Smartness? Between Discourse and Practice

Utopia through Smart Technologies

Angel Callander: Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, German

Marjolein Lanzing: Eindhoven University of Technology, The Netherlands


KEYWORDS: Utopian Planning, Smart Technologies

This session investigates the traditional concept of “utopia” through smart technologies and networked capitalism. Architects and intellectuals involved in founding Ekistics – the study of human settlements – in the 1960s had a profound enthusiasm for networks and global interconnectedness that revolutionized urban planning. Arguably a product of this hope for a global, networked utopia, the “Smart City” is seen as the ultimate solution to improve the social and economic problems experienced in urban life by way of technological innovation and connectivity. Posited most often in the West as “the only alternative,” global capitalism is sustained by translating everything into flows of constant exchange, including the movement of data. Frederic Jameson refers to capitalism as a totalizing structure “in which the informing power is everywhere and nowhere all at once, and at the same time in relentless expansion, by way of appropriation and subsumption alike.” Utopias are traditionally conceived of as communities of regulation, leisure, and connectivity. By opening the assemblages of both capitalism and utopian thinking in the histories of literature, architecture, and philosophy, the genealogies of the utopia through smart technologies becomes more apparent. In a world where our data profiles often precede our embodied selves, do smart technologies pose a threat to actual transformative futures? How do we perceive the relationship of smart technologies to power? In whose interests do smart cities and technologies function under late capitalism? If utopian thinking has become outdated, what tools do citizens have in promoting sustainable futures?