Kuwait Urban App: The Application of Knowledge-Based Urban Development in Kuwait

Kuwait Urban App: The Application of Knowledge-Based Urban Development in Kuwait

Robert H. Gurney III (Kuwait University, Kuwait), Anas Alomaim (Kuwait University, Kuwait) and Jawaher Al-Bader (Kuwait University, Kuwait)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 18
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3734-2.ch010
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Through an investigation of social media and contemporary smart phone applications, the urban landscape of Kuwait is analyzed to propose a method for knowledge-based urban development (KBUD). Historically speaking, urban planning and design have been dominated by a formalized methodology that seeks to reinforce existing power structures. The promise of KBUD is a more balanced approach towards development, considering economic, social, environmental, and cultural factors. The chapter suggests an up-to-date method of research that consists of three overlapping stages, starting with collecting big data through cellphone software applications, followed by a set of interviews with several entities and ending with a method of behavioral mapping and space syntax. This cross-referenced research process encapsulates the multifaceted approach of KBUD that would produce a complex adaptive system and an underlying framework to help understand the non-linear interactions between the local populations in Kuwait.
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In this chapter, we will discuss alternative ways to utilize KBUD in Kuwait. The focus will be on analyzing the contemporary needs of city dwellers by investigating their use of smartphone applications, which is software most commonly developed for portable devices.

The case of Kuwait holds both global and regional relevance. The sudden oil wealth, as well as the abundant availability of domestic and physical comforts, has expedited much of the technological development of the country (Al-Bader, 2012, pg. 17–20). With the accessibility of the latest technologies, smartphones have been integrated into the daily lives of people. This produced a technologically savvy population who are best described by Jameson as postmodern and are late capitalists, who are “alienated from everyday events, with a servant or service to fill every need” (Jameson, 2003; Al-Bader, 2012, pg. 17). Smartphone applications have become a daily part of people’s lives. For example, David Pogue reviewed “apps that remind you to take your pills,” showcasing the popularity of applications to support everyday habits (Pogue, 2017). Hence, smartphone applications have opened a new market (Baker, 2005). The vacuum that has been created with late capitalism has been filled with anything that is bought with money. In this chapter, we are viewing smartphone applications as a manifestation of individual agency (Luhmann, 2012).

On the one hand, like many locations in the global south, Kuwait has changed very fast, but as it moves toward urban sustainability, Kuwait still faces many challenges such as resource management, traffic congestion, and uneven access to city services as shown in Figure 1. On the other hand, the use of smartphones has transformed everyday life in Kuwait, the Gulf, and Arabic countries in a more general way. Smartphone penetration, especially social media and navigating tools, is significant in the Gulf States, having reshaped social and physical interactions (Northwestern University Qatar, 2014).

Figure 1.

A view from Khalid Ibn Al Waleed St., one of the main entries from the suburbs into the commercial center of Kuwait City

Source: Photo credit Jawaher Al-Bader

Although such services were invented in the West, the way the Kuwaiti population and its residents use them has changed the local lifestyle drastically seen in Figure 2. Due to the unique cultural and social milieu of the contemporary Kuwaiti society the use of these applications has become an important, if not vital set of data for researchers, theorists, urban planners, and architects to better understand the urban behavior and needs of the future Kuwaiti population. It connects Kuwaitis with each other, their food, transportation, and the urbanized environment displayed in Figure 3. Such social networks are imbedded within the local culture and the vernacular social network of Kuwait (Al-Nakib, 2016). The ability of social media to intensify the local social network with a sense of anonymity connects well with the social nature of the Kuwaiti, both private and social.1 Analyzing the data from smartphone applications is a vital way to produce Knowledge Based Urban Development (KBUD) for Kuwait and the Gulf Region. Thus, a study of smartphone application use in Kuwait will produce an important set of data for researchers, urban planners, and architects, supporting them to better understand complex, diverse, and unequal urban societies in the process of transformation and digital change.

Figure 2.

An existing contrast between the old (dhows) and the new (towers) in Kuwait City

Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b4/Kuwait_city_skyline.jpg

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