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Smart urban living in Singapore? Thinking through everyday geographies

Authors: Si Jie Ivin Yeo*, National University Of Singapore
Topics: Urban Geography
Keywords: Smart urbanism, everyday life, infrastructure, lived experience, ethnography, Singapore
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper focuses on the lived practices of individuals in urban spaces that are increasingly retrofitted with smart technologies. Drawing upon geographical work on everyday life, I examine how ordinary urban dwellers understand, encounter and use smart infrastructures such as sensors, surveillance cameras and sewage pipes in their everyday geographies: the home and the neighbourhood. Based on ethnographic fieldwork and responses gathered from public housing residents in Singapore, I argue that most people’s engagements with infrastructures on the ground tend to be so much more fluid and nuanced than conventional evaluations of smart urbanism that are dichotomous (i.e. ‘good’ or ‘bad’). On one level, some individuals are simply unaware that these technologies are at work in their everyday spaces, pointing not only to the banality of infrastructures but also their potential to be mobilised by state authorities to extend their capillary power. On another level, there are individuals who are complicit in reproducing state-sanctioned rhetoric of smart urbanism as ‘efficient’ and ‘convenient’ along with individuals who actively reject these technologies and their discourses, shoring up here the complexity of lived realities that is often under-acknowledged in narratives of smart urbanisation. Beyond drawing empirical attention to how smart technologies are reconfiguring socio-spatial relations and reworking the urban fabric, this paper contributes to the scholarship by highlighting the analytical value of ‘the everyday’ in understanding the materiality of urban infrastructures.

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