Accepted Paper:

Tensions and contradictions behind the Smart City in Barcelona: from liberals (2011-2015) to New Municipalism (2015-)  


Hug March (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya)

Paper short abstract:

The paper focuses on the case of Barcelona to contrast how the Smart City concept has been implemented by two radically different administrations: liberal center-righ wing (2011-2015) and New Municipalism (2015-onwards).

Paper long abstract:

The 21st century has been hailed as the urban century and one in which ""smartness" will shape urban responses to global challenges. In the past few years, scholars have been trying to understand "why, how, for whom and with what consequences" the Smart City paradigm emerges in different urban contexts (Luque-Ayala and Marvin 2015:2106). Critical scholarship suggests that behind this ambiguous concept private capital and technocratic elites have found a techno-environmental fix to reshuffle economic growth. The concept, nonetheless, is still in its infancy and tensions and contradictions emerge along the process of "filling-in" it (Carvallho 205). Counterintuitively alternative uses of technologies can be 'game-changing', opening up a progressive, cooperative and citizen-based urban transformation (Hollands 2015; Glasmeier and Christopherson 2015). Barcelona is an interesting case that condenses the contradictory and ambiguous character behind Smart City discourses. The municipality embraced a (corporate) Smart City paradigm in 2011 under a liberal center-right wing government. In 2015, New Municipalism won the local elections with a radically different urban model in mind; however, the current administration has continued many strategies on smartness from the previous one. Through interviews with technicians, newspaper library research and analysis of reports, this paper aims to contrast the continuities and discontinuities in the Smart City implementation between two radically different political projects. More specifically it aims to shed light on what aspects, rationales, actors, and methodologies have been championed in each period, and what contradictions faces the current progressive government in implementing the concept.

Panel T008
Smart eco-cities: experimenting with new urban futures