Tracing and placing the 'smart' urban r/evolution: three spatial genealogies

Authors: Jacob Forrest*, University of British Columbia
Topics: Urban Geography, Geographic Theory, Historical Geography
Keywords: smart urbanism, urban data, governmentality, genealogy
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Executive Room, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Smart urbanism (SU) has been argued to amplify a logic of governing the urban through indeterminacy, probability, and complexity. The dynamism of the digital feedback loop appears to be replacing a modernist imperative of representational fixity in contemporary governmentality (Halpern et al. 2013; Klauser et al. 2014; Gabrys 2014; Krivý 2018). Yet as Kitchin et al. (2017) suggest, SU’s governmental logics are mutable. Despite emerging research on SU's antecedents, the critical SU literature still lacks a robust historical understanding of this mutability. How do both pre-existing and emergent influences shape this urban phenomenon in specific contexts? This paper asks how we might further investigate SU’s historicity. Focusing specifically on the governmental role of urban data, I first unpack Orit Halpern’s (2014) approach to a genealogy of datafication that tacks back and forth between the contemporary multiplicity of data-driven governance and its lingering pre-histories. Secondly, I bring Halpern’s approach into conversation with governmentality scholar William Walters (2012), who pluralizes the concept of genealogy itself. I geographically twist Walters’s (2012) ‘styles’ of genealogy to propose three spatial genealogies of SU, which would trace its emergent urban-governmental logics; register its circulatory resonances through time and space; and recover urban data’s subjugated “truth-spots” (Gieryn 2006) in pursuit of alternative SUs (McFarlane & Söderström 2017). I conclude by suggesting that these non-exclusive genealogical approaches could help (re)situate SU in its historical and geographical multiplicity, while committing to Both/And accounts of its shifts and continuities – its r/evolution.

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