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Smart contradictions: The politics of making Barcelona a Self-sufficient city

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In recent years, the Smart City has become a very popular concept amongst policymakers
and urban planners. However, at the same time as new urban Smart interventions are being designed and applied, insufficient attention has been paid to how these strategies are inserted into the wider political economy and, in particular, the political ecology of urban transformation.
Therefore, in this presentation the authors (Hug March and Ramon Ribera-Fumaz) critically explore the implementation of the Smart City, tracing how the “environment” and environmental concerns have become an organising principle in Barcelona’s Smart City strategy. Through an urban political ecology prism they aim to critically reflect upon the contradictions of the currently existing Smart City in Barcelona and
how Smart discourses and practices might be intentionally or unintentionally mobilised in
ways that serve to depoliticise urban redevelopment and environmental management. The
presentation stresses the need to repoliticize the debates on the Smart City and put citizens back at the centre of the urban debate.

Published in: Government & Nonprofit
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Smart contradictions: The politics of making Barcelona a Self-sufficient city

  1. 1. Smart Contradictions The Politics of Making Barcelona a Self-sufficient City Hug March & Ramon Ribera-Fumaz Urban Transformation Research Group Internet Interdisciplinary Institute Based on: March, H ; Ribera-Fumaz, R, (2014): Smart Contradictions: The Politics of Making Barcelona a Self-sufficient City. European Urban and Regional Studies, doi: 10.1177/0969776414554488 1 Smart Contradictions
  2. 2. Smart City 2
  3. 3. When investments in human and social capital and traditional (transport) and modern (ICT) communication infrastructure fuel sustainable economic development and a high quality of life, with a wise management of natural resources, through participatory governance (Caragliu et al., 2009: 50) Smart City 3
  4. 4. 4 When investments in human and social capital and traditional (transport) and modern (ICT) communication infrastructure fuel sustainable economic development and a high quality of life, with a wise management of natural resources, through participatory governance (Caragliu et al., 2009: 50) ...Urban flavour of the month Smart City
  5. 5. 5 Smart Contradictions Smart City
  6. 6. Smart Contradictions So... 6
  7. 7. Smart Contradictions Is the smart city a radical shift? Or old wine in new bottles? Is empowering citizens? Or is a disciplinary technology? ... So... 7
  8. 8. Smart Contradictions Is the smart city a radical shift? Or old wine in new bottles? Is empowering citizens? Or is a disciplinary technology? ... … the goal is to… Critically explore the central role of ‘the environment’ in articulating Smart City policies and its insertion in a wider political economy and ecology of urban transformation and urban services provision to answer the previous questions So... 8
  9. 9. 9 Smart Contradictions Is the smart city a radical shift? Or old wine in new bottles? Is empowering citizens? Or is a disciplinary technology? ... … the goal is to… Critically explore the central role of ‘the environment’ in articulating Smart City policies and its insertion in a wider political economy and ecology of urban transformation and urban services provision to answer the previous questions … how… Urban political ecology So...
  10. 10. 10 Smart Contradictions Is the smart city a radical shift? Or old wine in new bottles? Is empowering citizens? Or is a disciplinary technology? ... … the goal is to… Critically explore the central role of ‘the environment’ in articulating Smart City policies and its insertion in a wider political economy and ecology of urban transformation and urban services provision to answer the previous questions … where… So... … how… Urban political ecology
  11. 11. Smart Contradictions Barcelona 11
  12. 12. Smart Contradictions Barcelona Self-sufficient City 12
  13. 13. Smart Contradictions Barcelona Self-sufficient City 13 Barcelona Growth Centre
  14. 14. Smart Contradictions Barcelona Self-sufficient City 14 Self-sufficient superblocks
  15. 15. Smart Contradictions Barcelona Self-sufficient City 15 Fablabs/Civic Centres
  16. 16. Smart Contradictions Barcelona Self-sufficient City 16 22@ Heat & Cold Network
  17. 17. Smart Contradictions Barcelona smart sustainability fix 17
  18. 18. Smart Contradictions Contradictions 18
  19. 19. Smart Contradictions Contradictions A new ontology of how cities should organise and manage Post-political city Citizen’s participation and bottom-up Top-down strategy Discursively it puts citizens in the middle: participation, makers, empowering…. “more control over their own life” Yet, citizens are absent or ill defined in its implementation Are we talking about users, consumers, producers, citizens…? 19
  20. 20. Smart Contradictions Contradictions A new ontology of how cities should organise and manage Post-political city Citizen’s participation and bottom-up Top-down strategy Whose city? 20 Discursively it puts citizens in the middle: participation, makers, empowering…. “more control over their own life” Yet, citizens are absent or ill defined in its implementation Are we talking about users, consumers, producers, citizens…?
