Accepted Paper:

Performativity of visions in assembling a climate-smart city district  


Darcy Parks (Linköping University, Sweden)

Paper short abstract:

This paper analyses how the vision of a “climate-smart” city contributes to urban change in Malmö, Sweden. I use assemblage urbanism and the sociology of expectations to follow how actors create visions and how visions become performative. I show how actors struggle to maintain the credibility of visions.

Paper long abstract:

"Climate-smart Hyllie" is a new city district under construction in Malmö, Sweden. The 2011 Climate Contract, an agreement between the city government and the energy company E.ON, envisions Hyllie as a climate-smart demonstration project. This vision proposes a smart grid and a goal of being climate neutral by 2020. Five years later, the smart grid is in its infancy and the climate neutrality goal is at risk. What role has this vision played?

This paper integrates assemblage urbanism and the sociology of expectations to analyse how visions contribute to the active dynamics of an 'actually existing' smart city district. My analytical starting point is that visions are generic expectations that the city government, E.ON and others create and interpret strategically. I follow how visions become performative in attempts to attract resources and build coalitions within the multiple sites and processes where Hyllie is being assembled. I analyse how the credibility of the Climate Contract is interdependent with specific expectations about a smart energy grid, urban wind turbines, and energy-efficient buildings. My study is based on interviews, participant observation and document analysis.

My analysis shows that the Climate Contract is an important resource for E.ON, an international privately-owned energy company, as it tests and commercialises smart grid technologies. However, the contract's credibility suffers due to a competing vision, struggles to enrol other actors, and unfulfilled promises. As a result, proponents of the Climate Contract must re-interpret the vision for climate-smart Hyllie and make new attempts to enrol actors and attract resources.

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