Smartness? Between Discourse and Practice

Tomorrow's City Today: Palimpsest of the Future

Nick Dunn: ImaginationLancaster, Lancaster University, United Kingdom

Paul Cureton: ImaginationLancaster, Lancaster University, United Kingdom


KEYWORDS: Cities, Visions, Futures, Histories, Representation

The ubiquity of 'smartness' in the contemporary world suggests an advancement of some kind, albeit predicated on various technologies. Smart Cities, in particular, offer an optimistic view on what can be achieved by using data to address and improve the operation of various urban management systems (Ratti and Claudel, 2016; Townsend, 2013). While some of the ambitions and goals behind Smart Cities are positive and potentially beneficial for collective life, the over-reliance on software that typically features in their concept has led to their visions largely being promoted by major IT corporations with a vested interest in the deployment of technical solutions for city development and management. Rose (2017) has observed that such visions present pleasurable albeit smooth and untethered views, replicating digital visuality rather than actual spatial experience and it is here that we may detect some problematic issues. Indeed, despite their diversity of approach and features, the vision of most Smart Cities is one of the conspicuously bland, generic, ahistorical, apolitical spaces whose identity is characterized by information technologies that could be applied anywhere.

So where did this come from and what are the alternatives? This session seeks to question the definition(s) of smartness as part of the history of visions we have previously had for cities and their resonance over time. Submissions are sought to explore the smartness of contemporary cities and critically evaluate their future based projections, scenarios and cited precedents from a variety of international and comparative perspectives, via case studies, datasets and historical analysis. We are also interested in radical alternatives for the cities of tomorrow that elude the convergence toward smartness as counterpoints for debate and offer a repositioning of architectural and urban practices. We welcome both empirical and theoretical inquiries from a diverse range of disciplines and welcome presentations in non-traditional formats.