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Driven by the profit motive of global high-technology companies, in collusion with the trend towards city governance being wedded to a competitive form of ‘urban entrepreneurialism’, has left little room for ordinary people to participate in the smart city. The article seeks to make a two-fold critical intervention into the dominance of this corporate smart city model. It does this by first looking at how we currently understand the smart city and critiques the growing trend towards corporate and entrepreneurial governance versions. A second form of intervention concerns considering smartness from different perspectives emanating from small-scale and fledgling examples of participatory and citizen-based types of smart initiatives.
Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society
© The Author 2014. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Cambridge Political Economy Society.
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Critical interventions into the corporate smartcity
Robert G.Hollands
Sociology, School of Geography, Politics and Sociology, University of Newcastle,
Claremont Bridge Building, Claremont Road, Newcastle Upon Tyne NE1 7RU, UK,
Received on September 12, 2013; accepted on May 19, 2014
Driven by the prot motive of global high-technology companies, in collusion with the trend
towards city governance being wedded to a competitive form of ‘urban entrepreneurialism’,
has left little room for ordinary people to participate in the smart city. The article seeks to
make a two-fold critical intervention into the dominance of this corporate smart city model.
It does this by rst looking at how we currently understand the smart city and critiques
the growing trend towards corporate and entrepreneurial governance versions. Asecond
form of intervention concerns considering smartness from different perspectives emanating
from small-scale and edgling examples of participatory and citizen-based types of smart
Keywords: intervention, corporate, entrepreneurial, governance, inequality, smart
JEL Classications: F63, H75, R51, Z13
Urban development led by the application
of information communication technologies
(ICTs) has emerged as an important discourse
in relation to the future growth, efciency and
prosperity of cities. Numerous examples abound
in both the popular media and in academic dis-
cussions. Entire cities, based on smart principles,
are currently being constructed in Asia and the
Arab world by giant corporate information
technology (IT), engineers and building rms,
while smart initiatives have become common-
place across the USA, Europe and Scandinavia
in the last decade. Allegedly motivated by pop-
ulation ows, cities as economic growth hubs
and environmental concerns, the smart city is
currently being constructed as the solution to
many urban problems, including crime, trafc
congestion, inefcient services and economic
stagnation, promising prosperity and healthy
lifestyles for all. In short, the smart city symbol-
ises a new kind of technology-led urban utopia
(Kirby, 2013; Townsend, 2013).
It is counter-intuitive to argue against the idea
of a smart city (though for recent critiques see
de Lange and de Waal, 2013; Greeneld, 2012;
Hemment and Townsend, 2013; Townsend,
2013; Vanolo, 2013; and for an early critique see
Hollands, 2008). And there is little doubt that
ICTs are signicantly transforming urban life
(though this is hardly a new idea, see Graham
and Marvin, 1995; Williams, 1983). Despite its
Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society Advance Access published August 6, 2014
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inherent positivity, in a recent commentary, the
renowned urban sociologist Richard Sennett
has questioned the logic of the smart city and
the largely accepted notion that we should
increasingly rely on digital technology to plan
our urban environment. Using examples like
Masdar, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and
Songdo, South Korea, Sennett (2012) suggests
that the “danger now is that this information-
rich city may do nothing to help people think
for themselves or communicate well with one
another”. In a similar vein, a 2008 article con-
cluded “… the smart city generally reects
some of the negative effects the development
of new technological and networked infrastruc-
tures are having on cities (Graham and Marvin,
2001), and is politically inclusive and cultur-
ally creative in only limited ways” (Hollands,
These critical remarks raise a series of
important and underlying questions about the
self-congratulatory nature of the smart city
and how ideas about this new urban panacea
are currently being promulgated. For example,
what do we actually mean by the term, and pre-
cisely what elements go into making up a smart
city? What underlying ideological assumptions
are made by invoking the concept, and what are
its central social contradictions and problems?
Who, and what, is driving our pre-occupation
with the smart city, and who stands to gain and
lose in the race towards such an urban future?
Are there different and more critical ways of
understanding current trends and conceptions
of smart cities? And nally, are there other
more cooperative and participatory uses of new
technology that show glimpses of another kind
of smartness that might provide a counter-point
to current conceptions?
The main argument of this article is two-fold.
First, as previously argued (Hollands, 2008), the
idea of the smart city continues to be a highly
ideological concept, hiding certain issues and
problems from view, while assuming that IT
can automatically make cities more economi-
cally prosperous and equal, more efciently
governed and less environmentally wasteful.
Secondly, the way in which this urban panacea
is increasingly being packaged and promoted is
that it can only be effectively delivered through
a corporate vision of smartness, in conjunction
with an entrepreneurial form of urban govern-
ance (Harvey, 1989) and a largely compliant
and accommodating citizenry (Gabrys, 2014).
While the rhetoric of the corporate smart city
invokes its own limited notion of participation
and democratic decision-making, the prot
motive of global IT, software, engineering, con-
struction and utilities companies (Haque, 2012;
Hill, 2013), in collusion with the trend towards
cities selling themselves and being ‘open for
business’, has left little room for ordinary peo-
ple who live in cities to do anything other than
adjust to the conditions of what one analysts
has called smartmentality (Vanolo, 2013).
This argument entails a two-fold interven-
tion into the debate surrounding the rise of
this corporate-oriented smart city. First, it
looks critically at how we currently understand
the smart city. While there are clearly different
denitions, variations and scales of smart cities
and initiatives, this article specically focuses
on the rising trend towards corporate and
entrepreneurial governance versions. A sec-
ond form of intervention concerns considering
smartness from a different perspective, ema-
nating from small-scale and edgling exam-
ples of participatory and people-power type of
smart initiatives (Brickstarter, n.d.; Chatterton,
2013; de Lange and de Waal, 2012; Radywyla
and Biggs, 2013). These modest examples are
derived from what Adam Greeneld (2012),
founder and managing director of Urbanscale,
has called the ‘spontaneous order from below’
in his writings on the information-based city,
while de Lange and de Waal (2013) use the
term ‘social cities’ to refer to cases of using
urban technologies to collaboratively solve
shared problems.
The purpose of discussing these few examples
is not to suggest that they pose a readymade alter-
native to the corporate vision. The problem in
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Critical interventions
urban sociology generally is there appears to be
a distinct lack of an alternative to the neo-liberal
city, smart or otherwise (Harvey, 1989; though see
Harvey, 2012; also Hudson’s 2010 notion of resil-
ient regions). Rather, their purpose is to provide
a glimpse into different and more human ver-
sions of smartness (using technology to realise
progressive ideas, rather than see the technology
as progressive in and of itself (de Lange and de
Waal, 2013)). Really smart urbanism needs to
start with the city itself and its attendant social
problems, rather than looking immediately to
smart technology for answers (Hoornweg, 2011).
This will require new participatory urban tech-
nologies, greater social and economic inclusion,
and a substantial shift in power from corporate
business and entrepreneurial city leaders to ordi-
nary people and communities that make up cities
(Harvey, 2012).
Understanding the smart city
concept: visions, elements,trends
Ideas about future urban development are
closely entwined with discussions about the
dramatic impact ICTs will continue to have on
our lives in the 21st century, and nowhere is this
more evident than in the idea of the smart city.
Note the following futuristic scenario:
Imagine life for the citizen of the smart city:
you awake in your sustainably built home,
and take your morning shower in recycled
industrial waste water, cost-efciently heated
overnight. Eating breakfast, you scan the at
screen, fed by maximum bandwidth internet,
where the special, easy click local neighbour-
hood menu allows you to compare your daily
energy use with other houses in the area,
conrm your webcam appointment with
your doctor, top up the balance of your all-
purpose travel card, order your groceries and
leave messages for your child’s teacher. You
can even watch television on it. Outside, your
electric car is waiting. On the edge of the cen-
tral congestion zone, you park in a charging
area and, paying with your travel card, get
into a three-wheeled utility vehicle which,
via a network of special lanes and sensor-
controlled pedestrianised areas, delivers you
to another parking dock at your workplace.
