My City Is Smarter than Yours: Deconstructing the Buzzwords

Type: Panel
Sponsor Groups: Digital Geographies Specialty Group, Geographic Information Science and Systems Specialty Group, Urban Geography Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM (MDT)
Room: Napoleon C1, Sheraton 3rd Floor
Organizers: Ryan Burns, Victoria Fast
Chairs: Victoria Fast


Open data are at the forefront of smart cities initiatives. In research on both open data and smart cities, however, scholars tend to take complex and contested terms—such as transparent, open, accountable, democratic, empowerment, value, inclusive, and access—as self-explanatory and as inherently worthy objectives. This uncritical treatment of the terms leaves the multiple and contradictory meanings embedded within the terms unexplored and under-examined. This omission constitutes a politics that complicate simple notions around the normative value of the goals open data and smart city advocates laud. It raises fundamental questions, such as smart how? Open how? On whose terms? By what conceptualization? And, perhaps most importantly, raises critical considerations around the meanings attached at particular moments to attain very particular goals, such as private-sector profit, strengthened systems of governmentality, or attentional economy expansion. While there’s a growing number of resources from which we can draw, this remains an oversight within the overall research agenda.

Making these considerations has at least three main goals. It can lend important theoretical insights into how smart cities function, particularly in relation to its attendant social and political process. As well, it can inform practitioners’ work as they consider the impacts and implications of open data platforms within smart cities initiatives, and the longstanding goals to which they aspire. It also contributes knowledge to activists’ work around “our digital rights to the city” (Shaw and Graham 2017) and the factors that enable or disable processes of empowerment. This is becoming especially important as smart cities increasingly align with open data and open government initiatives.


Type Details Minutes
Panelist Sarah Barns 20
Panelist Ryan Burns University of Calgary 20
Panelist Craig Dalton Hofstra University 20
Panelist Will Payne University of California - Berkeley 20
Panelist Anna Feigenbaum Bournemouth University 20

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