Author Archives: Rob Kitchin

New paper: Being a ‘citizen’ in the smart city: Up and down the scaffold of smart citizen participation

Paolo Cardullo and Rob Kitchin have published a new working paper (No. 30) – Being a ‘citizen’ in the smart city: Up and down the scaffold of smart citizen participation.

Abstract

This paper critically appraises citizens’ participation in the smart city. Reacting to critiques that the smart city is overly technocratic and instrumental, companies and cities have reframed their initiatives as ‘citizen-centric’. However, what ‘citizen-centric’ means in practice is rarely articulated. We draw on and extend Sherry Arnstein’s seminal work on participation in planning and renewal programmes to create the ‘Scaffold of Smart Citizen Participation’ – a conceptual tool to unpack the diverse ways in which the smart city frames citizens. We then use this scaffold to measure smart citizen inclusion, participation, and empowerment in smart city initiatives in Dublin, Ireland. Our analysis illustrates how most ‘citizen-centric’ smart city initiatives are rooted in stewardship, civic paternalism, and a neoliberal conception of citizenship that prioritizes consumption choice and individual autonomy within a framework of state and corporate defined constraints that prioritize market-led solutions to urban issues, rather than being grounded in civil, social and political rights and the common good. We conclude that significant normative work is required to rethink ‘smart citizens’ and ‘smart citizenship’ and to remake smart cities if they are to truly become ‘citizen-centric’.

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New paper: From the accidental to articulated smart city

Claudio Coletta, Liam Heaphy and Rob Kitchin have published a new working paper (No. 28) – From the accidental to articulated smart city: The creation and work of ‘Smart Dublin’.

Abstract
While there is a relatively extensive literature concerning the nature of smart cities in general, the roles of corporate actors in their production, and the development and deployment of specific smart city technologies, to date there have been relatively few studies that have examined the situated practices as to how the smart city as a whole unfolds in specific places. In this paper, we chart the smart city ecosystem in Dublin, Ireland, and examine how the four city authorities have actively collaborated to progressively frame and mobilise an articulated vision of Dublin as a smart city. In particular, we focus on the work of ‘Smart Dublin’, a shared unit established to coordinate, manage and promote Dublin’s smart city initiatives. We argue that Smart Dublin has on the one hand sought to corral smart city initiatives within a common framework, and on the other has acted to boost the city-region’s smart city activities, especially with respect to economic development. Our analysis highlights the value of undertaking a holistic mapping of a smart city in formation, and the role of political and administrative geographies and specialist smart city units in shaping that formation.

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Bridging the adoption gap for smart city technologies

A new open access piece has been published in IEEE Pervasive Computing, an in-depth interview of Rob Kitchin by Katja Schechtner (MIT). The interview discusses how different groups (mainly architects and planners and electronic engineers and computer scientists) have different understandings of cities, and why cities are sometimes reluctant to adopt smart city solutions and how that adoption gap might be closed.

 

 

Fulbright award for Aoife Delaney

We’re delighted to announce the ProgCity PhD student, Aoife Delaney, has been awarded a prestigious Fulbright Scholarship.  The scholarship will fund a five month research/study visit to Boston to undertake further research on Coordinated Management and Emergency Response Systems (CMaERS) in the city.  In Boston she’ll be hosted by Prof. Alan Wiig and colleagues in the School for the Environment at the University of Massachusetts Boston (UMASS), where she’ll also be taking some courses. Aoife embodies the values of Fulbright and we’re sure she’ll fulfil their aim to “to bring a little more knowledge, a little more reason, and a little more compassion into world affairs and thereby to increase the chance that nations will learn at last to live in peace and friendship.”

The research will be a comparison of CMaERS in Dublin and Boston, with the two case sites being utilised to understand the transformative potential of smart technology for emergency management systems within different governance systems.  The research will map out CMaERS in Dublin and Boston to their organisation, assess where the systems fail because of institutional tensions, lack of technology and resources, policy exclusion, etc., and to evaluate the impact that the ‘smart city’ agenda will have on the future evolution of emergency management systems. This will be achieved through semi-structured interviews with first responders, senior officials, representatives of local and central government and private industry, supported by a discourse analysis of relevant documentation and interview transcripts. The research will build upon preliminary fieldwork undertaken in April 2016.  As well as a thesis and academic papers, one output to help city officials in both cities learn from experiences and systems in both places.

