Accepted Paper:

Exploring problem-centred smart / digital urbanism in Australia  


Ralph Horne (RMIT University)
Lauren Rickards (RMIT University)

Paper short abstract:

Deriving a typology for problem-centred digital urbanism set around climate change, equity and accountability, we argue for transitioning to be oriented around actual existing urban problems. Australian examples are introduced in a context of smart/digital urbanism policies and possibilities

Paper long abstract:

What do smart/digital urban logics do to social differences and do they exacerbate urban problems? As a way to interrogate the multiple definitions of the smart city and their social implications, the paper proposes a typology for understanding the multiple meanings, as a starting point for interrogating problem-centred smart/digital urbanism. Drawing upon previous work, we consider three meanings of 'smart' (intelligent, entrepreneurial, and progressive) and three meanings of urban (agglomeration, hub and scale) to create nine possible intersections of smart city logics. We then draw upon examples to illustrate the utility of this heuristic, providing prospective evaluation of the problem-solving power (or not) of selected smart city initiatives.

The problem-centred approach provides a means to identify ideas, plans and projects that (a) may exacerbate rather than address urban problems (e.g. are simply a business idea looking for a market) or (b) address problems in only limited and potentially problematic ways. For example, an eco-smart city obtained at the expense of - or silent on - widening inequality and failing democratic governance is not tenable as a genuinely pluralistic problem-centred smart city. Beyond curating or sorting, it the paper draws attention to the missing elements and how these missing elements arise from the circulation of power in selection processes of technologies, projects and logics of smart/digital urbanism. Problem-centred digital urbanism is a means to situate within actual urban problems, the disruption of relations and social structures and reordering of the city wrought by smart city initiatives.

Panel C13
Assembling the smart city: exploring the contours of social difference