes a crucial factor of world society and economy development.  In response to this challenge ITMO elaborate research initiative and educational programs at the interaction of IT and Humanities fields. 

The newly launched International Digital Humanities Center at ITMO University implements projects that use computer algorithms to analyze and present data in humanities fields. It works on developing and popularizing Digital Humanities, a dynamic research field at the intersection of humanities and computer sciences. 

Moreover, understanding the fact that not only specialists from the digital technologies field have to be “Smart” this year the new International program “Data, Culture and Visualization” was started for both groups of specialists with IT and Humanities background as well.

 The main idea is to encourage the unit master degree program specialists from digital technologies and cultural spheres from different countries with different cultures combined them to joint team to learn, understand and develop  all the knowledge and skills necessary for successful work in the academic and research sector, social media management, analytics, website, CRM and metrics management, digital advertising, market research, and marketing, as well as in cultural heritage management and other creative industries.

This international Master’s program addresses the growing demand for researchers, analysts, mapmakers, designers, usability experts, and other data professionals both in Russia and abroad to become “Smart people” who could understand and develop principles of “«Smart City»” concept. Drawing on the International Digital Humanities Research Lab’s and Machine Learning Lab’s strengths in the field of data analysis and visualization, the program trains students for managing the full lifecycle of cultural data, from data acquisition and storage to statistical analysis, interpretation, and dissemination of data artifacts through visual and narrative means. The program trains highly-qualified data professionals with strong statistical and technical skills and competencies in research, communication, and design.

One goal of education program to create successful data-driven teams strive to improve data quality while reducing data organization and prep time. The goal of these teams is to create data that is ready for analysis at speed, and the best way to do that is to make your data smart and understand that. The difference between smart data and traditional data collection and analysis methodologies is profound, with implications for everything from improving customer experiences and operational efficiency to reducing security threats. Together students in these teams learn:

  • to ask complex questions regarding cultural data and apply appropriate methods to answer these questions;
  • to formulate accurate interpretations of cultural phenomena and share them effectively through visual and narrative means;
  • to choose and apply appropriate tools for cultural data collection, storage, manipulation, analysis, visualization, dissemination, and preservation, as relevant to their goals, tasks, and target audience;  
  • to understand the way data affects society and raise critical questions about cultural data, its interpretation, and visualization.

The program welcomes students from various backgrounds, who are willing to learn how to mine, process and analyze cultural data and conduct research with the social impact. It also welcomes academics from all over the world, who are specialists in various Digital Humanities methods and approaches, such as GIS, mapping, visualization software, R and Python programming languages, Machine Learning, Voyant Tools, stylo software packages, etc.  All together they are building the expertise in order to become a “smart citizen” leading and developing the «Smart City». 


Saint-Petersburg is on one of the most developed city in Russia in digital transformation. Due to new program above mention in few years Saint-Petersburg developing like “«Smart City»” will receive specialists and teams of specialists who could conduct principle of “Smart culture city” and encourage people who would like to live in «Smart City» to become smart as well.



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