Negotiating visions and practices of citizenship in smart urban experiments

Authors: Soeren Becker*, Humboldt University Berlin / University of Bonn , Wouter Boon, University of Utrecht, Emanuel Löffler, University of Freiburg, Rachel Macrorie, University of Sheffield, Adrian Smith, University of Sussex
Topics: Urban Geography, Cyberinfrastructure
Keywords: smart city, citizenship, practice, hacking, urban experiments
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: 8222, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Commonly, scholars criticise the limited inclusion of citizens in digitally-enabled urban projects, and their representation as actors subject to the calculative logic of smart cities. More detailed studies on citizenship follow a typology-based approach to assess the nature, depth and impact of citizen-involvement. This work is at risk of failing to challenge industry- and policy-led imaginings of the smart city, creating a static understanding of citizenship, and overlooking multiple and contested claims around what it means to be a ‘smart citizen’. This paper analyses the visions and practices of smart citizenship in a range of projects in Germany, ­­the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom which represent top down, bottom-up and hybrid urban governance strategies. Focussing on the knowledge politics shaping smart urban experiments, this paper assesses how citizenship is negotiated and enacted ‘on the ground’. We aim to develop a more dynamic and granular understanding of what it means to be a smart citizen and how this is distinctive to traditional forms of urban citizenship. This is achieved by examining: empirical practices at the project level, actors’ contrasting visions and experiences of taking action in the smart city, and negotiations around more or less active citizenship roles within patterns of shared responsibility. We highlight the contested legitimation of project outcomes as set against existing city politics, and how modes of smart citizenship change over time and space. Inaugurating this process-based perspective of smart citizenship enables assessment of the potential pathways, effects and limitations of citizen engagement with smart urban projects.

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