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Day Conference
Highly Thought Of? New Electronic Technologies and the Tower Block

Highly Thought Of?
New Electronic Technologies and the Tower Block

A day conference

Saturday 27th November 1999
10.15am - 2.30pm

Faculty Room North
David Hume Tower
George Square



In 1990 only a handful of Edinburgh's high-rise blocks were covered by CCTV; by 1998 nearly 60% had cameras and door entry systems. In Glasgow, every high-rise flat on the Balgrayhill estate is now linked to a city-wide communications and surveillance system, offering free internal phone calls and electronic answering and memo services as well as 24 hour social support. In terms of future development, housing officers will be able to monitor tenant entry times from distant offices, and monitor far more doorways – technologies previously seen on high-rise blocks will appear on numerous tenement stairwells.

But how successful are these technologies from different perspectives? The technology may work in theory, but how well does it operate in practice? Given recent concerns about the future of public housing, the 'socially excluded' nature of many council estates, and the government's emphasis on new technology, this conference will provide a (timely)opportunity to assess the current state of play. Are the technologies making a fundamental difference to quality of life or simply holding together a housing system in deep crisis?

Bringing together tenants, managers, technologists, community workers and other interested parties, the conference will present the results of qualitative research into the topic funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) under their Virtual Society? Programme. The following questions will be examined:

  • How well, and in whose interests, are systems being designed?
  • Whose needs do the technologies meet or not meet?
  • Do the technologies compromise or promote privacy?
  • Are estates 'safer' as a result of CCTV and door-entry systems?
  • Is the past 'reputation' of the high-rise changing as a result of the new technologies?
  • How do the technologies change human behaviour and/or the make-up of communities?
  • What role does 'human error' play in the success and failure of systems?



9:45-10:15 Registration, Teas & Coffees

FIRST SESSION (1 Hour 15 mins)

10:15    Introduction
Chair: George McKie, ETF

10:20    Highly Thought Of?: Report Launch
Brian McGrail, Open University

10:45    Managing Systems: Reflections/Experiences/Criticisms

  • Gordon Kane, City of Edinburgh Council
  • Hugh McDonald, Glasgow City Council

11.15    Discussion/Questions

11.30    Teas, Coffees & Biscuits

SECOND SESSION    (50 Minutes)

12:00    Does the technology compromise or promote PRIVACY?
            How is TRUST established between tenants and staff?

  • George McKenzie, Pilton Partnership
  • Jeanette McCue, Northview Court TA

12:20    Discussion/Questions

12:45    Buffet Lunch

THIRD SESSION    (50 Minutes)

13:40    Where is the technology going next?

  • Chair: Brian McGrail
  • Phil Cunningham, PAC International
  • David Horn, GDX Technology

14:15    Discussion/Questions

14:30    Closing Statement


If you would like to attend the day conference, please contact Brian McGrail:



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