(Kirby, 2013)
Other examples of transformed lives in smart
cities come from IT corporate websites, futur-
istic lms and academic and policy-making cir-
cles. Fujitsu, a leading Japanese ICT company
says it is “… striving to leverage ICT to create a
society where people’s lives are prosperous and
more secure” (Fujitsu, n.d.), while Cisco, which
has been involved as the IT partner in the crea-
tion of the rst smart city from scratch in South
Korea, Songdo, says on its website that it “…
is a prime example of a new city that brings
together the world’s best technologies, building
design and eco-friendly practices to create the
ultimate lifestyle and work experience” (Cisco,
n.d.). Finally, the ICT powerhouse IBM on its
website claims that “Smart growth can lead
to safe neighbours, quality schools, affordable
housing and trafc that ows. It’s all possible
…” (IBM,n.d.).
Popular cultural images in the form of
futuristic lms are less attering and more
concerned about the negative impact technol-
ogy can have on our urban lives. While the
Terminator series of movies is perhaps the
most obvious dystopic representation of what
happens when the machines (computers) take
over,1 lms like Equilibrium, Bladerunner and
Minority Report also raise important issues
about IT and its relationship to urban privacy,
security and hyper-consumerism. While these
movies essentially make a technological cri-
tique (that is, technology can sometimes go
wrong), equally apt here is the less well-known
Indian lm Smart City (2006), which is based, in
part, on a ctional take on a real but ambitious/
Info City plan drawn up by the previous Kerala
government in partnership with Dubai Internet
City. Interestingly, the lm emphasises the con-
ict between local maa, builders, property
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developers and government in building a smart
city and is perhaps more in line with academic
critiques of corporate and government collu-
sion in creating an entrepreneurial type city
(Harvey, 1989; Hollands, 2008).
Discussions about smart cities in academic
circles are of course more varied, diverse and
complex than these corporate utopian visions
or cinematic false dawns. Part of this more com-
plex understanding comes down to the varied
ways the term has been employed or linked to
related concepts. For example, while the adjec-
tive smart clearly implies some kind of posi-
tive urban-based technological innovation and
change via ICTs, analogous to the ‘wired’, ‘digi-
tal’, ‘informational’ or ‘intelligent’ city, it is not,
as has been argued elsewhere, exactly synony-
mous with these terms (Hollands, 2008). More
recently, some writers have begun to talk about
the ubiquitous or ‘u-city’, where smart technol-
ogy is completely embedded in the urban fabric
and all urban systems become linked through
IT advancements (Anttiroiko, 2013). Smart ini-
tiatives have also been discussed in relation to
a range of ideas including e-governance (Van
der Meer and Van Winden, 2003), the efcient
production of urban services (Comstock, 2012),
the learning or knowledge city Campbell, 2012;
(McFarlane, 2011), their link to creative cities
(Florida, 2010), smart communities (Paquet,
2001), and more recently, open data sharing in
cities (Bates, 2013). Additionally, while smart
cities discourses were always tied up with issues
of environmental sustainability, and often used
as an important driver for smart city initia-
tives (Satterthwaite, 1999), this connection has
become both stronger and more urgent with
studies of climate change in cities (Bulkeley,
2013), urban transitions to low carbon output
(Bulkeley etal., 2010) and increased discussions
about eco or green cities as smart (Beatley and
Newman, 2008; Joss etal., 2013).
This diversity of ideas creates certain con-
ceptual problems in discussing smart cities, as
different writers invoke quite varied aspects in
their denition of the term. For example, some
view smartness almost exclusively as technol-
ogy and hardware—” We dene the SMART
city therefore as ‘resources and technology that
interoperate in real time across city functions
…’” (Moyser, 2013). Others emphasise urban
governance and services:
At its most basic level, a city is comprised of a
government (in some form), people, industry,
infrastructure, education and social services.
A smart city thoughtfully and sustainably
pursues development with all of these com-
ponents in mind with the additional foresight
of the future needs of the city. (Comstock,
Still others use denitions that given primacy to
smart technologies that reduce our energy con-
sumption and environmental footprint (Cohen,
2012), while the Centre for Regional Science
(2007), utilise a range of measures in ranking
smart cities, including six main smart character-
istics—economy, people, governance, mobility,
environment and living—possessing 31 fac-
tors and having 74 indicators that they can be
Effectively, a smart city is made up of IT
devices, industry and business, governance and
urban services, neighbourhoods, housing and
people, education, buildings, lifestyle, transport
and the environment. Because it is made up of
such a diverse range of things, the smart city
idea can inadvertently bring together differ-
ent aspects of urban life that do not necessarily
belong together, hiding some things and bring-
ing others to the ideological fore. For exam-
ple, the unspoken assumption in the corporate
quotes above, suggests that the application of
IT in cities will automatically benet everyone,
with prosperity and wealth being shared by all.
Or that we all roughly share the same kind of
smart city vision, exemplied by the speech by
Samuel Palmisano (2010), the former Chairman
and Chief Executive Ofcer (CEO) of IBM,
who ideologically suggested that “Building a
smarter planet is realistic precisely because
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Critical interventions
it is so refreshingly non-ideological”. Overall,
common uses of the term lack a critical edge,
displayed through its ignorance of the complex-
ity of urban problems and processes. Others
have argued that smartness can also become a
self-imposed label, a marketing device for city
branding and an excuse for the domination
of corporate urban entrepreneurialism mod-
els (Hollands, 2008). What more do we know
about smart cities today and what new trends
are evident in the literature?
First, it is clear that there are still a plethora
of examples of smart cities and smart city ini-
tiatives that one could highlight, which implies
that it continues to be a signicant urban
development. Popular examples abound on
the internet, from large-scale grand plans like
Singapore’s iN2015 (intelligent nation) pro-
ject, Songdo, South Korea’s purpose built,
globally competitive, high-tech, environmen-
tally sustainable, business city, or Guangzhou
Knowledge City in China, designed to attract
talent, skilled manpower and knowledge-based
industries. Masdar City, in the UAE, is currently
being designed as an ‘oasis of the future’ (quite
literally as it is built in the desert) and intended
to become the world’s rst sustainable, renew-
able, energy-powered cleantech cluster (Smart
City Asia Congress, 2012). In Scandinavia and
Europe, Helsinki and ‘Intelligent’ Thessaloniki
(Greece) are held up as examples of encourag-
ing the development of new mobile applications
utilising open data and using IT to increase
competitiveness and sustainability, respectively
(Komninos etal., 2013). In Europe, Barcelona,
continues to be renowned for its Smart City
Model and in November 2014 will host its fourth
Smart City Expo World Congress in as many
years (see,
while the Amsterdam Smart City initiative is
held up as the example of how to retrot a city
to improve living and economic conditions and
reduce carbon emissions (Kirby, 2013).
Closer to home, Manchester’s Future
Everything programme is meant to make
them the world’s rst ‘open data’ city (though
Edmonton, Canada seems to have already
claimed the title, see Kirby (2013)), while
Glasgow has recently won £24 m from the gov-
ernment to demonstrate how a smart city of the
future might operate (Wakeeld, 2013). Even
struggling cities like Sunderland are getting in
on the act, with the CEO of the council saying,
“I see this opportunity through smarter cities
as being the next revolution” (Kirby, 2013). The
proliferation of smart cities and smart initia-
tives is such that it has even resulted in a world
rankings table. According to Boyd Cohen, a
UK climate specialist, Vienna ranks rst in
the top 10 smart cities ranked across a range
of criteria, including innovation, quality of life,
level of greenness and digital governance, fol-
lowed by Toronto, Paris, New York, London,
Toyko, Berlin, Copenhagen, Hong Kong and
Barcelona (Cohen,2012).
