smart city

“One thing that hasn’t been mentioned yet, poverty.” Like a dirty word, that shouldn’t be mentioned in the pristine ‘superfuturespace’ of The Electric City, Julio Davila began his presentation on Medellin’s Metrocable. The eleventh Urban Age conference hosted by the LSE in 2012, was a slick business conference masquerading as educational forum. Politicians and decision makers were keen to seduce multinational conglomerate contracts to help rebrand an area of London’s deprivation as a Silicon Hub. Davila championed social inclusion, with a Colombian example of linking slums to Medellin’s main transit hubs utilising aerial cable-car, as a low tech solution to reducing poverty and increasing accessibility. Above all, he argued, the infrastructure should remain public to engender a sense of ownership amongst the community it serves.

Byrum and Breitbart’s (Tarantino and Tosoni, 2013) paper on owning urban space is similar, a shared physical space can engender a sense of community spirit. Using church steeples to provide wifi in low-income urban communities is an inclusive way of regenerating a former focal point of the community and redressing social imbalance.

storm water skate park

The Roskilde storm water skate park in Denmark uses architectural design to allow its citizens to reclaim modern urban infrastructure, combining function with leisure. Overlaying the physical space with augmented information, such as being able to rate a travel experience and provide comments (Lee Humphrey and Tony Liao in Tarantino and Tosoni), can allow a once impersonal physical space to become mediated and engender a sense of virtual community.

Townsend (2013) defines a smart city as “places where information technology is combined with infrastructure, architecture, everyday objects and even our bodies to address social, economic, and environmental problems.” (p.15). There will be a trade-off between these competing goals for urban planners. The focus must not be dominated by economic goals of efficiency held ransom to capital mobility; automating proprietary and ubiquitous ‘big data’ at the expense of civil liberty; ultimately emasculating citizenship to be a consumer held hostage.





Davila, Julio (2012). The low-tech experience and social inclusion: Medellín’s MetroCable. in Urban Age (2012) The Electric City London: LSE, 6-7 Dec <Available at:> [Last Accessed: 19feb2014].

Tarantino, M. And. Tosoni, S., 2013. Introduction: Beyond the centrality of media and the centrality of space. First Monday, 18(11) <Available at:>[Last Accessed 19feb2014].

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

Urban Age (2012) The Electric City London: LSE, 6-7 Dec <Available at:> [Last Accessed: 19feb2014].


Introductory film to Urban Age The Electric City, written and narrated by Deyan Sudjic. <Available at:> [Last Accessed: 19feb2014].


Roskilde storm water skate park in Denmark <Available at:> [Last Accessed: 19feb2014].




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