RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2018

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Understanding the uneven landscapes of smart cities
Affiliation Digital Geographies Working Group
Convenor(s) Gillian Rose (University of Oxford, UK)
Oliver Zanetti (University of Oxford, UK)
Chair(s) Gillian Rose (University of Oxford, UK)
Timetable Friday 31 August 2018, Session 3 (14:40 - 16:20)
Session abstract As smart technologies, practices and polices of various kinds are rolled out by diverse actors in more and more cities worldwide, the need to understand their engagement with each other and with existing urban landscapes becomes more pressing. While many advocates of the smart city conceive the smart city as a rational landscape structured by flows of big data, this session explores a different smart geometry, which comes about when a range of smart things encounter the pre-existing complexity of cities. Here, networks of many different ‘smart’ things – sensors, apps, policy frameworks, citizen groups among them – emerge, assemble, fragment, collapse and re-form. The session will therefore focus on smart entities as diverse and distributed. It will explore how smart outcomes are achieved between and across diverse actors and spaces, as well as how they fail to be achieved. Questions that might be addressed include:
• what diverse things compose the ‘smartness’ of a city?
• how are they distributed and what spatialities do those distributions enact?
• what are the various forms of social agency that are enacted through smart activities?
• how do different smart things interact? What are the modalities of those interactions, and what effects do they have?
• how do smart city projects encounter the social and institutional diversity of urban spaces as they extend and move?
• how do specific smart entities co- and re-constitute forms of social difference both familiar and new?
• how do the ideas, discourses and objects of smart travel?
• what happens when something smart that has been designed in one place lands in another?
Papers are invited which address these and other questions to explore the (dis)connections between different smart activities in a city, between those activities and the social spaces of the city, and between smart in different cities.
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: ac2018@rgs.org
Making smartness happen: Assembling Dublin’s ‘smart district’
Liam Heaphy (National University of Ireland, Maynooth, Ireland)
Rob Kitchin (National University of Ireland, Maynooth, Ireland)
In this paper we explore the unfolding of Dublin’s ‘smart district’, located in the city’s docklands and home to a number of multinational ICT companies. The smart district is a project of Dublin City Council and Smart Dublin in collaboration with local corporate stakeholders and seeks to make the area an experimental testbed for Internet of Things and other smart technologies. It is promoted by the city and Ireland’s Industrial Development Agency as a vehicle to attract foreign direct investment, particularly relating to smart city R&D. Through successive rounds of entrepreneurial urbanism the Dublin Docklands has been under transformation since the late 1980s. Designated a special development zone (SDZ) the area has seen massive regeneration, gentrification, and tension with local working class communities over the past 30 years. The smart district is the latest version of neoliberal urban and economic development to focused on the site, yet its rollout has occurred largely with little fanfare or public/political debate and a redrawing of the SDZ to exclude local residents. In our analysis, we place the smart district in historical context, chart the formation of an advocacy coalition driving its development, and detail how it is being deployed and encountered in practice.
Assemblage practices in emerging smart technologies: what holds, what doesn’t, and why
Parvati Raghuram (The Open University, UK)
Oliver Zanetti (University of Oxford, UK)
McNeill (2015) identifies a framework in which smart city ecosystems, and by extension the future of smart cities, are generated by “a small number of global technology firms”. Drawing on a series of in-depth interviews with the range of actors involved in the development of a new smart city platform, this paper identifies a rather different modality of smart development. Here, the case study is of a startup working in an agile fashion to integrate itself and its technologies into carefully identified urban practices. In so doing, it necessarily encounters, and forms alliances with, actors across the social and institutional landscape of the cities in which it operates. This paper is attentive to those assembling practices. In particular, this paper is concerned with how the various demands, suggestions and imperatives of those different actors are negotiated, aggregated, or abandoned. The nature of this approach is a smart technology tenuous in its development, changing shape as new opportunities emerge and old priorities fall away. However, the question of what holds and what falls, and why it does so, is central to the kinds of smart technologies that come about and the kinds of social differences they bring into being.
Deconstructing urban political strategies: a multiscalar perspective on smart cities in Austria and Italy
Christian Smigiel (University of Salzburg, Austria)
European cities are experiencing a mushrooming of a new urban imagery. “Smart cities” are emerging everywhere. In fact, the “smart city” has become a widely spread vision used by a variety of powerful key actors as well as a top-down urban political strategy that is applied in order to promote new arrangements, models and technologies for almost all types of policy areas. By using the Austrian and Italian case as a point of reference, the paper will have a look at how smart city strategies are institutionalized, combined with and embedded at different spatial scales. Therefore, the paper adapts a strategic-relational approach that provides a conceptual framework for understanding the spatial dimension of smart city strategies. The paper argues that smart city strategies reflect a set of multiscalar political strategies which leads to new responsibilities and powers on a local scale, as well as a creation of new state territoriality. Beyond that, it questions the “actually existing smart city” in the mentioned cases. The paper relies on qualitative data deriving from documentary analysis and interviews with key stakeholders at national, regional and urban scales.
Enrolling nature in the smart city: Discourses and imaginaries of Parisian smart city
Donato Ricci (Sciences Po, France)
Jean Philippe Cointet (Sciences Po, France)
Aleksandar Rankovic (Sciences Po, France)
Gabriele Colombo (DensityDesign, Politecnico di Milano, Italy)
Seeking for optimised resources exploitation, efficient flows management, sustainable environmental impacts, smart city programs are enrolling and repurposing in their networked technological infrastructure a vast array of objects, not least natural ones: trees become connected to reduce “heat islands”; algae are pushed into street furniture to absorb pollutants; mushrooms, strawberries, aromatic plants and vegetables are grown - up over roofs, down in former underground parking lots, vertically grafting on wall - to satisfy local food demands; sheeps and muttons are transformed into lawn mower. All these examples came from a rather specific implementation of the smart city. They take place in Paris, as pilots, experiments, tests and demos, attempting to blend together the biological and the socio-technical layer of the city, along with the historically rooted aesthetic of the city with a future projected imaginations. To observe and describe them, we extended an ongoing research concerned with the issues raised by urban nature in Paris: the NATURPRADI project. We mapped the discursive and pictorial elements of the Parisian urban nature debate by tracing digital-native contents produced on Twitter from July 2016 till July 2017. This digital method approach led to a series of visualisations showing how objects, places, practices and technologies are mobilised, re-appropriated by the smart city. By exploring the visualisations, we intend to provide a empirical base to discuss the frictions provoked by the articulations of nature, technology and the city in business models, policy toolboxes and citizens engagement initiatives.