The question is, what does this prolifera-
tion of examples tell us—that there are lots
of quite different initiatives, or as Hollands
(2008) predicted, there would be a bandwagon
effect? While the 1997 World Forum on Smart
Cities estimated that around 50,000 cities and
towns around the world would develop smart
initiatives over the next decade, there is lit-
tle evidence today which veries this rather
hopeful gure. IBM, for example, more mod-
estly claims involvement in more than 2000
smarter cities projects worldwide, while Pike
Research suggests they are currently tracking
around 130 projects that are ongoing (Navigant
Research, n.d.). ABI Research suggested that
there around 102 smart city projects worldwide,
with Europe leading the way with 38, North
America 35, Asia Pacic at 21, the Middle
East and Africa at 6 and Latin America with 2
(Schelmetic, 2011).
Although we might be increasingly sur-
rounded by the discourse of smartness, the
development of initiatives is perhaps more une-
ven and slower than once envisaged. It is also the
case that there is a critical difference between
the scales adopted. For example, Songdo is a
10-year, $40 billion urban development the
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size of Boston, while Stratford Ontario (pop-
ulation 32,000) has been named one of the
world’s Top 7 Intelligent Communities by the
Intelligent Community Forum 3years in a row
(see StratfordSmartCity, 2013). Many of the
smart city examples existing on the internet
are specic and varied initiatives rather than
full-blown programmes, and there are very dif-
ferent national and international patterns of
smart development, all of which need further
According to the dominant discourse, the
smart city idea is currently being driven by three
inter-rated factors: population demographics,
the role of cities as economic drivers and sus-
tainability. Nearly 60% of the worlds’ popu-
lation now lives in cities, and there has been
nearly a 10% increase in populations of cities
greater than 5 million (Kirby, 2013). However,
these gures are largely driven by hyper-urban-
isation in Asia (where 40 million people add
to city populations per year), particularly in
China (who by 2025 will have over 220 cities
of one million, see McKinsey Global Institute,
2011, 1). However, a second factor has been
that due to global economic competitiveness,
cities have become economic hubs and drivers
and it is estimated that by 2025 the largest 600
cities worldwide are projected to account for
around 60% of global gross domestic product
(McKinsey Global Institute, 2011,1).
Many accounts of smart cities also cite the
urgent need for environmental solutions as
urban areas consume 75% of worlds energy
and are responsible for 80% of greenhouse gas
emissions. Pike Research tracking organisa-
tion suggests more than 50% of projects they
are assessing have focussed on innovations in
transportation and urban mobility (Navigant
Research, n.d.), and ABI Research estimated
that smart grids accounted for 36% of total
smart city expenditures in 2011 (Korzeniowski,
2012). The European Smart Cities Initiative
is also focussed on the sustainability issues of
cities and, more specically, on their energy
systems (European Commission, 2010), as do
many Scandinavia projects, with Copenhagen
aiming to be the worlds’ rst carbon neutral
capital (Copenhagen Cleantech Cluster, n.d.).
Many of the mega-developments in Asia and
the UAE are based on environmental sustaina-
bility as their rationale, though one needs to fac-
tor in construction energy costs to buildthem.
However, while it might be argued that envi-
ronmental sustainability is in itself progressive,
it might also be suggested that it can be used
to disguise another signicant and growing
force behind smart cities. And that is a combi-
nation of aggressive marketing strategies and
huge prots to be made by major corporate
ICT rms, engineering, property development
and construction companies. For example, Pike
Research forecast that the global smart city
technology market will be worth over $20 bil-
lion US annually by 2020 (Navigant Research,
n.d.), while ABI Research suggests a larger g-
ure of $39 billion by 2016 (Korzeniowski, 2012).
As Dan Hill, CEO of Fabrica, a communica-
tions research centre, has argued, this ‘Urban
Intelligence Industrial Complex’ (led by IBM,
Cisco, General Electric, Siemens, Philips, among
others) has emerged and has strongly inserted
itself, and its corporate priorities, into current
urban development models (Hill, 2013). Even
Eurocities (2012, 2), who works with these
giant companies, state that “Too much of the
smart city agenda so far has been led by pro-
ducers; competing corporations offering their
own technology to cities as an ostensibly com-
prehensive solution to every urban ‘problem’”.
Yet, it is not just the prot motive and new
ICT markets that are of interest sociologically
but the ‘techno-utopia’ that accompanies this
kind of future. Spun by the CEOs and smart
city technocrats of corporate ICT companies
is a narrative imbued with images of techno-
logically led progress, efciency and prosperity
for all. As Anttiroiko (2013, 3)writes, “What is
envisioned are futuristic cities which will offer
a high quality of life for residents in terms of
security, welfare, culture and entertainment,
and other aspects of everyday life”. What is
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Critical interventions
interesting here is not only the inevitability
of the technological revolution but also the
way in which such a corporately envisaged
urban work, leisure and consumption future is
assumed to be what we all want and in every-
one’s interest. The next section turns to a more
formal critique of what might be called the ‘cor-
porate’ smart city model, which it is argued, is a
growing global trend requiring closer analyses.
Rise of the corporate smart city: a
critical appraisal
Previously it has been argued that a main ele-
ment characterising many self-designated smart
city initiatives were their underlying emphasis
on business-led, entrepreneurial or corporate
urban development (Hollands, 2008). While
there are signicant international differences
here, with regard to how far this process has
happened, it is equally clear that the general
trajectory of what Michelle Provoost (2012)
calls ‘neo-liberal urban utopias’, is certainly on
The most well-developed examples of busi-
ness involvement in moulding the smart city
is where large ICT and property development
corporations have had almost total control in
building and designing whole entities, and not
surprisingly this has tended to occur in places
like Asia where neo-liberalism is well advanced
(Keeton, 2011; Lima and Jangb, 2006). One of
the most well-known examples of this is the
involvement of giant ICT corporation, Cisco,
and US property development company Gale
International in the creation of New Songdo
City, South Korea, a metropolis the size of
Boston being built on a man-made island in
the Yellow Sea. To quote Jean-Louis Massaut,
Director, Smart + Connected Communities,
Cisco, “We map what user experience do you
want to have for the people who are working
in the city or people who are living in the city”
(Cisco, n.d.). While not fully completed, the city
contains commercial buildings, shops, munici-
pal buildings, condos, ofces and South Korea’s
tallest building, the 1001-foot Northeast Asia
Trade Tower. Designed to be a LEED-certied
green city, it will produce only one-third of the
greenhouse gases of a traditional city of the
same size (Schelmetic, 2011).
Despite this latter progressive sounding cre-
dential, and the claim on the Cisco website that
the “Songdo project is a model for smart cit-
ies around the globe” (Cisco, n.d.), perhaps as
illuminating is the comment from Stan Gale,
Chairman, Gale International that “The con-
cept behind it is that this would become the
central focal point and a main alternative for
large-scale companies looking to do busi-
ness in Japan, China and Korea” (Cisco, n.d.).
Essentially, Songdo is a giant business park,
not a city per se. The development is set out
in effect to produce an ideal corporate ‘life-
style and business experience’ (Cisco, n.d.),
with the idea that people can come in from
overseas, and live, work and leisure completely
within corporate spaces. Everyday urban life
comes complete with home/ofce/educational/
government interface systems (unfortunately
called Telepresence), a Jack Nicklaus-designed
golf course, and corporate shoppingareas.
