Smart urban experimentation 2: Opening the blackbox of knowledge politics & decision-making.

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups: Digital Geographies Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM (Eastern Standard Time)
Room: 8222, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Organizers: Rachel Macrorie, Philipp Spaeth, Pamela Robinson
Chairs: Pamela Robinson

Call for Submissions

In particular, we invite papers that:
• Open up the ‘black box’ of the smart city to scrutinise the multiple ways in which smart experiments shape knowledge politics in particular urban contexts.
• Examine knowledge politics in formal, corporate-led initiatives and informal, grassroots-led smart urban experimentation, as well as hybrid combinations.
• Interrogate the forms of knowledge that are produced by smart urban experiments, and the role of new information technologies and analytical methods in knowledge legitimisation.
• Develop theoretical understandings of how smart urbanism experiments re-shape and/or reinforce urban knowledge politics.
• Compare the knowledge politics in smart urban experimentation intended to address different challenges including: mobility and access, urban regeneration, anticipatory management of urban services, sensing and urban environmental monitoring, urban planning and public engagement etc.
• Undertake comparative analysis of knowledge politics and learning between smart urban experiments across urban domains and in different global cities.
• Identify how alternative forms of knowledge practices in inclusive smart urban experiments are shaping new emancipatory interfaces between business, city administrations and citizen initiatives.
• Debate the potentially uneven power structures, urban geographies and policy implications associated with the knowledge politics of smart experimentation.


Convenors: Rachel Macrorie (Sheffield), Simon Marvin (Sheffield), Philipp Spaeth (Freiburg), Pamela Robinson (Ryerson).
Sponsor: AAG Digital Geographies Speciality Group

Smart cities, it is argued, provide a flexible and responsive means of addressing contemporary grand challenges and building a more socially inclusive society (European Commission, 2012). However corporate rhetoric and singular digitally-enabled strategic visions used to signify the smart city mask the multiplicity of urban assemblages through which these initiatives are constituted. Materialisations of smart city visions privilege some forms of knowledge and action, which serves particular political and economic interests and marginalises others. This is reflected in what we refer to as urban ‘knowledge politics’ (Fischer, 2000). As smart city projects are increasingly trialed and implemented across the world, there is an urgent need to understand how these developments challenge, adapt or reinforce current ways of ‘knowing the city’, how the politics of knowing the city are being (re)configured, and what this means for urban transformations.

In this session, we respond to this agenda by adopting a critical smart urbanism perspective to examine why, how, and to what extent different types of experiments initiated by multiple urban interests – such as i) formal, smart city experiments; ii) emerging, informal ‘do-it-yourself’ grassroots experiments; and iii) ‘hybrid’ experiments that combine elements of both – are (re-)shaping the knowledge politics of urban decision-making. Recognising that this differentiation is somewhat artificial, we seek contributions that examine various forms of smart urban experiments and contrast how evidence is produced, represented, applied and legitimised as reliable knowledge that can underpin urban governance decisions. Whose knowledge is taken into account and how is it constructed, who has access to data, data analytics and experimental outcomes, and how are results of trials used to engender change (or reinforce power dynamics) within the city?

Seeking to understand how, why and with what consequences smart urban experiments are being undertaken, we request contributions that illuminate, both theoretically and empirically, how contrasting forms of smart urban experiments affect knowledge politics and with what implications for urban governance.


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Fredrik Envall*, Linköping University, Harald Rohracher*, Linköping University, Dick Magnusson, Linköping University, Smart energy experiments in urban settings: knowledge circulation and infrastructural power 20 9:55 AM
Presenter Rachel Macrorie*, University of Sheffield, Constructing a European market for smart cities: A “common” framework? 20 10:15 AM
Presenter Debra Mackinnon*, Queen's University, “Smart” Accounting: Accounts and Accountability with Urban Asset Management Applications 20 10:35 AM
Presenter Tom Narins*, University at Albany, Ryan Kiggins, University of Central Oklahoma, Surveillance in Smart Cities: Technology induced spatial reconfigurations of governance in Shanghai and Mexico City 20 10:55 AM
Presenter Timothy Moss*, IRI THESys Humboldt University of Berlin, Friederike Voigt, IRI THESys Humboldt University of Berlin, Smart urban nature: digital publics re-coding ecology in Berlin 20 11:15 AM

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