Daily Bulletin

The Conversation

  • Written by Jaz Hee-jeong Choi, Senior Lecturer in Design, Queensland University of Technology

Two social trends that pose imminent challenges – and require policy responses – to sustainable futures in our cities are the rise of single-person households and homelessness.

One in four Australians live alone, either voluntarily or circumstantially. The ageing population is one factor. The rise of younger people choosing to live alone is another, and it’s historically and distinctively a new phenomenon.

The number of pension-aged people living alone has grown because that population itself has increased. However, the number of younger people living alone has grown in proportion to multi-adult households of working age in Australia and across the globe. We still have very limited understanding of this latter group.

The proportion of single-person households is expected to grow to 30-40% or more of households in most developed countries, including Australia, by 2030. At the same time, more people are dying alone.

Evidence suggests that these trends have significant health, sociocultural, economic and environmental implications. Japan, where these trends are further advanced, is already having to deal with these.

Lessons from Japan

Kodokushi (lonely death), genkai shuraku (village on the edge of extinction) and chihotoshi shometsu (the disappearance of regional towns) are major problems in Japan today. New services are emerging in Japan to cater to the needs of people who live alone. For example, one service plans and carries out the cleaning of someone’s home should they die alone.

For this reason, Japan is referred to as kadai senshin koku (frontier in solving global problems). Australia will soon need to face these problems too.

Digital and networked technologies, especially artificial intelligence and robots, are being explored as support mechanisms in homes, care homes and hospitals. Increasingly, though, the crucial role of human creativity and connection in care is becoming evident.

In neighbouring South Korea, cultural trends like mukbang (eat-casting) are said to have their origins in “the loneliness of unmarried or uncoupled Koreans, in addition to the inherently social aspect of eating in Korea”.

In this case, technologies are being used even to jeopardise people’s health, as individual “BJs” (Broadcasting Jockeys) are paid to broadcast themselves eating – often excessively – while interacting with their audience. Many of them are also eating alone while watching the show.

‘Mukbang’ is a South Korean phenomenon that is seen as being fuelled by the loneliness of one-person households.

Problems associated with living alone will have an even more damaging impact on those without homes. In Australia, one in 200 people are homeless. Most of them are people under 35 or, increasingly, women over 55.

We must acknowledge the diversity of the homeless population, and the different factors that cause and sustain the experiences of living alone or being homeless. Such diversity will increase with the growing number of single-person households, income inequality, broader participation in the gig economy, and loss of jobs to automation.

What role for government?

Policy and regulatory measures to decrease housing prices will help. Australia ranks high for unaffordable housing among OECD nations.

The government could also play a central role in enabling collaboration among diverse stakeholders to seek new ways of creating and applying knowledge. This could be used to ask and answer difficult questions about even some of the most widely accepted concepts, like what is “home” for those living alone and homeless.

The answers should then guide us as we create data, tools and systems for care and with care.

It will be critical to ensure the focus is not predominantly driven by a technocentric vision. We need to consider the sociocultural implications that existing and often celebrated technocratic discourses – around smart cities, for instance – might have.

To avoid a technocratically determined fate, we must develop diverse and enduring narratives of Australian cities. This requires what this year’s Boyer lecturer, Genevieve Bell, might call a “bolshie” move. Part of that could involve bringing together interests and capacities across the public, private, community and research sectors to place urban futures as a key intellectual and social agenda.

We need comprehensive, transdisciplinary research and development for short to long-term goals. This must include ambitious innovation in research and practice, supported by new and emerging technologies, but most importantly, creative engagements beyond the usual suspects. This cannot be gesticulatory “co-design” workshops that are exclusive to certain participants.

Instead, we need inclusive engagement to produce new kinds of knowledge relevant to complex present and future urban conditions.

The Australian government’s role in the future development of cities should not be about cleaning up the technological hubris or proliferation of “feral” technologies that we’re generating. Rather, it should be about building individual and communities’ capacity to question and co-create “the wisdom or propriety of a particular developmental direction” of Australian cities.

This article draws on the author’s submission to the parliamentary inquiry into the Australian government’s role in the development of cities.

Authors: Jaz Hee-jeong Choi, Senior Lecturer in Design, Queensland University of Technology

Read more http://theconversation.com/we-are-living-alone-together-in-todays-cities-and-that-calls-for-smart-and-bolshie-moves-85318

Writers Wanted

Kylie Moore-Gilbert has been released. But will a prisoner swap with Australia encourage more hostage-taking by Iran?


Ancient Earth had a thick, toxic atmosphere like Venus – until it cooled off and became liveable


Not just hot air: turning Sydney's wastewater into green gas could be a climate boon


The Conversation


Prime Minister Interview with Ben Fordham, 2GB

BEN FORDHAM: Scott Morrison, good morning to you.    PRIME MINISTER: Good morning, Ben. How are you?    FORDHAM: Good. How many days have you got to go?   PRIME MINISTER: I've got another we...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Prime Minister Interview with Kieran Gilbert, Sky News

KIERAN GILBERT: Kieran Gilbert here with you and the Prime Minister joins me. Prime Minister, thanks so much for your time.  PRIME MINISTER: G'day Kieran.  GILBERT: An assumption a vaccine is ...

Daily Bulletin - avatar Daily Bulletin

Did BLM Really Change the US Police Work?

The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has proven that the power of the state rests in the hands of the people it governs. Following the death of 46-year-old black American George Floyd in a case of ...

a Guest Writer - avatar a Guest Writer

Business News

Nisbets’ Collab with The Lobby is Showing the Sexy Side of Hospitality Supply

Hospitality supply services might not immediately make you think ‘sexy’. But when a barkeep in a moodily lit bar holds up the perfectly formed juniper gin balloon or catches the light in the edg...

The Atticism - avatar The Atticism

Buy Instagram Followers And Likes Now

Do you like to buy followers on Instagram? Just give a simple Google search on the internet, and there will be an abounding of seeking outcomes full of businesses offering such services. But, th...

News Co - avatar News Co

Cybersecurity data means nothing to business leaders without context

Top business leaders are starting to realise the widespread impact a cyberattack can have on a business. Unfortunately, according to a study by Forrester Consulting commissioned by Tenable, some...

Scott McKinnel, ANZ Country Manager, Tenable - avatar Scott McKinnel, ANZ Country Manager, Tenable

News Co Media Group

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion