'More than Borrowing': Libraries Enabling Inclusion in the Smart City

Authors: Teresa Abbruzzese*, York University, Brandon Hillier*, York University
Topics: Urban and Regional Planning, Gender, Social Geography
Keywords: smart city; narratives; gender; inclusion; libraries; Toronto; smart urbanism; citizen engagement; connectivity; digital divide
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Washington 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The marketization of the ‘smart city’ as a strategy to improve the competitive positioning of cities within the global ‘intelligent’ cities hierarchy, and as a technological approach for solving urban challenges, has preoccupied local governments around the world. ‘Smart cities’ pursue growth and regeneration in manners that are networked, automated and surveilled. We argue that the smart city represents a technological evolution of the ‘creative city’ in the new digital age of city-building, where the primary focus is on ICTs in regenerating and addressing urban values and issues. The solutions couched in a broader discourse on urban innovation are spatialized and packaged as edgy and ultra-connected visions that fuse the digital layer with urban development or as scientific tangible initiatives aligned with development goals of resilience and sustainability. This study turns a critical and intersectional lens on the production of the smart city narrative and its contextualization in the City of Toronto, Canada by examining the role of public libraries in producing a more accessible, inclusive, and gendered articulation of this technocratic vision. While attention in Toronto has been focused on the Sidewalk Labs development, as it is the first time a multinational corporation has been retained to serve as master developer, the contradictory role of libraries as enablers and as sites of democratic intervention has not been addressed in critical scholarly interventions. Informed through participant observation and semi-structured interviews, libraries are found to mediate the neoliberal logic of smart urbanism through education, citizen engagement, and connectivity.

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