Alan Wiig is a PhD Candidate in Geography at Temple University.
[ website ]
After the Smart City, What?:
Ubiquitous Computing Technologies and the Networked Urban Condition
The ability of data-driven, smart city projects to generate transformative urban change are popular, important topics today, but little attention has been paid to the actual, existing cities that underlie these social and technological developments, to charting how smart city projects have integrated into the urban landscape itself. The smart city is a culmnation of ubiquitous computing and the potential of wireless connectivity to effect change. In a smart city, smartphones, networked sensors, data analytics, and the like are intended to improve the flow of people, goods, and information throughout said city. However, the impacts of these changes often remain unclear and under-examined. It is necessary to not only ask what a smart city is and could become, but also who will benefit and where the impacts of these projects will be located. Beyond the celebratory rhetoric of urban intelligence that cities employ to attract business and improve day-to-day issues for residents, this talk will investigate how cities have actively transformed. Through a place-based case study of Philadelphia’s recent smart city efforts, this talk will begin by considering how the always-on, wireless connectivity of a smart, networked city has enabled new forms of civic exchange, municipal governance, and workforce-inclusion agendas. Next I will examine the spatial consequences of Philadelphia’s entrepreneurial efforts to attract key industries of the global information and innovation economy in ‘smart’ zones of the city. The talk will conclude with a consideration of the emerging geography of smart, digital Philadelphia as emblematic of networked urbanism overlaid with ubiquitous computing: as the near-future promise of the smart city to improve the urban condition has been integrated into often splintered and polarized urban landscapes, the areas of the city that attain a 'smart' status were already well-off. For a variety of reasons I will discuss, the benefits have not dispersed very well into the greater city, signaling that this era of digitally-driven urban improvement has not yet lessened longstanding social inequalities as much as was promised.