What is interesting and relevant about smart cities?

Mirror City Timelapse from Michael Shainblum on Vimeo.

Before the main text for this week I wanted to include this video, which visualises a ‘sci-fi’ type image, which invades my thoughts about ‘smart cities’, and also draw your attention to the pinterest board I have started for this module, where I have been posting various links I have thought relevant to the module. My intention is to keep populating this as the weeks progress. Feel free to click through for a visit.


Tarantoni and Tosoni ask how media impacts on space and what the implications are of these processes? As they see “urban space as an irredeemable patchwork”, 2013, p. 3, meaning it is made up of many different, often opposing features therefore they are interested in a multi-perspective approach to studying cities. They state that, “[o]ur age is characterised by urbanization and mediatisation: most of us live in cities and most of us have access to the media” 2013, p. 1, this left me thinking about the digital divide and what this means for those who do not fit within the majority. That a multi-perspective approach must include those who are disenfranchised, without a strong presence within the dominant system and whose needs may get overlooked by planners. I generally find myself gravitating towards the individual nature of people, and how it is easy to look at a city and think about the masses rather than the few.

Townsend suggests that “Smart cities are places where information technology is wielded to address problems old and new”, 2013,  p. xiii,  where the problems are things like shortages to resources and climate change and the infrastructures of smart cities are versatile and adapt in real-time to changes of information.

Pavegen Projects Showreel from Pavegen Systems on Vimeo.

He sees ordinary people being part of this process, saying, “We are witnessing the birth of a new civic movement, as the smart phone becomes a platform for reinventing cities from the bottom up.” 2013, p. xiv

This idea of civic involvement is interesting as my initial concerns about smart cities are how much control is given over a small number of large corporations in the running of the infrastructure of cities. Where this could create a strangle hold on political systems and edge ordinary citizens out to the edges of the power systems.

Saskia Sassen places individuals at the centre of urbanising technologies, she suggests that cities talk back, as proved by their failures. Forever incomplete, cities are open-source, hackable systems consisting of a larger ecology, which makes use of non-technical aspects. This allows cities to evolve and outlive other closed systems e.g. individual governments or conglomerates. Ordinary users bring things to the design not thought of by the original designers and engineers allowing cities to respond in unexpected ways. Therefore , she also advocates a multi-perspective approach as being needed in the creation of urbanising technologies and smart cities.

Sassen mentions that she is interested in spaces that contest the design of de-urbanising technologies and she is keen that users keep questioning the status-quo


Sassen S. 2012. Urban Age Electric City: – Urbanising technology, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fyS1H_Zs4po

Tarantino M. & Tosoni S. 2013 Introduction: Beyond the centrality of media and the centrality of space, First Monday, Vol.18 No.11 http://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/4953/3784

Townsend, A.M., 2013. Smart cities: big data, civic hackers, and the quest for a new utopia, New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company.


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