We’re absolutely delighted for Aoife and the resulting research will be a huge plus for the ProgCity project.  Many congratulations, Aoife.  We’re sure you’ll have a great time in Boston and we’re looking forward to hearing and reading about your research findings.

Rob Kitchin

New paper: Living Labs, vacancy, and gentrification

Paolo Cardullo and Rob Kitchin have published a new working paper: ‘Living Labs, vacancy, and gentrification‘ on SocArXiv. It was prepared for the ‘The New Urban Ruins: Vacancy and the Post-Crisis City’ workshop, 1-3 March 2017, Trinity College Dublin.

Abstract
This paper evaluates smart city (SC) initiatives in the context of re-using vacant property. More specifically, we focus on living labs (LL) and vacancy in general, as well as on their potential role in fostering creative economy-fuelled gentrification. LL utilise Lo-Fi technologies to foster local digital innovation and support community-focused civic hacking, running various kinds of workshops and engaging with local citizens to co-create digital interventions and apps aimed at ‘solving’ local issues. Five approaches to LL are outlined and discussed in relation to vacancy and gentrification: pop-up initiatives, university-led activities, community organised venues/activities, citizen sensing and crowdsourcing, and tech-led regeneration initiatives. Notwithstanding the potential for generating temporary and independent spaces for transferring and fostering digital competences and increasing citizens’ participation in the SC, we argue that LL largely foster a form of participation framed within a model of civic stewardship for ‘smart citizens’. While presented as horizontal, open, and participative, LL and civic hacking are often rooted in pragmatic and paternalistic discourses and practices related to the production of a creative economy and a specific version of SC. As such, by encouraging a particular kind of re-use of vacant space, LL potentially contributes to gentrification pressures within locales by attracting the creative classes and new investment. We discuss these approaches and issues generally and with respect to examples in Dublin, Ireland.

Key words: vacancy, property, gentrification, living labs, civic hacking, creative class, regeneration

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New paper: Smart cities, urban technocrats, epistemic communities and advocacy coalitions

 

Rob Kitchin, Claudio Coletta, Leighton Evans, Liam Heaphy and Darach MacDonncha have published a new working paper:  ‘Smart cities, urban technocrats, epistemic communities and advocacy coalitions‘ on on SocArXiv. It has been prepared for the ‘A New Technocracy’ workshop,University of Amsterdam, March 20-21 2017.

Abstract
In this paper, we argue that the ideas, ideals and the rapid proliferation of smart city rhetoric and initiatives globally have been facilitated and promoted by three inter-related communities. A new set of ‘urban technocrats’ – chief innovation/technology/data officers, project managers, consultants, designers, engineers, change-management civil servants, and academics – many of which have become embedded in city administrations.  A smart cities ‘epistemic community’; that is, a network of knowledge and policy experts that share a worldview and a common set of normative beliefs, values and practices with respect to addressing urban issues, and work to help decision-makers identify and deploy technological solutions to solve city problems.  A wider ‘advocacy coalition’ of smart city stakeholders and vested interests who collaborate to promote the uptake and embedding of a smart city approach to urban management and governance.  We examine the roles of new urban technocrats and the multiscale formation and operation of a smart cities epistemic community and advocacy coalitions, detailing a number of institutional networks at global, supra-national, national, and local scales. In the final section, we consider the translation of the ideas and practices of the smart city into the policies and work of city administrations. In particular, we consider what might be termed the ‘last mile problem’ and the reasons why, despite a vast and active set of technocrats and epistemic community and advocacy coalition, smart city initiatives are yet to become fully mainstreamed and the smart city mission successfully realized in cities across the globe. We illustrate this last mile problem through a discussion of plans to introduce smart lighting in Dublin.

Key words: smart cities, epistemic community, advocacy coalition, technocrats, urban governance, city administration, smart lighting

The paper can be downloaded here