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Smart City Futures: Crisis urbanism and the privatisation of governance

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  1. Smart City Futures: Crisis urbanism and the privatisation of governance Jim Merricks White The Programmable City Project NIRSA, NUI Maynooth

  2. Introduction • the rise of the smart city • new cities: Songdo, Masdar, PlanIT Valley, Palava • retrofitted cities: Rio de Janerio, Santander, NYC, etc • IBM’s Smarter Cities • Cisco’s Smart+Connected Communities • Intel’s Sustainable Connected Cities • u-city; smart eco-cities; safe cities; etc • the push back against the smart city • Greenfield (2013); Townsend (2013); Kitchin (2014) • ‘smart citizens’ (Hill 2013; Hemmet & Townsend 2013) • “a floating but not empty signifier” (Wolfram 2012)

  3. Structure of the paper • What is the smart city? • policy definition • technology definition • context of the neoliberal city • Anticipatory logics of the smart city • Crisis 1: Demographic pressure • Crisis 2: Climate change • Crisis 3: Fiscal austerity • Crisis urbanism • technocratic solutionism • privatisation and post-politics

  4. What is the smart city? • Kitchin (2014) identifies two smart cities • the smart city linked to policy debates (Hollands 2008) • the smart city as envisioned by technologists (Greenfield 2013) • both are concerned with the role played by ICT in the city • wired cities (Dutton et al 1987) • global cities (Sassen 1991) • cities of bits (Mitchell 1995) • network societies (Castells 1996) • digital cities (Ishida & Isbister 2000) • intelligent cities (Komninos 2002) • cyber cities (Graham 2004)

  5. A definition from policy literatures • Giffinger et al (2007) operationalise six domains of smartness: economy, people, governance, mobility, environment and living • ‘We believe a city to be smart when investments in human and social capital and traditional (transport) and modern (ICT) communication infrastructure fuel sustainable economic growth and a high quality of life, with a wise management of natural resources, through participatory governance.’ (Caragliu et al 2011, 70)

  6. A definition from technology literatures ‘It is through information and communications technologies that smart cities are truly turning ‘smart’. This is facilitated by means of services that use, among others, networked sensors and actuators deployed in the city, allowing the monitoring of the urban environment in real time, to react just in time if needed and to establish automated control processes with less or even without human intervention.’ (Dohler et al 2013, 70)

  7. The smart city and the neoliberal city • with the decline of (Keynesian) managerialism, Harvey identifies: • “that urban governments had to be much more innovative and entrepreneurial, willing to explore all kinds of avenues through which to alleviate their distressed condition and thereby secure a better future for their populations” (1989, 4) • the question becomes one of strategy • human and creative capital • ‘skills, sun and sprawl’ (Glaeser, quoted in Peck 2005) • ‘technology, talent and tolerance’ (Florida 2005) • a tension between local strategies and global city ranking tables • Peck & Tickell (2002); Kitchin et al (2012) • Economist Intelligence Unit's ‘Livability Ranking and Overview’

  8. Anticipatory logics of the smart city • Anderson's (2010) heuristic for futures made actionable in the present helps frame the reconciliation made between: • the local and the global • inevitability and contingency • logics of anticipatory action: • preemption — intervention to prevent the emergence of undesirable threats • precaution — acts to stop threats reaching a point of irreversibility • preparedness — ensures the perseverance of valued life under conditions of perceived threat

  9. Table 1. Heuristic for anticipatory logics (adapted from Anderson 2010, 792) “each logic… can co-exist within responses to any one event, contingency or crisis” (Anderson 2010, 788)

  10. Crisis 1: Demographic pressure • United Nations models indicate that by 2050, 6.5 billion people will live in cities, compared to an estimated 3.5 billion today • rising demands for water and energy • escalating traffic congestion • concerns for public safety • growing demands on healthcare, education and housing • an ageing population • demand on healthcare and state pensions • a shrinking taxation pool • an anticipatory logic of preparedness; does not attempt to address causes of demographic pressure or resource scarcity • breaks the challenge into smaller problems which can be preempted

  11. Crisis 2: Climate change • sustainability; a strategy of mitigation and a logic of precaution • “While cities are a major part of the problem of sustainability, they also have the potential to be a part of the solution. Urban citizens, particularly in developed economies, have lower carbon footprints than rural and suburban citizens as it is easier to deliver services in cities than to people living in lower density population areas.” (Green 2011, 10) • resilience; a strategy of adaptation and a logic of preparedness • “A smarter city infuses information into its physical infrastructure to improve conveniences, facilitate mobility, add efficiencies, conserve energy, improve the quality of air and water, identify problems and fix them quickly, [and] recover rapidly from disasters…” (Kanter & Litow 2009, 2)

  12. Crisis 3: Fiscal austerity • IBM researchers Harrison and Donnelly (2011) state that the core motivation for city governments seeking to adopt the smart city as being grounded in economic development • post-crisis cities are faced with a dual pressure • the entrepreneurial city; a national and an international competition between similarly sized cities for foreign direct investment (FDI) and highly-mobile, highly-skilled workers • post-crisis fiscal austerity in which local and national governments needs to be seen to be doing more with less • the smart city is presented as a precautionary solution • maximise the appeal to FDI and skilled labour • automate the work of governance and civil society to help stop the crisis from deepening

  13. Table 2. Smart city anticipatory logics

  14. Crisis urbanism • anticipatory logics: the smart city would act to secure and discipline valued life • preserving the neoliberal urbanite • producing docile bodies through a socio-technical assemblage of auto-mated measurement and management • “[B]ecause the disaster is incubating within the present, life will remain tensed on the threshold of disaster even if an immediate threat is acted against. Anticipatory action must, therefore, become a permanent part of liberal democracies if disaster is to be averted.” (Anderson 2010, 780)

  15. The normalisation of technocratic solutions • global crises are presented as inherently complex • generalisable solutions exist, but they must be: • technological rather than political • implemented at the local rather than (inter)national scale • lead by private rather than public actors • the normalisation of technological solutions (Morozov 2013), e.g. • growth and the green economy (Wolfram 2012) • labour flexibility and the smart economy (Vanolo 2014) • interwoven with a crisis of representative politics • a re-articulation of power at the city region • the figure of the pragmatic mayor

  16. Privatisation and the post-political • governance/regulation enacted through public-private partnerships • ‘roll-out’ neoliberalism (Peck & Tickell 2002) • the ‘new contractualism’ (Yeatman 2002) • governance as a site of capital accumulation (Gleeson 2014, 68) • binding governance into assurance and procurement contracts • immune from democratic oversight (Raco 2014) • permanent crisis • moving from Klein’s (2007) shock doctrine (Rahm Emanuel: “you never want a serious crisis to go to waste”) • to a state in which crisis itself becomes normalised (Žižek 2010) • capitalism does not solve its crises, so much rearrange them; Harvey’s geographical fix is also a technological fix

  17. Conclusion • purpose of paper • not to refute crises • but to show how the smart city discourse recruits, rearranges, represents and reterritorialises them • Anderson’s (2010) heuristic framework of anticipatory logics shows how futures are rendered actionable in the present to • protect and discipline valued life • normalisation of technocratic solutions, city-scale agency and state privatisation • normalisation of crisis as a strategy of neoliberal governance

  18. Thank YouQ&A Jim Merricks White james.white1@unimelb.edu.au james.white.2014@nuim.ie @jimmerricks

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