To date, critical examinations of smart cities have largely ignored their temporality. In this paper I consider smart cities from a temporal perspective arguing that they produce a new timescape and constitute space-time machines. The first half of the paper examines temporal relations and rhythms, exploring how smart cities are the products of and contribute to space-time compression, create new urban polyrhythms, alter the practices of scheduling, and change the pace and tempos of everyday activities. The second half of the paper details how smart cities shape the nature of temporal modalities, considering how they reframe and utilise the relationship between the past, present and future. The analysis draws from a set of 43 interviews conducted in Dublin, Ireland, and highlights that much of the power of smart urbanism is derived from how it produces a new timescape, rather than simply reconfiguring spatial relations.
This paper explores the issue of temporality in undertaking ethnographic fieldwork, drawing on research that examined urban automated management, wherein software is used to automatically regulate traffic flow in a city. In this case, the study addressed: 1) polyrhythmia at different scales produced by algorithms, technology, management and urban life, and; 2) the process of organizing multiple timelines to tune the ‘heartbeat’ of the city. Time is a resource for coordination and regulation, as well as for making sense of actions and experience. Being increasingly dispersed, and black-boxed in a multiplicity of processes affecting and configuring the way the past, present and future are perfomed and lived, time also represents a new object of concern for the ethnographic investigation of algorithmic management. I argue that ethnography allows us to understand the material organizing of dispersed and heterogeneous temporalities while also intersecting with such temporalities. Drawing on Guattari and Deleuze’s concept of ‘refrain’ and from Lefebvre’s ‘rhythmanalysis’, I introduce the concepts of rhythm-making and halfway ethnography with the purpose of accounting for the manufacturing of multiple temporalities and for the time-boundedness that links ethnographic practice and the technological, organizational, and cultural ‘heartbeats’ of fieldwork. This approach intends to temporally and spatially reposition organizational ethnography, offering analytical tools to study new contemporary entanglements of ethnographic practice and data.