This is hardly a one off experiment. Once New
Songdo City is nished, its builder plans to roll
out 20 new cities across China and India, presum-
ably with Cisco in tow to build the city’s central
brains. Other giant corporations also see the smart
city idea as both a driver of urban change and a
source of future prots. For example, Fujitsu, the
leading Japanese ICT company with revenues of
$54 billion US, argues on their website:
The Fujitsu Group will promote smart cities
as an impetus for social change. In line with
its long-term vision of realizing a Human
Centric Intelligent Society, the Fujitsu Group
is striving to leverage ICT to create a soci-
ety where people’s lives are prosperous and
more secure. Amid an ongoing population
shift to cities worldwide, we are aggressively
promoting smart cities as a driver for social
transformation. (Fujitsu Website, n.d.)
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In 2008, in the midst of the banking crisis, the high-
tech giant IBM re-branded itself via a Smarter
Planet initiative as a lynch-pin of its growth strat-
egy, holding 100 Smarter City Forums around the
world, and now claims to be involved in around
2000 smart projects worldwide. This strategy has
clearly paid off, generating $3 billion (double
digit growth in this area), from nearly 6000 cli-
ents. Currently, 25% of IBM’s operations are in
smart area, and this is set to double over the next
few years (IBM Website,n.d.).
Numerous other large-scale smart city pro-
jects exist, namely Masdar, in the UAE and
PlanIT Valley in Porto, Portugal. While the UK
has nothing on this scale, more discrete exam-
ples of it are beginning to emerge. LandProp, a
property offshoot of InterIkea, the parent com-
pany of the well-known furniture store, is cur-
rently developing a mini-city called Strand East
in East London (Beanland, 2012). Urban writer
Anna Minton, in her fascinating book Ground
Control (2009), has been arguing that public
spaces in many UK cities have been increasing
privatised and turned over to corporate con-
trol, with ill effects. Other critics are unhappy
about the idea of future smart cities growing
up entirely around corporate power and money
and stress that it is social and urban develop-
ment that happens after the technology is put
in, which is crucial to the liveability and sustain-
ability of these cities (Schelmetic, 2011).
No less signicant examples of corporate
inuence on urban development connected
to the use of smart technology is in the area
of advertising and consumerism. Akin to the
futuristic movie, Minority Report, where Tom
Cruise runs through a mall as the advertise-
ments around him change to tailor exactly to
his tastes, Immersive Labs, a start-up tech com-
pany, will shortly trial its rst camera-enhanced
‘smart signs’, equipping billboards and retail
signage in places like airports, malls and retail
stores with the ability to compute what type
of consumer is looking back: male or female,
young or old and a sports fan or a pet owner
(Curry, 2011). Researchers at IBM have also
revealed they are also working on technology
that will lead to consumers being shown tailor-
made adverts that reect their personal inter-
ests via the radio-frequency identication they
carry around with then in phones and credit
cards. They claim that such billboards are being
developed as part of their Smarter Planet pro-
gramme that aims to use technology to make
people’s lives easier and more efcient (Gray,
2010). Engineers in Japan from the electronics
company NEC have already developed a bill-
board that is capable of identifying a shopper’s
age and gender through facial recognition soft-
ware, as they walk past to offer them products
that are more accurately suited to them (Gra y,
Why are we seeing a trend whereby our cities
are increasing becoming a backdrop to corporate
advertising and the privatisation of public space?
And why are city leaders eager to hand over cash
and control to business-led smart urban devel-
opment? The urban geographer David Harvey
(1989) noted a signicant global shift in forms of
city governance back in the mid-80s away from
a managerial welfare one to one of urban entre-
preneurialism. Strapped for cash, cities began to
compete with one another in attracting in global
capital and marketing themselves as world lead-
ing cultural, creative or smart brand cities. With
the global banking crisis of 2008, followed by a
nearly worldwide politics of austerity, this gov-
ernance trend has continued with an increased
emphasis on efciency savings, privatisation and
the promise of a high-tech future. As corporate
ICT companies themselves havenoted,
… in the 21st century, cities compete globally
to attract both citizens and businesses. Acity’s
attractiveness is directly related to its ability
to offer the basic services that support growth
opportunities, build economic value and cre-
ate competitive differentiation (…) They are
looking for smarter cities. (IBM, 2012)
There are different international patterns of
entrepreneurial governance, privatisation and
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Critical interventions
corporatisation here, all of which impact on the
scale and direction smart initiatives take. For
instance, while North American and European
governance models are still entrepreneurial in
the Harvey sense (Harvey, 1989), democratic
controls and privacy/security concerns may
mean that there are more cautious and nuanced
examples of cooperation between city govern-
ments, citizens and business. Hudson (2010)
also talks about the notion of ‘resilient regions’
and discusses some of the ways in which places
can begin to push against the effects of new
liberal capitalist development. However, as
Anttiroiko (2013, 7–8) has argued, in places
like Japan and South Korea, there is much more
direct collusion of corporate and local govern-
ment interests, a longer history of the privati-
sation of national telecommunications systems
and more examples of all encompassing ubiqui-
tous smart developments. As Anttiroiko (2013,
They favour big projects which are set-up on
a partnership basis as a collaborative effort
of governments and businesses. Also, the use
of mobile services in these countries con-
centrates on entertainment and is provided
almost solely on a commercial basis.
For example, Korean Telecom, involved in
Songdo, was once a public corporation but
became privatised in 2000, and then became a
major driver of the u-city concept that emerged
in political circles there in 2004 (Anttiroiko,
2013, 8). A similar form of privatisation
occurred prior to the Singaporean government
launching the Intelligent Nation 2015 (iN2015)
program (see Hollands, 2008, 312), whose aim
is to transform the country into an intelligent
nation and a globalcity.
A key question raised here about IT and
public–private smart partnerships is, who gains
and who loses through such arrangements?
Regarding the creation of Smart Grids, for
example, putting the necessary IT infrastruc-
ture in place requires a signicant investment.
The Stockholm Royal Seaport project, for
example, came with a preliminary price tag
of $2.9 million, with the Swedish Energy
Agency paying $1.2 million and Vinnova, the
Swedish Governmental Agency for Innovation
Systems, contributed another $700,000, while
the remaining funding (around a third) came
from the participating vendors (Korzeniowski,
2012). Another example concerns Sunderland
Council’s £5.7 million investment in the
Sunderland Computing Cloud. While, they
have suggested that they would recoup their
investment in 5 years’ time due to ‘efcien-
cies in services’ and through a boost in the IT
economy in the region (Parnell, 2011), at the
same time the council had cut 1500 jobs since
2009 and in 2013 was making cuts of £37 mil-
lion (£3.8 million to child services and £5.1
million to health, housing and adult services
(Sunderland Echo, 2013)). In the wake of urban
austerity, it is unclear to what extent local and
national governments can continue to foot the
bill for public–private partnerships and effec-
tively subsidise private industry in the smart
eld, when council cannot even provide basic
urban services for the majority of people who
live in cities (Hoornweg, 2011; Korzeniowski,
A nal question not really raised in the lit-
erature is, to what extent the corporate entre-
preneurial smart city, “… is in its fragmented
mode a new way of building functionally
sophisticated enclaves into society, which tends
to serve mainly high value adding activities and
high income people?” (Anttiroiko, 2013, 13).
