Accepted Paper:

Towards the smart city 2.0: smartness as a tool for tackling social problems  


Gregory Trencher (Tohoku University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines Aizuwakamatsu Smart City in Fukushima, Japan in a socially stressed region to demonstrate how a 'smart city 2.0' can transcend top-down techno-economic ambitions to use technologies and data as tools for tackling endogenous social challenges and addressing resident needs.

Paper long abstract:

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 is visibly lacking. 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 paper examines Aizuwakamatsu Smart City in Fukushima, Japan to demonstrate 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' or 'top-down' verses 'bottom-up' approaches and appreciate the hybrid, messy reality of on-the-ground smart cities and the co-existence of contrasting yet complementary visions and approaches.

Panel A10
Commoning the smart city