This paper analyses recent contributions to the ‘smart city’ discourse, the context conditions under which it has emerged, the conceptual orientations developed, and the implementation strategies derived. It remains rather open what the actual pursuit of a ‘smart city’ is, and therefore, which winners and losers we are to expect from realization.
Title: Deconstructing Smart Cities: An Intertextual Reading of Concepts and Practices for Integrated Urban and ICT Development.
Author: Marc Wolfram, Leibniz Institute of Ecological Urban and Regional Development, Dresden, Germany.
Published in proceedings of the 17th International Conference on Urban Planning and Regional Development in the Information Society GeoMultimedia 2012.
ABSTRACT - Concepts of ‘smart’ or ‘intelligent’ cities currently enjoy great popularity. They offer frameworks for interpreting certain linkages between information and communication technology (ICT) and urban development, and put forward a particular agenda for action. In this, they claim a broad legitimacy for guiding stakeholders, drawing on findings from a number of strands of scientific inquiry. Furthermore, building on the everlasting albeit problematic promise of technology as a key to resolve pressing societal problems, they equally constitute an attractive reference for actors at all levels and across sectors. But despite their striking virulence in research, policy and practice, it remains rather open what the actual pursuit of a ‘smart city’ is, and therefore, which winners and losers we are to expect from realization.
Against this backdrop this paper puts forward an intertextual reading of recent contributions to the ‘smart city’ discourse, probing in particular the context conditions under which it has emerged, the conceptual orientations developed, and the implementation strategies derived. It appears that, while suffering from affinities to technological determinism and urban entrepreneurialism, ‘smart cities’ largely neglect the need to select and balance goals for integrated urban and ICT development, and to develop suitable approaches for actually doing so. Instead, by conflating the descriptive and the normative, ‘smart cities’ tend to substitute an orientation at societal ends by an orientation at selected means, thus supporting path optimization but structurally evading radical urban change. Hence, in order to become meaningful for enhancing sustainable and resilient local development, such concepts need to be embedded within a much wider cultural change perspective that should underpin especially the social, ecological and political dimensions of ‘smart’ urban development. In particular, they need to strengthen their focus on and engagement with the governance of integrated urban and ICT development.