Serious urban problems like poverty, inequal-
ity and discrimination appear to be largely
absent from these neo-liberal urban visions
and projects, and there appears to be little or
no recognition that smart developments might
contribute negatively to social polarisation in
cities (what Graham and Marvin (2001) have
referred to as ‘splintering urbanism’; also see
Graham, 2002). In the main, most smart initia-
tives envisioned here come from either corpo-
rations or urban governments, not from actual
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people who live and work in cities. In fact, it
might be argued that citizens are often cast
as barriers in the corporate race towards the
smart city and that they need to be educated
by city leaders as to the benets IT can bring
(Greeneld, 2012 also makes this point). This
lack of concern with democratic decision-mak-
ing and real citizen involvement, participation
and control of most smart city projects have
led urban critics to search for different ways to
think about smartness and to explore smaller
scale, community-based and more socially pro-
gressive uses of new technologies.
Interventions in the corporate smart
city: glimpses of possibilities?
While both denitions of and practices sur-
rounding smart cities and smart initiatives are
not a monolith, the argument made so far is
that there is a growing tendency for them to
be technologically led, corporately inuenced
and tied to competitive models of the entrepre-
neurial city identied by Harvey (1989). This is
especially the case with regard to Asian mod-
els of the corporate ubiquitous city, although
as Provoost (2012) has argued, smaller scale
models of this type are also being trialled in
Europe. Previous research into a number of
smart city initiatives in Europe and North
America showed that a signicant propor-
tion were undertaken by city governments for
urban marketing/branding purposes (Hollands,
2008), rather than being citizen-led. This is not
to suggest there are no well-meaning and pro-
gressive initiatives out there, designed to solve
pressing urban problems related to things like
urban decline, transport issues or making cities
more carbon neutral. However, there exist no
large-scale alternative smart city models, partly
because most cities have generally embraced a
pro-business and entrepreneurial governance
model of urban development and hence are
subject to many of the same kinds of criticism
that might be made of the more extreme, corpo-
rately organised u-city type (Anttiroiko, 2013).
Another problem in dening what might
be meant by alternative is whether or not we
are talking about future visions or immediate
practicalities? Generalised alternative urban
visions, for example, tend to be rather vague
and utopian models arguing for a sustainable
resource, not money-based, world economy
(see the ideas of the Zeitgeist Movement and
the Venus Project for example2). Similarly, there
exist tactical technologically based movements,
such as the International Pirate Party, who have
campaigned for open copyright and the use of
the social media to get issue petitions and con-
sensus-based decision-making on the table. Still
others have emphasised challenging the corpo-
rate grip on IT through the provision of free
software (Kelty, 2008) or politically challenging
the status quo by creating loosely associated
networks of ‘hacktivists’ and ‘cyber guerrillas’
(like the group Anonymous, amongst others,
see Ronson, 2013). While the difculty facing
groups like Zeitgeist and Venus is the lack of
feasibility of a resource-based approach in light
of the dominance of neo-liberal global capital-
ism, the weakness of the second approach is
ironically its exclusive use of technology as a
basis for political action.
Perhaps, more instructive would be to exam-
ine a range of more modest and small-scale
sociotechnological interventions that contrast
with that of the corporate smart city and which
might begin to help us envisage a different way
of thinking about and ‘doing’ smartness. Before
turning to a brief discussion of four examples, it
might be useful to outline a few basic differen-
tiating principles. For instance, one of the most
important principle to start with here is the
need to begin to move away from the idea that
technological solutions, in and of themselves,
are the only viable (and easiest) way to solve
our many urban problems. Cities face a myriad
of problems and contrary to prevailing ideol-
ogy, not all of them are amenable to techno-
logical problem-solving or more sophisticated
data gathering (Hoornweg, 2011; Hill, 2013).
Secondly, we need to shift the debate about
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Critical interventions
smart cities towards the raison d’être of cities—
the people and citizens who live in them (Hill,
2013). Thirdly, as de Lange and de Waal (2013)
have argued, one of the key elements of imag-
ing a different kind of smartness concerns ideas
about ownership, not limited to proprietorship
but rather in their words “how to engage and
empower citizens to act on complex collective
urban problems”. This not only involves start-
ing with urban citizens taking responsibility
and acting collectively but also raises issues of
social learning, reliance and social cooperation.
For Hudson (2010), this requires using human
capabilities to reduce social risks, while at the
same time affording socially useful and envi-
ronmentally enhancing activity much greater
recognition and signicance.
There are, of course, many examples that
might full most aspects mentioned here, and
the difculty is always which projects to high-
light. The brief discussion of four cases below is
not meant to be in any way exhaustive or com-
prehensive, but rather instructive. Similarly, it
is important to understand these examples in
the context of the principles just mentioned,
rather than writing them off as anti-technical or
simply as ‘sustainability projects’. They all use
technology in some way to help solve urban
problems—however, its use supplements and
supports progressive and smart solutions based
on collective ideas, action and resilience, rather
than starts with the technology as the driving
force (de Lange and de Waal, 2013).
Many of these ideals are contained in the
edgling urban crowd-source idea called
Brickstarter. According to their website, they
are “… sketching a system that would enable
everyday people, using everyday technology
and culture, to articulate and progress sustaina-
ble ideas about their community” (Brickstarter,
n.d.). The general philosophy behind this new
initiative is to utilise social media to be more
responsive, representative and educative in
transforming grass roots urban proposals into
viable projects (what they call YIMBY—
yes in my back yard). One commentator has
suggested that it could make “citizen-based
urban planning a reality” (McGuirk, 2012).
Their prototype IT platform invites and advises
groups how to negotiate their way through what
Brickstarter calls the ‘dark matter’ of local city
planning and more important how they might
be able to fund such a project, through a kind of
urban crowd-funding/sourcing platform. While
there remain issues over the eventual opera-
tionalisation of the Brickstarter platform (only
a basic prototype exists—click link at bottom
of their webpage at: http://www.helsinkidesign-, not to mention
the problem of involving poorer urban dwellers
and crowd-sourcing becoming part of the neo-
liberal costing cutting agenda (McGuirk, 2012),
there are also distinct possibilities raised here
regarding citizen involvement in urban issues.
An existing project combining a energy ef-
cient technology with a community focus is
the Leeds housing project low impact living
affordable community (LILAC). In an effort
to solve the twin problems of affordable yet
ecologically sustainable housing, as well as
encourage cooperative community-based liv-
ing, LILAC has become the UK’s rst Mutual
Home Ownership Scheme. Funded by an eco-
friendly bank and a grant from the Homes and
Communities Agency (on a site sold to them at
a reduced rate by the council), resident house-
holds pay 35% of their income into a trust
thereby acquiring equity shares, enabling even
those in incomes of £15,000 to get on the hous-
ing ladder (Wainwright, 2013). In terms of using
sustainable technology, the project aims to be
as low carbon as possible as the houses are of
wooden construction with straw bale insulation,
have rainwater collection, energy efcient heat-
ing, minimal car spaces and a shared tool shed.
Community-wise, LILAC has been designed
with communal values in mind with a common
area with shared kitchen, laundry, workshop,
meeting/function room, as well as each unit
have their own allotments to grow food (see
Chatterton, 2013). While the project no doubt
waded through a lot of local authority ‘red tape’
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to get the project off the ground, it is an excel-
lent example of a grassroots initiative, where
people not corporations or politicians control
their urban lives, and is a potential model for
providing affordable and sustainable housing in
other areas of the UK. Recently, they have won
two city architectural awards.
de Lange and de Waal (2013), on the other
hand, do not focus much on community initia-
tives or forums but what they call ‘networked
publics’ and they examine a range of exam-
ples here from data commons and media art
projects to do it yourself (DIY) urban design.
Regarding this last category here, they argue
that digital media can help enable collective
action. The example they discuss is an inter-
esting project called Face your World, set-up
by two artists, which invited young people and
neighbours living in an Amsterdam neighbour-
hood to collaborate in producing an virtual
vision of their local park, which they used to
persuade the local government to adopt in
place of their own plan (de Lange and de Waal,
2013). In their longer e-publication on owner-
ship in the hybrid city, de Lange and de Waal
(2012, 25) suggest that the “… project brought
together a variety of urban issues including
urban regeneration, practical education, com-
munity participation and art in public space”.
