Smart Cities: Who Cares?

Authors: Max Andrucki*, Temple University, Ryan Burns*, University of Calgary
Topics: Urban Geography, Social Geography, Social Theory
Keywords: smart cities, social reproduction, care
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Studio 5, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The technological assemblages of smart cities and open data are burgeoning modes of producing "proper" entrepreneurial subjects and governable bodies. Geographers have devoted considerable time to understanding the roles of governance, political-economy, and techno-imaginaries of smart cities. However, to date geographers have overlooked the specific types of bodies wrapped into smart cities discourses - claims to what the smart city is and does. This remains a gap that obfuscates systems of precarious, unpaid, and yet essential labor subtending the smart city.

In this paper, we argue that both scholarly and applied smart cities discourses invoke the participation of particular kinds of individuals, while simultaneously invisibilizing their labor. Using work on care ethics and social reproduction, we illustrate two categories of laboring bodies that smart cities marginalize while depending on them. These three categories include, first, the labor of women within the home and other domestic spaces and the under-paid service workers responsible for the cities' maintenance; and second, the increasing dependence on volunteered labor in hackathons, sharing economies, and related digital infrastructures. In one move, smart cities and open data both spectacularize the participation of racialized and gendered populations, while using such spectacularization to invisibilize their labor.

We conclude by speculating on the theoretical implications of reinserting bodies back into digital discourses. To take seriously the social and political impacts of smart cities and open data necessitates critiquing the ways in which subjects and bodies are drawn into this socio-technical milieu.

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