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Accepted Paper:

Visualizing Smart City Futures  
Regev Nathansohn

Paper short abstract:

Based on observations in meeting points between smart city stakeholders (high-tech entrepreneurs and public sector employees), the paper shows how they function as storytellers who use future scenarios and visualizations to advance their interests.

Paper long abstract:

Many cities around the world have been defined as “Smart Cities.” While there is no single agreed-upon definition of the term, most definitions refer to cities that implement digital technology applications as a solution to concerns arising from population growth, and as a tool for improving efficiency, governance, and the quality of life in the city. Smart City advocates promote this techno-utopianism by highlighting the ways that techno-scientific solutions of digital intelligence can yield economic, environmental, and social benefits in future-focused scenarios. At the same time, there is a great deal of criticism of such projects. This paper focuses on gaps between visual presentations of smart city systems and the reality on the ground. The paper is based on visual analysis of observations conducted in several meeting points between high-tech entrepreneurs and public sector employees (in exhibitions, conferences, seminars, meetups and hackathons), and of promotional materials distributed by stakeholders. As I will show, one of the salient features of the habitus developed in this field is that entrepreneurs, and gradually also public sector employees, function in these situations as storytellers who use future scenarios and visualizations to advance their interests, while description and analysis of the past and the present becoming redundant. According to the dominant storyline, in order to cope with the increase in the number of city dwellers, cities must be made more intelligent by digital technology.

Panel P13a
Towards an anthropology of future images: ethics, politics, and creativity
  Session 1 Friday 10 June, 2022, -