Anything happening in London next week on urban issues?
I planned four days in London next week and I want to make the best of the visit. So, if you know any event or gathering (exhibitions, meetups, conferences, seminars,…) taking place form the 24th to the 27th regarding any topic covered on Human Scale Cities, just let me know.
Unlike efforts to grow the “consumer city” via sports stadia, luxury housing, and high-end retail, innovation districts are intent on growing the firms, networks, and sectors that drive real, broad-based prosperity.
About half of 311 complaints are noise-related. This project uses a normalized version of the 311 database stored in MongoDB. Use MongoDB’s geospatial, aggregation and map-reduce capabilities to compute noise scores for a given lat-long.
Week picks series features some Fridays different initiatives and projects I found or want to highlight on this blog. It will help me to track new findings from community groups, startups or local governments working and delivering solutions relevant to the issues covered on this blog. I often bookmark them or save them on Tumblr while I wait to use them. Maybe this a good way.
To continue Manu Fernandez’s discussion of the limits of the smart city, here are some excerpts from Alberto Vanolo’s article in a recent issue of Urban Studies, ”Smartmentality: The Smart City as Disciplinary Strategy” and a talk by “solutionism” critic Evgeny Morozov.The Smart City is appealing in part because it offers the technological fix for the perennial problem of inefficiency (see last week’s post “How Smart People Fall for Fads”).
The Smart City gained traction in Europe especially after the concept of “smart city” was included in the European Union’s reseach funding mechanism, proof that the institutional embrace of a concept gives the discourse legs.
First of all, if we adopt the perspective developed by Swyngedouw (2007), under the heading smart city discourse, urban issues run the risk of shifting more and more towards the field of post-politics: the smart city may increasingly become a generic and easily agreed target, without proper critical discussions and without ‘politics’, intended as the clash and debate between different ideas and positions (Catney and Doyle, 2011). The danger behind this view is that urban development policies be based on a single model, applicable everywhere and linked only to the application of technological solutions: it is no coincidence that cities at the bottom of the aforementioned charts are described as ‘lagging behind’, implicitly suggesting the inevitability of a linear path of development and the need for some kinds of modernisation policies to be applied everywhere with limited local adaptation (McCann, 2011).11 Furthermore, the smart city vision is superimposed on a widespread reconfiguration of private subjects portraying technologies as ‘heroes’: the private companies investing in smart city projects adhere to a new ‘spirit of capitalism’ that increase their soft power, prestige and the social justifiability of their businesses(see Boltanski and Chiapello, 1999; Thrift, 2005) and it is no coincidence that the word ‘smart’ abounds in the advertising material of private companies.
Vanolo’s portmanteau word “smartmentality” references Foucault’s governmentality because:
Secondly, producing ‘smart cities’ inevitably also co-produces what we could call a ‘smart citizen’. In fact, the smart city discourse means that people have to be willing to adapt to, and to live in, smart cities. It is hardly necessary to point out that there is little room for the technologically illiterate, the poor and, in general, those who are marginalised from the smart city discourse; moreover, citizens are considered responsible for their own ability to adapt to these on-going changes. In Italy, at least, it is quite clear that the smart city discourse never touches on ‘hot’ issues such as the crisis of the welfare system. Also, the smart city discourse has an effect on the way citizens are supposed to behave. On the one hand, citizens are very subtly asked to participate in the construction of smart cities, on the other, they are implicitly considered responsible for this objective…
The smart city discourse helps to naturalise the concept of the city as a collective actor: cities are represented as single, homogeneous and unitary actors who win or lose the challenge of the smart city. This logic specifically takes shape through the use of classification techniques, also called benchmarking or rating analysis.
In addition, choosing classification indicators may be a very subtle disciplining technique: for example, measuring the performance of cities by attributing a higher score to urban settings which attract higher private investments imposes a certain approach towards distinguishing between what is desirable and what is not.
[Morozov on how smart cities are part of the neoliberal transformation of the modern state]
The idea of the smart city seems to have triumphed as a term that aims to bring together the link between the twenty-first century technologies and their deployment in the city. Even though its narrative compresses very diffuse profiles, interpretations and definitions, the smart city –no matter you feel comfortable or not with the term itself- has gained a privileged position in the whole scope of urban discussions and particularly in the field of urban technologies. But after some years of massive attention, the list of skeptics and openly critical positions keeps growing.