A nal example combining IT and social
media with sustainability is 596 Acres, a pro-
ject designed to turn Brooklyn’s 596 acres of
public owned land into common use by a range
of community groups and individuals. Its IT
online platform, effectively a ‘knowledge com-
mons’, has been crucial in building this interven-
tion, connecting people to each other, matching
skills and sharing experience and information
about how to transform vacant lots into sus-
tainable growing plots (Radywyla and Biggs,
2013). The implications of projects like this,
however, not only are about using technology
for progressive politics or developing skills but
also are crucial for building social capital, com-
munity, and urban sustainability. Eizenberg’s
(2013) excellent book From the Ground Up is
a study of 650 community gardens in New York
city, which are managed collectively by some
of cities least well off residents for purposes
of horticulture, recreation, social gatherings
and artistic and cultural events. She argues that
these community gardens create not only eco-
logical spaces but ‘organic urban residents’ and
actors, making a city in their own image. What
is being argued here is that alternative smart
projects are smart by virtue of solving a number
of urban problems simultaneously (community
spirit, social capital, sustainability, availability
of fresh and affordable food, etc.), rather than
just being technological planning devices.
All of these examples exemplify not just
a ‘right to use technology’, which is precisely
where many smart city initiatives stop, but
rather the right to shape the city using human
initiative and technology for social purposes
to make our cities better and more sustain-
able. This idea has a number of implications.
First, smart initiatives do not have to be large
scale and costly or always motivated by corpo-
rate prot-seeking or competitive city brand-
makers. Selling high-tech ideas and hardware
to cities is expensive and may only benet the
few, argues Hoornweg (2011), when there are a
range of more worthy and inexpensive human
interventions and basic services that can be
supported and enhanced IT to encourage coop-
eration, community and sustainability.
Second, as Michael Andrew McAdams (2013)
suggests, “… It would seem obvious, but a ‘smart
city’ must be inhabited by ‘smart people’” (see
also Hemment and Townsend’s 2013 e-book on
smart citizens). This requires, in his view, open
access to an excellent system of education, includ-
ing university level, in order for people to more
engage democratically with intelligent technol-
ogy. Similarly, while there have been suggestive
discussions about smart citizens (Hemment and
Townsend, 2013), the need for smart commu-
nities (Paquet, 2001), ideas about the city as a
‘learning machine’ (McFarlane, 2009)and ‘urban
knowledge hubs’ (Campbell, 2012) in the main,
existing smart city models tend to see citizens as
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Critical interventions
a barrier to the implementation of smart tech-
nology (due to technological ignorance or lack
of education) or just as another resource as in
human capital type approaches. Smart, in this
framework, is limited to being able to access,
consume, and use the new technology to a cer-
tain degree, but not to question it or attempt to
shape and contour its uses. For the citizen, smart-
ness becomes reduced to a form of smart men-
tality, simply adopting the right frame of mind to
accept and cope with the inevitability of urban
technological change.
Hoornweg (2011) argues,At its core a smart
city is a welcoming, inclusive city, an open city.
By being forthright with citizens, with clear
accountability, integrity, and fair and hon-
est measures of progress, cities get smarter.
Asmart city listens – and tries to give voice to
everyone”. We need to ask if current visions of
corporately led smart cities actually do this and,
if not, consider what other interventions need
to be adopted if they are to begin to move in
this direction.
As Sennett (2012) states, “We want cities that
work well enough, but are open to the shifts,
uncertainties, and mess which are real life”.
Iwould go further than this and go back to the
everyday scenario this article began with, with
Kirby (2013) describing everyday life in a tech-
nologically led futuristic smart city. While life
here is efciently organised and even environ-
mentally sustainable, it is unclear what role citi-
zens, and indeed government and corporations,
have played in its creation. It also fails to even
hint at the answers to basic sociological ques-
tions like, is this person happy with their life?
Do they have a good relationship with their
neighbours and community in their smart city?
Do they enjoy the work they are transported
to in their electric pod? What free cultural and
social amenities are provided by the city they
live in? Do they have a good standard of liv-
ing and do they, more importantly, live in a fair
city? The technologically driven, corporately
controlled, heavily marketed, even environ-
mentally sound smart city does not really raise
these as valid questions to be addressed.
Contrary to dominant representations that
urban development through the application of
ICTs is both a positive and inevitable trend, the
smart city concept raises more questions than it
answers. The suggestion by giant IT consortiums
that we need to become technologically smarter
now to save our cities, and consider the social
consequences later, is highly pre-emptive, not to
mention, ideological. We should be wary of cor-
porately inspired smart scenarios where urban
problems have all been solved by technology and
all of its inhabitants are happy and prosperous;
however, tantalising this vision is. Underlying this
idea is a more manipulative notion that cities are
just ‘machines for making money out of’ or that
global competitiveness between cities will auto-
matically make them better places tolive.
For too long, smart city discourses have been
ignorant as to how cities actually work socio-
logically and politically, and the fact that they
are made up of a complex and diverse set of
dynamics and conicts (Harvey, 2012). They
also fail to ask important questions about urban
life: why are most cities unequal places? What
economic system created the current ecological
conditions? How can cities organically develop
and real communities form? And, what is the
good or fair city? (Toderian, 2012). We need
better sociopolitical understandings of the city
and more novel approaches emphasising the
need to see urban technological transformation
within a wider social, political, economic, cul-
tural and organisational context. And we need
to engage very much with real-time citizen-led
smart initiatives and cases studies, looking criti-
cally and carefully at the policy process, driving
forces, power and sociological context.
Many of our major urban problems are not
technological, but social, like poverty and inequal-
ity, and have been exacerbated, not solved, by cor-
porate privatisation and city branding strategies
(Harvey, 2012). Additionally, there has been little
at University of Newcastle on August 11, 2014 from
Page 14 of 17
room for people power, democratic debate and
citizen rights in many discussions of the smart city.
Their role has too often been limited to being in
the right frame of mind to accept the inevitability
of the smart city—that is, to develop a smartmen-
tality to cope with urban technological change. As
Anttiroiko (2013, 13) asks,
Here, the critical question is whether u-city
really benets us all, or is it ultimately a capi-
tal afrmative endeavour of which construction
companies and UbiTech rms reap the most
benet, public sector carries major risks through
their support schemes and public investments,
and people are made to adjust to a new techno-
logically mediated mode of urban life, without
much room for choices of their own.
Urban life, as urban sociology over the past
century has shown us, is a multifaceted and
complex thing. Problems like urban poverty,
discrimination, inequality and social polarisa-
tion; issues like neighbourhood and community
decline, crime and neglect; and even environ-
mental problems like trafc congestion and
recycling have important social, political and
cultural dimensions and will not be ameliorated
solely by simple technological solutions or
more sophisticated data gathering. This is the
paradox faced by any smart initiative—corpo-
rate or otherwise. Participation-based and citi-
zen run interventions into the smart city give us
no more than glimpses of what is and might be
possible if IT was used progressively and in the
service of urban dwellers, rather than as simply
efcient high-tech ‘quick xes’ and corporate
prot-making activities. The question is, can we
afford not to consider different ideas of smart-
ness beyond the corporate form?
