Tag Archives: smart city

New WP: Decentring the smart city

A new Programmable City Working Paper (No. 45) has been published. PDF

Decentering the smart city

Abstract
This short working paper provides a critique of the smart city and the alternative visions of its detractors, who seek a more just and equitable city. Drawing parallels with data activism and data justice, it is argued that two main approaches to recasting the smart city are being adopted: inverting the ethos and use of smart city technologies; and discontinuing and blocking their deployment. The case is made for decentring the smart city, moving away from the reification of technologies to frame and consider their work within the wider (re)production of social relations.

Key words: smart city, technological solutionism, decentring, equality, justice, citizenship

It is a pre-print of Kitchin, R. (in press) Afterword: Decentering the smart city. In Flynn, S. (ed) Equality in the City: Imaginaries of the Smart Future. Intellect, Bristol.

The core argument is captured in this passage.

We need to stop casting ‘smartness’ and digital technologies in a privileged, significant independent role and recognize them as the agents of wider structural forces. This requires us to focus on and imagine the future city in a more holistic sense, and how smartness might or might not be a means of realising a fairer, more open and tolerant city. Rather than trying to work out how to insert equality into smartness, instead the focus is squarely on equality and reconfiguring structural relations and figuring out how smart technologies can be used to create equality and equity in conjunction with other kinds of interventions, such as social, economic and environmental policy, collaborative planning, community development, investment packages, multi-stakeholder engagement, and so on.

The issues facing cities are not going to be fixed through technological solutionism, but a multifaceted approach in which technology is one just one component (Morozov and Bria 2018). Homelessness is not going to be fixed with an app; it requires a complex set of interventions of which technology might be one part, along with health care and welfare reform, tackling domestic abuse, and a shift in the underlying logics of the political economy (Eubanks 2017). Congestion is not going to be fixed with intelligent transport systems that seek to optimize traffic flow, but by shifting people from car-based travel to public transit, cycling and walking. Similarly, institutionalized racism channelled and reproduced through predictive policing will not be fixed solely by tinkering with the data and algorithms to make them more robust, transparent and fairer, but by addressing institutionalized racism more generally and the conditions that enable it (Benjamin 2019).

In such a decentred perspective, platform and surveillance capitalism are not framed as separate and distinct forms of capitalism, and racism expressed through smart urbanism is not cut adrift from the structural logics and operations of institutionalized racism (understood in purely technical and legal terms). Rather, smart city technologies and their operations are framed with respect to capitalism and racism per se, and the solutions are anti-capitalist alternatives and anti-racism in which smart city technologies might or might not play some part.

Read more Paper PDF

Rob Kitchin

New Book: Citizens in the ‘Smart City’: Participation, Co-production, Governance

Citizens in the ‘Smart City’: Participation, Co-Production, Governance

By Paolo Cardullo

Published by Routledge; ISBN 9780429438806

This book critically examines ‘smart city’ discourse in terms of governance initiatives, citizen participation and policies which place emphasis on the ‘citizen’ as an active recipient and co-producer of technological solutions to urban problems.

The current hype around smart cities and digital technologies has sparked debates in the fields of citizenship, urban studies and planning surrounding the rights and ethics of participation. It also sparked debates around the forms of governance these technologies actively foster. This book presents new socio-technological systems of governance that monitor citizen power, trust-building strategies, and social capital. It calls for new data economics and digital rights for a city founded on normative ideals rather than neoliberal ones. It adopts a normative approach arguing that a ‘reloaded’ smart city should foster citizenship as a new set of civil and social rights and the ‘citizen’ as a subject vested with active and meaningful forms of participation and political power. Ultimately, the book questions the utility of the ‘smart city’ project for radical municipalism, proposing a technological enough but more democratic city, an ‘intelligent city’ in fact.

Offering useful contribution to smart city initiatives for the protection of emerging digital citizenship rights and socially accrued benefits, this book will draw the interest of researchers, policymakers, and professionals in the fields of urban studies, urban planning, urban geography, computing and technology studies, urban politics and urban economics.

New paper: Data ratcheting and data-driven organisational change in transport

A new Progcity paper has been published by Liam Heaphy in Big Data and Society.

Data ratcheting and data-driven organisational change in transport

doi: 10.1177/2053951719867359

Abstract

This article explores the process by which intelligent transport system technologies have further advanced a data-driven culture in public transport and traffic control. Based on 12 interviews with transport engineers and fieldwork visits to three control rooms, it follows the implementation of Real-Time Passenger Information in Dublin and the various technologies on which it is dependent. It uses the concept of ‘data ratcheting’ to describe how a new data-driven rational order supplants a gradualist, conservative ethos, creating technological dependencies that pressure organisations to take control of their own data and curate accessibility to outside organisations. It is argued that the implementation of Real-Time Passenger Information forms part of a changing landscape of urban technologies as cities move from a phase of opening data silos and expanded communication across departments and with citizens towards one in which new streams of digital data are recognised for their value in stabilising novel forms of city administration.

Keywords: Intelligent transport systems, real-time information, smart city, Big Data, organisational change

The paper is open access and you can access it here

New Paper: Anticipating digital futures

Sung-Yueh Perng has a new paper published in the journal Mobilites, titled: Anticipating digital futures: ruins, entanglements and the possibilities of shared technology making, doi.org/10.1080/17450101.2019.1594867

Abstract

Contrary to the corporate production of digital cities, shared technology making explores ways of innovation that are open to all, informed by diverse knowledges, and led by citizens. However, this exploration faces corporate translation of ethical and societal values for capital accumulation and concerns around the right to participate. Building on Tsing’s concept of ‘ruins’, this paper considers the anticipation of digital futures while the neoliberal ruination of shared technology making is in full swing. The paper examines the entanglements in hackathon rationalities and practices and demonstrates that the possibilities of shared technology making emerge from disrupting technocratic visions and repurposing corporate innovation resources and techniques. Drawing on the analysis, the paper argues that these entanglements are crucial to digital futures. They disclose in concrete ways how neoliberal co-optation can be disturbed and transformed. Equally importantly, they urge continuous explorations to assemble diverse practices and values for building momentum towards sustained processes of shaping desirable futures.

New paper: Being a ‘citizen’ in the smart city

Paolo Cardullo and Rob Kitchin have a new paper published in GeoJournal – “Being a ‘citizen’ in the smart city: Up and down the scaffold of smart citizen participation in Dublin, Ireland.” The paper is available to view at Springer’s Shareit site (though the PDF to download is behind a paywall).

Abstract

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 use this scaffold to measure smart citizen inclusion, participation, and empower-
ment 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’.

Keywords: Smart city, Citizens, Participation, Engagement, Citizenship, Rights

 

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.