Smart urban experimentation 1: Conceptualising urban knowledge politics & decision-making.

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups: Digital Geographies Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM (Eastern Standard Time)
Room: 8222, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Organizers: Rachel Macrorie, Philipp Spaeth, Pamela Robinson
Chairs: Rachel Macrorie

Call for Submissions

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.

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.


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?


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Ryan Burns*, University of Calgary, “Smart” Is Not a Thing: Epistemological Framings and Limits of Smart Cities 20 8:00 AM
Presenter Philipp Spaeth*, Freiburg University, Joerg Knieling, Hafen-City University Hamburg, Trying to pave the way for Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) – The knowledge politics of Smart City experiments in Hamburg 20 8:20 AM
Presenter I-Chun Catherine Chang*, Macalester College, Sue-Ching Jou, National Taiwan University, Ming-Kuang Chung, National Taiwan University, Provincializing Smart Urbanism in Taipei: Smart City as a Strategy for Urban Regime Transition 20 8:40 AM
Presenter Laura Oers*, Copernicus Institute for Sustainable Development - Utrecht University, Philipp Spath, University of Freiburg, Rob Raven, Monash Sustainable Development Institute, Eric Jolivet, Toulouse 1 University Capitole, Simon Marvin, Urban Institute - The University of Sheffield, Smart Mobility as a new way of knowing the city - Different perspectives and drivers of institutional work in four European cities 20 9:00 AM
Presenter Debbie Hopkins*, University of Oxford, Knowing and Governing through Urban Experimentation 20 9:20 AM

To access contact information login