Virgo City

Karoliina Pärnänen

Keywords: Smart city, Inequality, Corruption

Internship: Margit Lukács & Persijn Broersen

Barely differentiable and often conceived by the same multinational corporations, hundreds of hi-tech urban enclaves are emerging around the world. These so-called smart cities are branded as the ultimate techno-eco-utopias, hosting gated communities of tax-exempt free trade, tech-enabled convenience and carbon-neutral living for the global rich. Although often promoted as a solution to world’s urban ills like overcrowding, unemployment and pollution, these cities often turn out to be catalysts for land dispossession, environmental degradation and social inequality.

Virgo City explores the shortcomings of smart cities through a story that blends fiction and reality based on three ongoing projects in Saudi-Arabia, Malaysia and Nigeria. The story aims to shine light on the issues that remain for those left behind the walls of progress.



Artificial intelligence-empowered attention economy has become the prevailing power structure of the 21st century, where the brain is the new factory, behavior modification is the new business model and attention is the new currency. In the name of profit, technology companies have increasing incentives to monitor and streamline our brain activity. To improve predictability, they aim to eliminate contingency by targeting our decision-making processes below the level of self-awareness. Social media plays a key role in the harvesting of behavioral data, but its effects on our well-being are being increasingly questioned. We live in a society that greatly values free human will, but in the light of recent discoveries we have learned that the mind might be more receptive to suggestion than we thought. If our thoughts and desires are indeed persuadable, where does the future of humanity lie?