The Risks of “Techtopia”: Reviewing the Negative Lessons of Smart City Development

“Smart cities” are not always as “smart” as the term suggests, which is not often covered in the associated literatures. In what has become known as the smart city approach to urban planning, governments around the world are seeking to harness the power of information and communications technology to address major social, economic, and environmental issues reshaping the ways people live. The definitional and theoretical boundaries of the smart city framework are broad and at times ambiguous, as is empirical treatment of the topic. However, in investigating institutional and policy prescriptions to the challenges faced by metropoles, scholarly thought has hinged on value-positive conceptions of informatics-centered design. The smart city design is championed as a technological wellspring capable of providing answers to the systemic issues stymying a utopian image of the city. However, it is argued that this "techtopia," has resulted in myopia within the discipline as to value-negative implications of such planning, such as weaknesses in practicality, scalability, social equity and affordability of solutions. In order to more carefully examine this observation - that "stupid" represents an omitted variable bias in the study of "smart" - this paper reviews critical cases of smart city developments. It is argued that also understanding the negative factors affiliated with the development processes is imperative for the advancement of theoretical foundations, policies, and strategies. This process-tracing shows distinctly negative lessons of smart city projects, which are vital for understanding how best to conceive smart urban planning in the 21st century.

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Author Information
Amanda Ahl, Tokyo Institute of Technology, Japan
Matthew Brummer, University of Tokyo, Japan

Paper Information Conference: CITY2018
Stream: Public Policy (including Health and Education)

Added on Tuesday, August 28th, 2018
The full paper is not available for this title

Posted by amp21