Andrés Luque-Ayala, Simon Marvin and myself have just published a new edited book on the ‘smart city’ debate. The book, Smart Urbanism: Utopian Vision or False Dawn? (Routledge), is a critical examination of the claims, drivers, imaginaries and consequences of smart city discourses.
As we all know, there is an incredible amount of hype and noise made about smart cities, much of it by multinational corporations like IBM and Cisco in their effort to sell expensive ‘urban solutions’. In this book, we sought to take this debate on by bringing together a group of critical, international and interdisciplinary researchers.
The book examines how smart city initiatives are being rolled out, and makes a series of arguments that seeks to advance a critical research agenda. It finds, for example, that the discourse is often in reality a justification for the latest round of neoliberal development and displacement. It finds a common tendency to place far too much faith in technology, with far too little attention to the actual urban context. It also finds that most of the time, and despite high profile cases such as Rio’s control room, the smart city discourse is little more than discourse, bolstered by pervasive imagery that globally circulates and effectively constitutes a powerful form of marketing.
But the book also finds openings in the smart city discourse, including in the actions of social movements, civil society groups, and critical researchers to use or promote digital technologies in more socially and ecologically relevant ways. In these efforts, it is urbanism and social justice that inform whether or not digital technologies are useful, as opposed to the positivist view that technology can be added to cities awaiting ‘enhancement’ through sensors, dashboards and real-time data management. But as the book shows, it would be far too simple to argue that there is an ‘alternative’ smart city discourse that opposes a ‘mainstream’ discourse, partly because the various overlaps between what may initially appear mainstream and alternative, and partly because many critical initiatives with digital technology reject the entire smart city discourse altogether while others seeks to reframe it.
Here’s the list of contributors and chapter titles:
- IntroductionAndrés Luque-Ayala, Colin McFarlane and Simon Marvin
- Smart cities and the politics of urban dataRob Kitchin, Tracey Lauriault and Gavin McArdle
- IBM and the visual formation of smart citiesDonald McNeill
- The smart entrepreneurial city: Dholera and a 100 other utopias in IndiaAyona Datta
- Getting smart about smart cities in Cape Town: Beyond the rhetoricNancy Odendaal
- Programming environments: Environmentality and citizen sensing in the smart cityJennifer Gabrys
- Smart-city initiatives and the Foucauldian logics of governing through codeFrancisco Klauser and Ola Söderström
- Geographies of smart urban powerGareth Powells, Harriet Bulkeley and Anthony McLean
- Test-Bed as urban epistemologyNerea Calvillo, Orit Halpern, Jesse LeCavalier and Wolfgang Pietsch
- Beyond the corporate smart city?: Glimpses of other possibilities of smartnessRobert G. Hollands
- ConclusionsColin McFarlane Andrés Luque-Ayala and Simon Marvin