In the spotlight: Dr. Taşkın Dirsehan

In the spotlight: Dr. Taşkın Dirsehan

taskinDr. Taşkın Dirsehan is an Associate Professor of Marketing at Marmara University in Istanbul. Currently, he is involved at the LDE Centre for BOLD Cities as a visiting researcher at the Erasmus University Rotterdam from September 2021 until July 2022.

Can you tell us more about your academic background and expertise?

I did my bachelor’s in business administration, my master’s in production management and marketing, and my Ph.D. in Marketing. Now, I am an associate professor of Marketing at Marmara University in Istanbul. The main topics that I am interested in are technology acceptance models, user experience, and branding. As we are citizens and customers at the same time, I am interested in how we adopt technologies in different fields. This is an important gap in the context of smart cities, since previous studies are mostly focused on the development of smart city technologies, and there has been a lack of consideration given to citizen adoption of these technologies. Even though smart cities should not be defined only with technology, mostly cities try to solve their problems with developing technologies. For example, some cities in Turkey aim to be “smart” to solve problems caused by overpopulation, such as traffic jams and housing issues. On the other hand, Dutch cities aim to develop smart solutions to control the water levels. So, smart cities are characterized based on the problems the cities encounter.

Despite various technologies are offered by smart cities, not all of them are adopted by citizens as anticipated. Practitioners and researchers should understand the reasons why people resist using new systems to predict users’ responses and take actions to improve consumer acceptance. Moreover, even though many municipalities promote their efforts to apply smart city technology, in the academic sense it is not possible to make a city like Istanbul completely “smart”, because a city with 15 million inhabitants means managing 15 million different stories. That is why I am interested in researching how this would be possible and how people may adapt to a smart city and the technological applications, taking into consideration the different backgrounds of these people, their age, gender, socio-economic background, and so on. You can not expect everyone to easily adapt to the implementation of smart city technologies. Specifically, I am focusing on what factors and conditions make this process easier and if the technologies need to be adopted.

A smart city is never finalized; it is rather a purpose than a clear-cut destination.

What research are you currently involved in at the Centre for BOLD Cities?

One of the sustainable development goals of the UN is sustainable cities and communities. Similarly, the smart city strategy of local governments is one of the 2023 targets of the Turkish Republic for the centennial anniversary. So, I work on the acceptance of smart city technologies at the Centre for BOLD Cities. I focus on the consequences of adopting technologies and not just the acceptance of them. So, what happens after adopting technologies? This aspect is not relevant in cities in Turkey, since smart city technologies have not yet been fully implemented, but the Dutch case gives ample opportunity to research this during my time here. What I saw in my research is that a (smart) city is never finalized; it is rather a purpose than a clear-cut destination. The acceptance or implementation of technology often brings along new problems that might be unforeseen, causing a virtuous circle.

A good example of this is the mobility problem within a city. To solve issues with mobility, we might start using shared e-scooters, which solve some first and last-mile problems. But then, if you don’t have enough regulations right away, more companies might introduce shared e-scooters, which can eventually lead to a huge number of scooters that can cause people to experience problems in public spaces with wrongly parked vehicles that block the roads. The implementation of this smart city solution then may cause a new social problem that needs to be dealt with. The e-scooters hereby are just a case analysis. Overall, I try to classify smart city technologies, first. So, some technologies require high citizen interaction with the technologies, but sometimes the required citizen participation for technologies is low. Some technologies are explicit, and others are implicit. An example of an explicit technology that requires high citizen participation is e-scooters. Surveillance technologies on the other hand are explicit, you notice them, but citizens don’t need to adopt them or interact that much. So, sometimes they are ignored.

And do you think working interdisciplinary on these topics can help with understanding the consequences of implementing technology in a city?

Yes, definitely. For example, you know, I am from a marketing background. You may also want to look at the scooters from an engineering perspective, computer engineering especially, because you need to develop programs for the mobiles as well to access the shared scooters and mobile applications. You need perspectives of social sciences, to understand the positive and negative effects of the scooters within society, you need to understand the psychology because some people may not adopt the technologies because of some psychological concerns. You need to take into consideration of environmental scientists, urban managers, and economics. So, all kinds of disciplines are needed to have a complete overview of this example of the shared e-scooter platforms, also for marketing purposes. This is a good example because it is a very visible application that creates opportunities for new business models that did not exist before and you need to understand when and why people need these platforms, but also what should be the roles of three important actors: citizens, governments, and companies.

There are so many researchers from different fields that are affiliated with the Centre and it is very interesting to grasp all these different views on smart cities.

You are here now as a visiting researcher at the EUR. How did you become affiliated with the centre?

When I was reading different opinions about this topic, smart city, and technology acceptance models, I noticed this centre. There are so many researchers from different fields that are affiliated with it, which is why I was attracted to it. During my research here, I have spoken to many researchers from Leiden, Delft, and Erasmus with different perspectives on smart cities, such as politics of smart cities, urban data platforms, location analyses, the social and political context of smart cities, and so on. It is very interesting to grasp all these different views on smart cities within one center.

On the other hand, I had time to focus on this important topic, here. This was also one of the main reasons for me to come to Rotterdam and BOLD Cities.  In the time that I have been here, I was able to conduct some research. Not just the in-depth interviews I spoke about earlier, but thanks to Prof. van Zoonen who supported me a lot during this process, we worked on a systematic literature review on the combination of smart city technologies and technology acceptance models. Furthermore, I was able to join 10 Ph.D. courses during which I also got to know new approaches to research and for example, different research methods that will help me to update the research courses I lecture. And finally, we prepared a conference paper for the upcoming Beyond Smart Cities Conference in Malmo.

So, I had a very fruitful time in The Netherlands, but it has also been quite entertaining. Together with my family, we enjoyed the green spaces in the Netherlands, the bridges, the windmills, the traditional foods, the monuments in different cities, the international environment, and the amazing architecture of Rotterdam. And I believe that all of them are important components of smart cities!