Book of the Day: Smart Cities as Democratic Ecologies

Book: Smart Cities as Democratic Ecologies. Ed. by Daniel Araya. Palgrave Macmillan, to be published fall 2014.


“There are over 400 cities in the world today with a population of more than one million urban residents and close to 20 cities with a population of more than 10 million. Indeed, over half the world’s population now lives in cities, and by 2050 seventy percent of the world’s population will live in cities. This remarkable urban growth has created vast policy and planning challenges related to infrastructure, governance and environmental sustainability. Examining the relationship between “smart cities” and civil society, this collection explores the contours of a new era in urban design.

The concept of the “smart city” as the convergence of urban planning and technological innovation has become a predominant feature of public policy discourse in recent years. Despite its expanding influence, however, there is little consensus on the precise meaning of a smart city. One reason for this ambiguity is that the term means different things to different disciplines. While for some, the concept of the smart city refers to advances in sustainability and green technologies. For others, it refers to the deployment of information and communication technologies (ICTs) as next generation infrastructure.

This edited volume focuses on a third strand in the discourse on smart cities, specifically democracy and civic engagement in a technology-driven knowledge economy. Building on affordances in sensor technologies, data analysis, and urban design, smart cities may have the potential to leverage newer and richer forms of democracy. Greenfield (2006), for example, proposes the idea of linking ubiquitous computing to “open public objects” facilitating new forms of citizen informatics. What are the consequences of layering public spaces with computationally mediated technologies? Foucault’s notion of the “panopticon” (a metaphor for a surveillance society) suggests that that smart technologies deployed in the design of smart cities should be evaluated in terms of the ways in which they enable (or curtail) new urban “literacies” and emergent social practices.

What is the potential of smart cities to become platforms for bottom-up civic engagement in the context of next generation communication, data sharing, and application development? In conjunction with issues related to power grids, transportation networks and water distribution systems, there is a growing need to examine the potential of smart cities as “networked ecologies” supporting citizen empowerment and user-driven innovation. This includes social practices and institutions that facilitate open innovation (Henry Chesbrough), commons-based peer production (Yochai Benkler), and collaborative consumption (Rachel Botsman).



Since the launch of technology-driven infrastructure projects like IBM’s Smart Planet and CISCO’s Smart Communities program, interest in smart cities has grown considerably. Despite this, there is a paucity of literature that explores issues overlapping democracy and civil society. Drawing on the work of leading scholars in urban planning, design, economics, and sociology, this volume focuses attention on changes in the relationship between citizen empowerment and urban design.


Table of Contents

Introduction: Smart Cities as Democratic Ecologies, Daniel Araya

1. Urban Research Machines: Engaging the Modern Urban Citizen, Anijo Punnen MathewIIT Institute of Design

2. The Social Nexus: Harnessing the Network, Carlo Ratti

3. The New Civic Technologies., Nigel Jacob

4. Peer to Peer Relationality: The City and Networked Innovation, Daniel Araya & Michel Bauwens

“Anonymity is nothing new in cities. What is more unusual and perhaps even contradictory is the convergence of sociability and anonymity in the city. Through an analysis of peer-to-peer (P2P) networks, we consider the growing value of systems for sharing and combining individual efforts on the Internet into collective tasks. If we look at the historical development of relationality, this may lead us to challenge any simplistic identification of P2P collaboration with anonymity. What is the potential of P2P for urban development, democratization and innovation? P2P has to be seen as an objectoriented sociality, where person-fragments cooperate around the creation of common value. What connects individuals who participate in open and shared knowledge? How does this collaborative logic seen in software and design projects connect individuals to some transcendental collective goal? How might building a universal operating system, constructing a universal free encyclopedia or constructing an open source car reshape the way we construct our cities?”
5. The Reconfiguration of Time and Place After the Emergence of Peer-To-Peer Infrastructures: Four Future Scenarios with an Impact on Urbanism, Vasilis Kostakis & Michel Bauwens

While Peer-to-Peer (P2P) infrastructures seem to embrace more and more aspects of human activities beyond time and place, conflicts persist around the control and uses of the new means of production. Within this context this essay attempts to tentatively introduce four future scenarios for economy and society, namely, netarchical capitalism, distributed capitalism, resilience communities and global Commons. We conclude that P2P-driven models allow profit making without profit maximizing through a successful combination of temporal and spacial orientations, as an alternative to the capital accumulation.
6. Are Creative and Green Cities also Smart and Clean? Kevin Stolarick and Olga Smirnova

7. Smart Cities Need Smart People, Tony Kim & Michelle Selinger

8. The Future of Civic Innovation, Alissa Black

9. Conversation and Narrative in the Smart City, Stan Ruecker and Piotr Michura

10. Designing New Mobilities for Accessible Cities: Scenarios for Seamless Journeys, Barbara Adkins & Marianella Chamorro-Koc

11. Zoning Experiments for Smart Cities, Roland Cole and Hassan Arif

12. ExtraUrbia, or, the Reconfiguration of Spaces and Flows in a Time of Spatial-Financial Crisis, Bill Cope & Mary Kalantzis

13. Surviving the Electronic Panopticon: New Lessons in Democracy, Surveillance, and Community in Young Adult Fiction, Kerry Mallan

14. Smart Cities: Towards the Surveillance Society? Tarun Wadhwa

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