Both smart and social: Smart Cities as a Tool for Tackling Social Problems
Venue: Room 1.69/1.70, Humanities Bridgeford Street, The University of Manchester
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While scholars critique the dominating corporate model of the smart city for failing to deliver on social agendas and authentically respond to the needs of citizens, many point to a potential to move beyond narrow environmental and economic objectives and tackle social issues. But concrete empirical evidence of this potential lacks in scholarship. In parallel, researchers have brought attention to the emergence of a so-called 'smart city 2.0.' This is framed as a decentralised, people-centric approach where smart technologies are employed as tools to tackle social problems, address citizen needs and foster collaborative participation. This contrasts to the techno-economic and centralised approach of the dominating 'smart city 1.0' paradigm, which is primarily focused on diffusing smart technologies for corporate and economic interests.
Utilising this dichotomy as an analytical framework, this lecture examines from Aizuwakamatsu Smart City in Fukushima, Japan to understand how a smart city can be framed and implemented as a tool for tackling endogenous social challenges. Findings unearth a myriad of novel approaches to utilising data and ICT to respond to citizen needs, improve livelihoods and widely share smart city benefits. Yet they also point to a need to transcend polarised discourses of a 'smart city 1.0' verses 'smart city 2.0' and appreciate the hybrid, messy reality of the on-the-ground smart cities and the co-existence of contrasting yet complementary visions and approaches.
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