1 For an interesting documentary along a similar
theme to this see Adam Curtis’ 2011 BBC2 produc-
tion ‘All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving
2 For the Zeitgeist Movement, see their website mis-
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com/mission-statement, while a ‘live’ description
of the related (but now separate) Venus Project by
Jacque Fresco can be found at http://www.thevenus-
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... There is a wide range of research on smart cities in the global North, but in the global south, it is barely starting up (Datta & Odendaal, 2019). Given that the global south has adopted smart cities quicker than the West, it is surprising that India, China, Korea, Saudi Arabia, and other nations are among the top "consumers" of the global smart city industry (Hollands, 2015). Therefore, this research will contribute to filling the gap in the knowledge of smart cities in the global south, especially in India. ...
... As a result, promoting sustainability has become a top priority for cities worldwide. The primary argument is that 'smarter ways' are needed to overcome ecological, demographical, economic, and geographical concerns (Hollands, 2015). We need better solutions to help us construct sustainable cities as the population grows and urbanization accelerates (Mangunson, 2018). ...
... Many of the innovative approaches to urban services are centered on leveraging technologies driven by Information communication and technology (ICT), on helping build what some refer to as "smart cities" (Albino et al., 2015b). Urban development led by application of ICT's has emerged as an important discourse concerning a city's future growth, efficiency, and prosperity (Hollands, 2015). Countries, states, and cities are developing "smart cities" (Lim et al., 2018). ...
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The Indian smart city mission aims to transform one hundred selected cities into smart cities. The mission guidelines emphasize the importance of equal public participation and considering their aspirations while formulating the policies and implementing the projects under the smart city agenda at the local level. In this context, the research aims to understand public participation in making smart cities in India with the case of Nagpur smart city. Although the city of Nagpur was selected because the smart city proposal and the public participation process while conceptualizing the smart city proposal is appreciated by GoI., it remains one of the least researched case studies. The research is qualitative and utilizes a literature review, semi-structured interview and a case study approach as research methods. The main findings of the research indicate that public participation in Nagpur smart city was implemented by a top-down, controlled approach and prioritizes a one-way mode of communication. Nagpur smart city heavily relied on media and social media platforms to collect public consent for the smart city proposal to make the city smart; however, while doing so, it ignored the vulnerable factors of the society, prioritizing one-way digital communication. Moreover, the process of public participation prioritizes certain affluent classes of inhabitants, suppressing the voice of the marginalized in society. As a result, Nagpur city smart missed the opportunities to co-create and co-produce with the inhabitants. It missed a chance to get informed opinions from the inhabitant, which would have contributed to making an informed decision while formulating the smart city concept for Nagpur. This research highlighted the need for a democratic, inclusive resident engagement mechanism and capacity development to participate effectively. The Nagpur smart city case demonstrates how, even in supposedly democratic and inclusive initiatives, ‘assumed’ unfitting voices are excluded and controlled in practice by the city governing authorities and policymakers who are supposed to act as guardians. Suppose the urban authorities fail to inculcate democratic values in urban development initiatives, which should be meant to manage urban areas better. Smart cities will probably continue to stand for neoliberal technocracy without democratic reform.
... Considering these trends, it is unsurprising that city administrators have already acknowledged the significance of technology in enhancing urban life. They are willing to fund and support a myriad of new and ongoing smart city projects, often small start-ups and experimental projects developed by research organizations, technology and non-technology firms, and individuals (Hollands, 2015;Rabari and Storper, 2015;van Winden and van den Buuse, 2017;Rech et al., 2018;Komninos et al., 2019;Mora and Deakin, 2019). This is a stark contrast to the initial market space dominated by big software firms such as IBM, CISCO, Microsoft, and Oracle (Townsend, 2013;Kitchin, 2014;Grossi and Pianezzi, 2017). ...
... These digital solutions often capitalize on knowledge management processes such as collecting public information to address specific issues (Angelidou, 2015). Regardless, many are not able to interoperate with other solutions, which has resulted in often unsuccessful developments (Kitchin, 2014;Hollands, 2015;Marvin et al., 2015;Van et al., 2015). This is concerning when predominant investors are city administrations, who are left with less financial resources and a challenging task of managing fragmented and ineffective approaches to smart cities. ...
... Moreover, as they are often represented by small-scale pilot projects, it is questionable if such micro-solutions are sufficient to address challenges at the city scale, especially considering the scales of urban information flows and complexities. Thus, micro-solutions regularly fail to embrace a digital ecosystem framework necessary to produce greater value to urban communities (Kitchin, 2014;Angelidou, 2015;Hollands, 2015;Van et al., 2015). ...
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Today, technological developments are ever-growing yet fragmented. Alongside inconsistent digital approaches and attitudes across city administrations, such developments have made it difficult to reap the benefits of city digital twins. Bringing together experiences from five research projects, this paper discusses these digital twins based on two digital integration methodologies-systems and semantic integration. We revisit the nature of the underlying technologies, and their implications for interoperability and compatibility in the context of planning processes and smart urbanism. Semantic approaches present a new opportunity for bidirectional data flows that can inform both governance processes and technological systems to co-create, cross-pollinate, and support optimal outcomes. Building on this opportunity, we suggest that considering the technological dimension as a new addition to the trifecta of economic, environmental, and social sustainability goals that guide planning processes, can aid governments to address this conundrum of fragmentation, interoperability, and compatibility. Policy Significance Statement As cities across the globe aspire to become smarter, the rapid pace of siloed technological developments and their growing complexities and pitfalls have become too significant for city administrations and politicians to ignore. This is exacerbated by the novel developments of city digital twins based on a diversity of software and technologies. We scrutinize a variety of digital twins to discern opportunities to address interoperability and compatibility. In overcoming technological lock-ins driven by business interests, we conclude that software developments need to pay greater attention to practical realities. We contend that city administrations would also have to step up to spearhead, rather than sway toward these technologies for their processes.
... The smart city technologies show enormous potential in shaping and molding human behavior (Vanolo 2014;Hollands 2015;Sanfilippo and Shvartzshnaider 2021). Reflecting the concept of techno-social engineering (Frischmann and Selinger 2018), automated governance seeks to create a compliant, easily controlled subject. ...
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The rise of 'smart' – or technologically advanced – cities has been well documented, while governance of such technology has remained unresolved. Integrating surveillance, AI, automation, and smart tech within basic infrastructure as well as public and private services and spaces raises a complex set of ethical, economic, political, social, and technological questions. The Governing Knowledge Commons (GKC) framework provides a descriptive lens through which to structure case studies examining smart tech deployment and commons governance in different cities. This volume deepens our understanding of community governance institutions, the social dilemmas communities face, and the dynamic relationships between data, technology, and human lives. For students, professors, and practitioners of law and policy dealing with a wide variety of planning, design, and regulatory issues relating to cities, these case studies illustrate options to develop best practice. Available through Open Access, the volume provides detailed guidance for communities deploying smart tech.
... This knowledge gap limits scientific progress in the smart city domain and has important practical implications. Left with little guidance, many local governments have experimented with governance approaches that have proven incapable of sustaining improvements in urban sustainability (Hollands, 2015;Shelton et al., 2015). In documenting these shortcomings, the smart city literature has frequently reported on the adoption of approaches solely focused on the "technological and technical aspects of smartness" (Masik et al., 2021, p. 1) and affected by technocratic thinking (Jiang et al., 2022). ...
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Smart city transitions are a fast-proliferating example of urban innovation processes, and generating the insight required to support their unfolding should be a key priority for innovation scholars. However, after decades of research, governance mechanisms remain among the most undertheorized and relatively overlooked dimensions of smart city transitions. To address this problem, we conduct a systematic literature review that connects the fragmented knowledge accumulated through the observation of smart city transition dynamics in 6 continents, 43 countries, and 146 cities and regions. Our empirical work is instrumental in achieving a threefold objective. First, we assemble an overarching governance framework that expands the theoretical foundations of smart city transitions from an innovation management perspective. Second, we elaborate on this framework by providing a thorough overview of documented governance practices. This overview highlights the strengths and weaknesses in the current approaches to the governance of smart city transitions, leading to evidence-based strategic recommendations. Third, we identify and address critical knowledge gaps in a future research agenda. In linking innovation theory and urban scholarship, this agenda suggests leveraging promising cross-disciplinary connections to support more intense research efforts probing the interaction patterns between institutional contexts, urban digital innovation, and urban innovation ecosystems.
