Tag Archives: smart citizens

New paper: Civic infrastructure and the appropriation of the corporate smart city

New Progcity collaboration has been published in the Annals of the American Association of Geographers! Sung-Yueh Perng and Sophia Maalsen ask how we can make sense of the appropriation of the corporate city in the paper entitled Civic infrastructure and the appropriation of the corporate smart city.

Have a look at: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/24694452.2019.1674629. If you do not have institutional subscription, free copies can be downloaded from: https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/NGSGJHRPDVMQX6X7YXEM/full?target=10.1080/24694452.2019.1674629

Abstract

Concerns have been raised regarding smart city innovations leading to, or consolidating, technocratic urban governance and the tokenization of citizens. Less research, however, has explored how we make sense of ongoing appropriation of the resources, skills, and expertise of corporate smart cities and what this means for future cities. In this article, we examine the summoning of political subjectivity through the practices of retrofitting, repurposing, and reinvigorating. We consider them as civic infrastructure to sensitize the infrastructural acts and conventions that are assembled for exploring inclusive and participatory ways of shaping urban futures. These practices, illustrated by examples in Adelaide, Dublin, and Boston, focus on capabilities not only to write code, access data, or design a prototype but also to devise diverse sociotechnical arrangements and power relations to disobey, question, and dissent from technocratic visions and practices. The article concludes by suggesting further examination of the summoning of political subjectivity from within established institutions to widen dissent and appropriation of the corporate smart city.

Key Words: citizen, infrastructure, political subjectivity, smart city, urban future.

Smart spaces and smart citizens?

I attended the Smart Cities and Regions Summit in Croke Park, Dublin, today and took part in the ‘smart spaces and smart citizens?’ panel. We were asked to produce a short opening statement and thought I’d share it here.

I’m going to discuss smart citizens by considering Dublin as a smart city. To start, I want to ask you a set of questions which I’d like you to respond to by raising a hand. Don’t be shy; this requires participation.

How many of you have a good idea as to what Smart Dublin is and what it does?

How many of you feel you have a good sense of smart city developments taking place in Dublin?

Would you be able to tell me much about the 100+ smart city projects that are taking place in the city in conjunction with Smart Dublin and it four local authority partners?

Would you be able to tell me much about the extent to which these projects engage with citizens?

Or how the technologies used impact citizens, either in direct or implicit ways?

Or whether Smart Dublin and the four local authorities have a guiding set of principles or a programme for citizen engagement or smart citizens?

You’re all people interested in smart cities. You’re here because it relates to your work in some way. You have a vested interest in knowing about smart cities.

Do you think that citizens in Dublin know about these projects, which might be taking place in their locality?

Do you think that they have sufficient knowledge to be able judge, in an informed way, a project’s merits?

Do you think they have an active voice in these projects’ conception, their deployment, the work that they do? In how any data generated are processed, analysed, shared, stored, and value extracted, etc.?

Do local politicians – citizen representatives – know about them? And do they have an active voice in smart city development in Dublin?

This panel is titled ‘Smart spaces and smart citizens’.

What is difficult to see in most smart city initiatives is the ‘smart citizen’ element. It seems that what is implied by ‘smart citizen’ is simply being a person living in a city where smart city technology is deployed, or being a person that uses networked digital technology as part of everyday life.

To create a smart citizen, all a state body or company apparently needs to do is say people should be at the heart of things, or enact a form of stewardship (deliver a service on behalf of citizens) and civic paternalism (decide what’s best for citizens), rather than citizens being meaningfully involved in the vision and development of the smart city.

In our own research concerning networked urbanism and smart cities from a social sciences perspective we have been interested in exploring these kinds of questions, and how the citizen fits into the smart city. It’s a central concern in our latest book published next month, ‘The Right to the Smart City’, which explores the smart city in relation to notions of citizenship and social justice.

What our research shows is that citizens can be varyingly positioned, and perform very different roles, in the smart city depending on the type of initiative.

ladder

It is perhaps no surprise then that citizens in numerous jurisdictions have started to push back against the more technocratic, top-down, marketised versions of the smart city – the on-going protests in Toronto over the Sidewalk Labs waterfront development being a prominent example. Instead, they demand more inclusive, empowering and democratic visions, with Barcelona’s notion of technological sovereignty often providing inspiration (see my recent piece comparing Toronto and Barcelona and links to articles and organisation websites).

It is difficult to argue that we are enabling ‘smart citizens’ if they are not informed, consulted or involved in the development and roll-out of smart city initiatives. As such, if we are truly interested in creating smart citizens then we need to make a meaningful move beyond the dominant tropes of stewardship and civic paternalism to approach smart cities in a smarter way.

For a fuller discussion see the opening and closing chapters of The Right to the Smart City, which are available as open access versions.

Kitchin, R., Cardullo, P. and di Feliciantonio, C. (2018) Citizenship, Social Justice and the Right to the Smart City. Pre-print Chapter 1 in The Right to the Smart City edited by Cardullo, P., di Feliciantonio, C. and Kitchin, R. Emerald, Bingley.