  21. 21. Smart Contradictions Contradictions The Smart/Self-sufficient city paradigm is more than the next generation of managing socio-environmental flows though another layer of ICT infrastructure over the modern urbanism form. Yet, by transforming socio- environmental problems into essentially engineering problems – to be solved using empirically generated quantitative data – it de- politises the making of urban life. Technology is not neutral! Social problems are social, not technological A new ontology of how cities should organise and manage Post-political city Citizen’s participation and bottom-up Top-down strategy New ontology of how cities should organise and be managed Post-political city Whose city? 21
  22. 22. Smart Contradictions Contradictions A new ontology of how cities should organise and manage Post-political city Citizen’s participation and bottom-up Top-down strategy Post-political city Whose city? Urgent need to Repoliticise the City 22 New ontology of how cities should organise and be managed The Smart/Self-sufficient city paradigm is more than the next generation of managing socio-environmental flows though another layer of ICT infrastructure over the modern urbanism form. Yet, by transforming socio- environmental problems into essentially engineering problems – to be solved using empirically generated quantitative data – it de- politises the making of urban life. Technology is not neutral! Social problems are social, not technological
  23. 23. Smart Contradictions Contradictions A new ontology of how cities should organise and manage Post-political city Citizen’s participation and bottom-up Top-down strategy Post-political city Whose city? Urgent need to Repoliticise the City Going beyond (false) dualisms over nature and society and re-imagining the city through knowledge based urbanism Yet, in the context of crisis, austerity politics and urban dynamics lead by land rents, is being Smart so important? (see Charnock, Purcell, Ribera-Fumaz 2014) Bringing knowledge and nature at the core of urban life City of (Self-sufficient) rents 23 New ontology of how cities should organise and be managed
  24. 24. Smart Contradictions Contradictions A new ontology of how cities should organise and manage Post-political city Citizen’s participation and bottom-up Top-down strategy Post-political city Whose city? Urgent need to Repoliticise the City Importance of “not so smart” urban infrastructure Bringing knowledge and nature at the core of urban life City of (Self-sufficient) rents 24 New ontology of how cities should organise and be managed Going beyond (false) dualisms over nature and society and re-imagining the city through knowledge based urbanism Yet, in the context of crisis, austerity politics and urban dynamics lead by land rents, is being Smart so important? (see Charnock, Purcell, Ribera-Fumaz 2014)
  25. 25. Smart Contradictions Contradictions Universal solutions A-geographical Smart solutions as transfe- rable and scalable every- where (NY to Mumbai, Antarctica, the Jungle!) Yet, are pilots scalable/transferable beyond their context? How SCs are produced? A new ontology of how cities should organise and manage Post-political city Citizen’s participation and bottom-up Top-down strategy Post-political city Whose city? Urgent need to Repoliticise the City Importance of “not so smart” urban infrastructure Bringing knowledge and nature at the core of urban life City of (Self-sufficient) rents 25 New ontology of how cities should organise and be managed
  26. 26. Smart Contradictions Contradictions A new ontology of how cities should organise and manage Post-political city Citizen’s participation and bottom-up Top-down strategy Post-political city Whose city? Urgent need to Repoliticise the City Importance of “not so smart” urban infrastructure Bringing knowledge and nature at the core of urban life City of (Self-sufficient) rents Geographies and Geometries of Power and SC production 26 Universal solutions A-geographical New ontology of how cities should organise and be managed Yet, are pilots scalable/transferable beyond their context? How SCs are produced? Smart solutions as transfe- rable and scalable every- where (NY to Mumbai, Antarctica, the Jungle!)
  27. 27. Smart Contradictions Conclusions 27
  28. 28. Smart Contradictions Conclusions 28 Whose city? Urgent need to Repoliticise the City Importance of “not so smart” urban infrastructure Geographies and Geometries of Power and SC production
  29. 29. Smart Contradictions Conclusions 29 Whose city? Urgent need to Repoliticise the City Importance of “not so smart” urban infrastructure Geographies and Geometries of Power and SC production How can we manage those contradictions? Can we think in forms of democratic control over the production of knowledge and on managing and organizing urban (technological) infrastructure for the many and not the few?
  30. 30. Smart Contradictions Conclusions 30 How can we manage those contradictions? Can we think in forms of democratic control over the production of knowledge and on managing and organizing urban (technological) infrastructure for the many and not the few? e.g. Gorostiza S., March H., & Sauri D. (In press). Urban Ecology Under Fire Whose city? Urgent need to Repoliticise the City Importance of “not so smart” urban infrastructure Geographies and Geometries of Power and SC production

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