The SCiM team convened a panel to exchange perspectives on social difference in the smart city, in the context of the 2018 biennial conference of the European Association for the Study of Science and Technology (EASST). The theme for the conference was "Meetings" - making science, technology and society together. The conference invited exploration of alignments and intersections which made the conference of significant interest to SCiM as a venue to engage with other scholars exploring the smart city and the socio-technical dynamics taking place within it. The "Confluence, collaboration and intersection" stream of EASST2018 was of particular interest as it invited exploration of how 'interests' take shape, evolve, conjoin through innovation networks, technology adoption, infrastructures and standardisations; the dynamics of how social practices evolve, intersect and re-form over time; and the making of new alliances and forms of inclusive and creative collaboration. While such dynamics are not exclusive to the smart city, they are indeed highly relevant to emerging and experimental forms of urbanism, and thus the SCiM team decided to convene a panel titled "Assembling the smart city: exploring the contours of social difference".
The call for the panel was as follows:
'Smart' cities are being figured as meeting places where multifarious things come together gathered by a vision of digital-led urban transformation. This panel invites contributions that follow some aspect of this to better understand how Smart participates in patterning social difference. By curating rich accounts of smart cities in the making, in this panel we are interested in bringing the problematic of Smart into view and exploring how specifically, it (re)shapes contours of social difference. We argue this is a 'matter of composition' in two related senses. First, Smart initiatives change what the cities where they are situated are composed of in various ways. Sensors, servers, data, hubs; if the urban is always constituted of all sorts of heterogeneous materialities, the social of smart cities is populated with new, more, and different sorts of things and relations. Second, Smart initiatives change how the cities where they are situated are composed. If the urban is never singular but instead a multiple object-space, the social of smart cities is known, managed, governed and so on in new, more, and different ways. By better understanding both precisely what sorts of material practices come together in specific smart city situations such as smart governance practices and how those material practices are configured by the ways those situations are always already saturated with power, we seek insight into what sorts of activity, what sorts of ways of urban life do specific versions of Smart make more or less possible; when, where, for whom?
We received an overwhelming number of quality submissions, leading to the acceptance of 7 papers as listed below:
Datafied spaces: (re)figurating the city as laboratory Author: Sandra Balbierz (University EichstÃ¤tt-Ingolstadt)
Exploring problem-centred smart / digital urbanism in Australia Authors: Ralph Horne (RMIT University) , Lauren Rickards (RMIT University)
Partial platforms: the everyday life of oligoptic geospatial technologies in the neoliberal city Authors: Debra Mackinnon, David Murakami Wood (Queen's University)
Smart cities in the making: learning from Milton Keynes Authors: Nick Bingham (Open University), Gillian Rose (University of Oxford), Alan-Miguel Valdez, Matthew Cook (Open University)
The smart city as conscription device: negotiating the politics of emptiness in Santiago de Chile Authors: Ignacio Perez (University of Oxford), Martin Tironi (Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile)
Enacting social difference through smart city tech: the gathering of groupings through a platform Authors: Oliver Zanetti (University of Oxford), Parvati Raghuram (Open University)
Transformative visions of IoT: whose visions, whose rights, whose responsibilities? Authors: Naomi Jacobs (University of Aberdeen), Karen Salt (University of Nottingham)
We are happy to report that the presentations and the 30 min extended discussion session that followed were all very interesting and the audience was highly engaged. More information about the contents of individual papers, and contact information of the contributors, are available HERE.