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Smart yet (in)Sensible? Feminist Critical Perspectives on “Smart Cities” I

Sat, September 2, 9:00 to 10:30am, Sheraton Boston, 3, Clarendon

Session Submission Type: Traditional (Closed) Panel

Abstract

The Smart City is a topic with global importance across diverse sites. Consider recent initiatives such as the White House's “Smart Cities”, New York’s Sidewalk Labs, or Smart City Barcelona, all vying to define the city as a magical frontier full of “smart technologies” that will benefit its citizens. The smart city evokes images of a techno-utopic city: where traffic flow is managed efficiently; where data move at lightning speed to underpin ‘smart’ decision making; where negative environmental impacts are sensed and defused. Implicit in these scenarios is the material infrastructure that supports them: high-speed connectivity, sensors, the Internet of Things, and Big Data. In light of such ubiquitous computing “smart” city systems, this panel asks: is the “smart city” a sensible city? Contributing to the growing social science critique of “smart” cities, this panel problematizes the “tidy” and “efficient” vision of technologically determined smart city system design. The panel asks questions such as: In what ways do smart cities reinforce or disrupt structures of power, modes of knowledge creation, or everyday experiences and encounters? Does smart city design facilitate opportunities for civic agency and civic imaginaries—in other words how might we understand “smart” technologies in relation to sense (accessible and actionable) and sensibility (affective and engaged)? We invite papers that reflect on the past, present, and futures of smart city discourses and practices from critical perspectives of Science and Technology Studies that include feminist, critical race theory, data science, urban planning, and design studies, among others.

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