The second set of videos from The Programmable City’s recent workshop “Creating Smart Cities”, Session 2: Citizenship and Democracy. [Session 1 here]
‘Actually existing smart citizens’: expertise and (non)participation in the making of the smart city
Taylor Shelton, University of Kentucky
Amidst ongoing critiques of emerging smart city visions and policies has been a reflexive shift towards placing citizens at the center of these often technology-driven modes of urban planning and governance. From the writings of Anthony Townsend, Dan Hill and Saskia Sassen, among others, there has been a growing critical engagement with the smart city idea that seeks to position these new technologies in a more productive relationship, driven by the needs and goals of everyday citizens, rather than large technology companies. Indeed, as Kitchin (2015) has noted, these various critiques have actually led many of the leading corporate smart city advocates to tailor their more recent pitches towards a more citizen-centric framing. This paper reflects on ongoing research on and participation in a series of nascent smart city initiatives in Atlanta, Georgia and Louisville, Kentucky, asking: How are citizens and ideas of citizenship mobilized in the making of smart city policies and strategies on-the-ground in particular localities? How are citizens made, or allowed, to participate in the transformation of urban governance in an era of ‘smartness’? More specifically, this paper explores the ways that citizens are imagined within smart city policymaking exercises as central to both the means and ends of the smart city idea, despite their notable absence from such discussions. At the same time as the perspectives of everyday citizens are marginalized within official smart city policymaking, community-based organizations are seeking to use data as a way of engaging directly with the broader political structures from which these smart city initiatives emerge, albeit almost entirely separate from such conversations around smart cities. Instead, citizens and community organizations tend to frame their work around more conventional areas of urban policy – housing, jobs, education, transportation, environmental quality – rather than omnibus smart cities concept, speaking more directly to the specific concerns of their neighborhoods and everyday lives.
From start to smart: A 100 smart cities but where are the citizens?
Ayona Datta, King’s College London
In January 2016, the Indian government announced the first 20 winners of its smart cities challenge. This is the start of the journey for these cities to becoming smart. As part of this challenge, each city developed a pan-city and area-based proposal to reflect their local context, resources, and priorities of citizens. At the end of this journey a total of 100 small to medium cities in India would have retrofitted their chosen urban areas with smart infrastructure, transport, housing and governance. The end of this journey for the 100 cities will seemingly mark the beginning of India’s new urban age.
In this paper, I search for the elusive citizens in India’s ambitious national urbanization programme of creating 100 Smart Cities. Examining the different smart city proposals submitted by the nominated cities for the smart cities challenge, I argue that each of these seek to present particular visions, imageries and fantasies of performing the smart citizen. These can be roughly presented as 1) Fast-tracked citizens- the near overnight production of a mega base of urban ‘population’ in each city for the mandatory citizen consultation in the smart city challenge. 2) Acquiescent citizens who contribute to open data, engage in e-governance and increase ‘civic discipline’ through citizen surveillance 3) Entrepreneurial citizens who contribute to economic growth and prosperity of the smart city, who are framed as careerist and heroic, but who individually and collectively take the risk and precarity of speculative markets on their shoulders.
Through these three figures, this paper will ask how the ‘citizen’ has become the biggest urban fantasy of India’s Smart city challenge, and what are the consequences of this fantasy. The answer to these questions will have profound consequences for the understanding of India’s urban futures and the urbanization of citizenships in the region.
[Video not available]
From Engagement to Participation in Future Smart Cities
Gyorgyi Galik and John Lynch, Future Cities Catapult
The top-down deployment of smart technology has, in many cases, failed to fulfil the promises made by the leading technology companies. Meanwhile, citizens have rapidly become familiar with technologies that offer huge potential to quantify the urban context. The gap – wide citizen participation in the city enabled by technology – is the emergent “holy grail” of digital urbanism, and perhaps its most complex challenge.
This paper builds on the smart cities/engagement research project “OrganiCity”, and continuing PhD research “The Power to Act: Exploring agency, design and participation in cities”.
We look at some examples of projects emerging from the worlds of “citizen sensing” and “citizen engagement” and examine successes and failures. We do this through the lens of draft “principles for engagement” being tested in three cities across Europe, currently in an effort to provide a reference point in the rapidly emerging world of digital citizen participation.
Creating infrastructures with citizens: An exploration of Beta Projects, Dublin City Council
Sung-Yueh Perng, Maynooth University
The relationships between government, citizens and engagements are changing. Several processes, developed separately, have influenced one another during their course of development and provided a distinctive backdrop to digital citizen engagement while cities become ‘smarter’ about engineering and interacting with connected infrastructures and citizens. Among them, civic hacking has sought ways to pursue long-term engagement with the city, community members and the problems they face. Local governments have experimented ways of engaging with citizens through digital technologies and/or social media. Enthusiastic civic hackers, when developing their projects, attempt to contact or involve public officials in their projects, earning their support, acquiring domain knowledge or obtaining necessary data for their causes. Government officials, curious or intrigued after being contacted by civic hackers, make them available to these initiatives and respond to their requests, as well as engaging with them to see if some of the work they cannot do within their organisations could have a different life developed through civic hacking initiatives.
At the nexus of this new landscape of digital citizen engagement in Dublin, as one of the global cities that are becoming ‘smart’, is ‘Beta Projects’ run by a loose network of staff members in Dublin City Council. In this paper, I explore how Beta Projects started, moved towards digital, engaged with civic hacking organisations, experimented alternative forms repurposing city infrastructure in the ‘Light Box’ project, reflected upon issues arising from this and other projects, discussed the problems they faced in relation to the city’s agenda of transitioning towards a smart city. By revisiting the steps and problems that Beta Projects encountered, I discuss some promises and problems when attempting to open up processes of (re-)making city infrastructure.