The rapid development of intelligent urban infrastructure and “smart cities” in the Global North and Global South often produces optimistic narratives of increased efficiency through urban automation. In addition to the rise of large-scale smart infrastructure projects, urban computing platforms, like mobile phones and easily deployable sensor networks, have become ubiquitous tools for real-time data collection and distribution for urban planners and city dwellers alike. These emerging platforms have the potential to enable both intelligent cities and more engaged “smart citizens” through ubiquitous new technologies. The increasing development of smart city infrastructure and urban computing platforms necessitate new forms of urban interaction design, which is taking place most successfully at the citizen level through creative acts of civic engagement and participation.

This chapter explores what urban designers can learn from citizens and creative intermediaries, who increasingly engage in participatory uses of technologies, big data, and social media, by looking at how people are creatively utilizing smart city infrastructure. Through a review of four citizen-led projects that explore civic creativity and urban innovation in both the Global North and Global South, we consider: how local communities playfully subvert current top-down smart city narratives to develop their own needs-based smart solutions; what can be learned from local creative interventions in cities of the Global North and the Global South; and finally, how these findings might inspire new smart city design approaches for urban designers. This investigation re-considers the meaning of Lefebvre’s concept of “the right to the city,” in light of the emergence of hybrid digital and physical public spaces brought about by “smart city” technologies, including sensor networks, Internet of Things (IOT henceforth), connected public infrastructure, and the big data produced by these systems.