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As an emerging pattern in city planning around the globe, the smart city is gradually changing people's traditional way of life. Building smart cities can boost domestic demand, drive the growth of innovative industries, and promote regional economic development. It helps to enhance the core competitiveness of cities and allows them to gain a competitive advantage in the fierce regional competition. China has led the way in the construction of smart cities in recent decades. This paper provides a concise overview of the evolution of Chinese smart city policy and relevant strategies, and it analyses some of the challenges encountered along the way. The main problems can be divided into three: lack of specific plans, concerns about environmental protection, and low degree of citizen participation and information privacy. This paper puts forward relevant recommendations based on these problems as follows: scientific planning and rational layout increased investment, implementation of the concept of sustainable development, and introduction of public participation and protection of information privacy. These recommendations can aid in the growth of smart cities in China and serve as a point of reference for the relevant government agencies and smart city-related businesses in China and abroad, boosting the sustainable and healthful growth of the smart city.
The treatment of the smart city and its development has many similarities with the treatment of urban infrastructure. Many interpretations can be given to the concept of smart city in some cases it is a subject in the process of consolidation. However, a key to understanding is that the concept of smart city begins to take shape coinciding with the take shape of the concept of urban infrastructure. It is precisely the discussion of the different types of urban infrastructures that serve to better understand the form and substance of smart cities. Probably without a connection of the variables that make up the urban infrastructure it would have become difficult to define the concept of smart city. A strong link is represented by ubiquitous infrastructure in characterizing the concept of urban infrastructure and at the same time of smart city. In an extreme form, and in an equally extreme and selective reading, it can be said that the smart city is the planned and ideal conjunction typical of several types of urban infrastructure and therefore is itself an urban infrastructure.
Destinationen der Zukunft stehen nicht nur für Erlebnisse und Orte, welche von Personen erlebt, bereist und besucht werden können, sondern auch für Lebensräume für die Bevölkerung und lokalen Gemeinschaften. Darüber hinaus werden Destinationen von verschiedensten Faktoren beeinflusst. Von der technologischen Entwicklung bis hin zur Nachhaltigkeit oder Veränderungen im alltäglichen Leben. Durch kreative Ansätze und Designprozesse können die Destinationen der Zukunft von den verschiedensten Akteuren mitgestalten werden. Auf der einen Seite, um Probleme und Herausforderungen zu lösen, und auf der anderen Seite, um Neues entstehen zu lassen bzw. Bestehendes zu verbessern. Diese Prozesse beeinflussen sowohl die positive Entwicklung von Destinationen, als auch uns Menschen selbst. Entstehen infolgedessen menschenorientierte Produkte, Dienstleistungen, Erlebnisse o. ä., so können dadurch auch wertvolle Momente und Interaktionen für jeden Einzelnen geschaffen werden.
In recent years, smart city programmes have focused on innovation and technology to transform cities into resource-efficient, liveable, and inclusive places. Children's and young people's positions in smart cities are unstable and, depending on a project's agenda, ever-shifting – at the centre of a bottom-up movement, on the fringes of top-down planned programmes. This article revolves around the everyday experiences of children and young people and explores how they encounter life in a smart city district. It draws on observations from a qualitative case study with children and young people in a Viennese neighbourhood where an EU smart city lighthouse project was implemented from 2016 to 2019. Drawing on ethnographic research with children and young people in a school, an afterschool centre, and an open child and youth care programme in a city park, I develop three dimensions of encounters: how children and young people move through, interact with, and take care of the city. My findings show that many children and young people perceive crises with the same urgency as smart city programmes and are equally interested in technological innovation, environmental protection, and social inclusion. They demonstrate responsibility and care about socio-ecological challenges and approaches to solutions. However, young people's discourses and practices also show that urban life cannot be limited to certain issues, nor do young people's urban lives end at structural or administrative boundaries. Participants also emphasise that focusing on human beings alone does not lead to sustainable urban development, and they express frustration with measures that bypass the reality of their lives and divert much-needed attention away from pressing issues.
Today, smart city areas and initiatives are found throughout the world, yet little research has been completed into the processes whereby decisions concerning the initiation, marketing, and branding of smart city projects have been taken. The present study examined these processes via interviews with 18 smart city managers, followed by an online World Café which was convened to discuss emerging issues. Interviewees were asked to relate stories of how decisions had been reached, which stakeholders had been prioritised, the extent of citizen co-creation in project initiation and branding, and the main difficulties involved. An argumentative narrative discourse methodology was employed to analyse the interview transcripts, which revealed a number of disparities between the suggestions of extant place branding literature and current practice where smart city projects were concerned.
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In the West, the design of new towns has always been based on an ideal model in accordance with the ideas of that moment. In the case of the latest generation of new towns in Asia, however, only quantitative and marketing principles seem to play a role: the number of square metres, dwellings or people, or the greenest, most beautiful or most technologically advanced town. Rising in the East shows which design principles these premises are based on.
The promise of competitiveness and economic growth in so-called smart cities is widely advertised in Europe and the US. The promise is focussed on global talent and knowledge economies and not on learning and innovation. But to really achieve smart cities – that is to create the conditions of continuous learning and innovation – this book argues that there is a need to understand what is below the surface and to examine the mechanisms which affect the way cities learn and then connect together.
Climate change is one of the most significant global challenges facing the world today. It is also a critical issue for the world's cities. Now home to over half the world's population, urban areas are significant sources of greenhouse gas emissions and are vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
Some 650 community gardens dot the city of New York. These gardens are attended by some of the least advantaged residents of the city. Urban residents use these spaces for horticulture, recreation, social gatherings, and artistic and cultural events. This book shows how, in the process of attempting to protect these highly contested spaces, residents developed as community leaders and urban activists. Taking an interdisciplinary approach to follow the political development of urban residents, the book examines how everyday spatial practices, social interactions, the production of alternative urban space, and the generation of new urban knowledge render community gardeners into important social actors in the urban scene.
DIVIn Two Bits, Christopher M. Kelty investigates the history and cultural significance of Free Software, revealing the people and practices that have transformed not only software but also music, film, science, and education. Free Software is a set of practices devoted to the collaborative creation of software source code that is made openly and freely available through an unconventional use of copyright law. Kelty explains how these specific practices have reoriented the relations of power around the creation, dissemination, and authorization of all kinds of knowledge. He also makes an important contribution to discussions of public spheres and social imaginaries by demonstrating how Free Software is a “recursive public”—a public organized around the ability to build, modify, and maintain the very infrastructure that gives it life in the first place.Drawing on ethnographic research that took him from an Internet healthcare start-up company in Boston to media labs in Berlin to young entrepreneurs in Bangalore, Kelty describes the technologies and the moral vision that bind together hackers, geeks, lawyers, and other Free Software advocates. In each case, he shows how their practices and way of life include not only the sharing of software source code but also ways of conceptualizing openness, writing copyright licenses, coordinating collaboration, and proselytizing. By exploring in detail how these practices came together as the Free Software movement from the 1970s to the 1990s, Kelty also considers how it is possible to understand the new movements emerging from Free Software: projects such as Creative Commons, a nonprofit organization that creates copyright licenses, and Connexions, a project to create an online scholarly textbook commons./div