Accepted Paper:

From Tidal Flats to a Smart City: Reassembling Songdo Using ANT Approach  


Chamee Yang (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

Paper short abstract:

This paper traces a recent history of Songdo, South Korea, where an ambitious "global, smart, and sustainable" city-making project/discourse has been prevailing. Using ANT as the main framework, this paper weaves together the relationships among multiple actors involved in this project/discourse.

Paper long abstract:

This paper traces a recent history of New Songdo City project (South Korea), a mega urban development project that was supposedly 'global' in its aspiration, 'smart' in its undertaking, and 'sustainable' in its outcome. This project/discourse has set a stage where multiple actors with multiple interests were brought together. The object of this study is to examine the development of social relationships through which certain attributes such as 'smartness' and 'sustainability' have become associated with certain actors and their practices in Songdo. As the site shifted its material configuration from wet tidal flats to a reclaimed land with artificially imposed urban infrastructure, relational dynamics among associated actors subsequently shifted. As it will be shown, different human and non-human actors were differently situated in their uneven encounters with the constant flow of capital, power and mobility.

This paper deploys the model of 'translation' suggested by Callon (1986) and follows the framework of 'flat ontology' by Latour (2005), in order to trace and weave the stories from multiple actors in current Songdo. Moving away both from technologically deterministic optimisms for the smart cities as well as from dystopian criticisms against it, this paper will offer an empirically grounded and historically informed account of a smart city.

Callon, Michel. 1986. "Some Elements of a Sociology of Translation: Domestication of the Scallops and the Fishermen of St Brieuc Bay."

Latour, Bruno. 2005. Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network Theory.

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