Technofictions: Putting Smart City Planning to Work in Brazilian Informal Settlements
(The University of Texas at Austin)
Paper short abstract:
Drawing on a participatory action research case study in São Paulo, Brazil, this paper analyzes the building and testing of a 3D scenario planning assessment tool that affords inhabitants of informal settlements the means to evaluate public policy and its impacts on future development alternatives.
Paper long abstract:
Smart City planning is often implemented through data-driven approaches that discount contexts devoid of basic physical, institutional, and informational infrastructure. This limitation calls into question the extent to which greater urban intelligence enables a more equitable interface between people and their environments, and raises two questions for those seeking alternatives: (1) how can Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) be retooled to empower citizens in low-income communities with data development relevant to their future aspirations; and (2) in what ways can smarter approaches overcome obstacles to sociotechnical change in the Global South? I consider these questions through the case of a participatory action study in São Paulo, where transdisciplinary researchers are building a 3D scenario-planning tool that permits citizens in informal settlements to evaluate the impacts of historical development on future alternatives. From a combined Science and Technology Studies (STS) and critical planning perspective, I provide a background of ICT use in informal settlement redevelopment, and the contribution of participatory and remote geosensing methods to the study. I then analyze the possibilities and limitations of citizen-derived technofictions as a planning support system, and the role of digital models in informing the political, cultural, and material contexts of which they are a part. Finally, I suggest the potential of anticipation, standards, and representation for operationalizing more robust alignments between conventional and emerging applications of ICTs in the Global South. By way of conclusion, I discuss the practical and theoretical implications of technofictions for infrastructural services, urban development, and smart city thinking.
Science and Technology for Social Justice