Kitchin, R. (2018) Towards a genuinely humanizing smart urbanism. Pre-print Chapter 14  in The Right to the Smart City edited by Cardullo, P., di Feliciantonio, C. and Kitchin, R. Emerald, Bingley.

Rob Kitchin

New working paper: Smart urbanism and smart citizenship: The neoliberal logic of ‘citizen-focused’ smart cities in Europe

Paolo Cardullo and Rob Kitchin have published a new Programmable City working paper (No. 39) via OSF: Smart urbanism and smart citizenship: The neoliberal logic of ‘citizen-focused’ smart cities in Europe

Abstract

This paper examines the neoliberal ideals that underpin participation and citizenship in the smart city and their replication mechanisms at European level. We examine self-proclaimed ‘citizen-focus’ projects funded by or aligned to the European Innovation Partnership for Smart Cities and Communities (EIP-SCC) by way of analysing policy documents and interviews with key stakeholders of smart city initiatives at European level and the Smart City Expo World Congress in Barcelona (SCEWC 2017). We suggest that smart cities as currently conceived enact a blueprint of neoliberal urbanism and promote a form of neoliberal citizenship. Supra-national institutions like the EIP-SCC act at a multi-scalar level, connecting diverse forms of neoliberal urbanism while promoting policy agendas and projects that perform neoliberal citizenship in the spaces of the everyday. Despite attempts to recast the smart city as ‘citizen-focused’, smart urbanism remains rooted in pragmatic, instrumental and paternalistic discourses and practices rather than those of social rights, political citizenship, and the common good. In our view, if smart cities are to become truly ‘citizen-focused’ an alternative conception of smart citizenship needs to be deployed, one that enables an effective shift of power and is rooted in rights, entitlements, community, participation, commons, and ideals beyond the market.

Key words: citizenship, smart cities, smart citizens, neoliberalism, European Union

CFP After the smart city? The state of critical scholarship ten years on

CFP: AAG Annual Meeting, New Orleans, USA, April 10-14 2018: deadline October 6th.

 ”After the smart city?: The state of critical scholarship ten years on”

Today, the smart city imaginary is a recurring theme within critical urban geography and implies a particular set of rationalities. While it tends to centre upon digital technologies as a means to solve complex urban problems, it is also an entrepreneurial branding and boosting technique for cities. The implementation of smart city strategies transforms how cities operate and has resulted in an array of well-documented critiques around control, privacy, and technological determinist or solutionist visions of the urban.  Furthermore, these data and software-driven solutions are often instrumental: merely treating symptoms, while failing to address the underlying problem. This has led to the idea that smart technologies are a solution looking for a problem.

This session seeks papers that explore approaches, policies, and practices that actively invoke and negotiate these issues, while also situating the smart city within wider, ongoing debates in and beyond urban geography. Thus, this session is not prescriptive and welcomes scholars interested in the smart city, data and digital transformations, digital infrastructure, technocratic and algorithmic governance, and the political economy of cities. In particular, we are interested in thinking through the ‘place’ of smart cities today: what have critical investigations of the topic achieved and where do we go from here?

Areas of potential interest for research papers may include, but are not limited to:

  • The nexus between governance, policy, technological innovation, and power;
  • How smart city initiatives are placed upon existing urban infrastructure and service provisions and the resulting consequences.
  • The role of the smart citizen.
  • The splintering effects of digital technologies.
  • The effects of technologies on everyday processes and environments.
  • Urban entrepreneurialism and the Smart City.

Please send titles and proposed abstracts (250 words max) to Aoife Delaney (Aoife.delaney@mu.ie) and Alan Wiig (alan.wiig@umb.edu) no later than Friday 6 October 2017.

 

New paper on frictions in civic hacking

Drawing on postcolonial technoscience and particularly the notion of ‘frictions’, Sung-Yueh Perng and Rob Kitchin analyse how solutions are worked up, challenged and changed in civic hacking events. The paper is published in Social & Cultural Geography and is entitled Solutions and frictions in civic hacking: collaboratively designing and building wait time predictions for an immigration office. There are still eprints available for free via the link: http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/SSWBCcCech3hezdgIFZp/full. For more details about the paper, the abstract is pasted below.

Abstract: Smart and data-driven technologies seek to create urban environments and systems that can operate efficiently and effortlessly. Yet, the design and implementation of such technical solutions are full of frictions, producing unanticipated consequences and generating turbulence that foreclose the creation of friction-free city solutions. In this paper, we examine the development of solutions for wait time predictions in the context of civic hacking to argue that a focus on frictions is important for establishing a critical understanding of innovation for urban everyday life. The empirical study adopted an ethnographically informed mobile methods approach to follow how frictions emerge and linger in the design and production of queue predictions developed through the civic hacking initiative, Code for Ireland. In so doing, the paper charts how solutions have to be worked up and strategies re-negotiated when a shared motivation meets different data sources, technical expertise, frames of understanding, urban imaginaries and organisational practices; and how solutions are contingently stabilised in technological, motivational, spatiotemporal and organisational specificities rather than unfolding in a smooth, linear, progressive trajectory.