Spark

Against the Smart City

Adam Greenfield believes there is a "deep conceptual problem with the smart city at virtually every level."...
Listen23:39

Adam Greenfield believes there is a "deep conceptual problem with the smart city at virtually every level."

<p>In a new <a href="http://speedbird.wordpress.com/2013/09/28/against-the-smart-city-now-available-for-purchase-in-kindle/">152-page pamphlet</a> (yes, pamphlet), Greenfield takes a close look at the vision and ideology of the so-called "smart city" presented by large technology vendors like Cisco, IBM, Siemens, Hitachi, and Microsoft, among others.</p> <p>"It is sort of unprecedented that a fairly major discourse in urbanism is authored by private enterprises," he said in an interview with Nora Young.</p> <p>"I mean, if you go back and look at the twentieth century, for better or for worse, the major sets of ideas and things which ultimately became policy in the west were at least germinated and generated by people who thought full-time about the city."</p> <h2>Empty</h2> <p>Greenfield's pamphlet focuses closely on three cities: Songdo, in South Korea, Masdar City in the United Arab Emirates, and PlanIT Valley in Portugal. All three are so-called "greenfield" sites (no relation), built from the ground up as brand new smart cities.</p> <p>The promotional videos for these cities are impressive. Take this one, produced by Cisco about Songdo:</p> <div class="video-container"><iframe width="620" height="349" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/rOHA_Fz8j2M" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe></div> <p>But what is Songdo really like on the ground?</p> <p>"Empty," says Greenfield. "'Depopulated' would be a fairly legitimate way of characterizing it."</p> <p>Earlier this month, <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-23757738">the BBC's Seoul correspondent Lucy Williamson wrote</a> "[Songdo] is currently less than half full; less than 20% of the commercial office space is occupied, and the streets, cafes and shopping centres still feel largely empty."</p> <h2>Pure, concentrated ideology</h2> <p>Most of us will never live in a smart city like Songdo. Most urban-dwellers live in existing cities that will be "upgraded" with embedded sensors and control systems.</p> <p>Still, Greenfield says it's important to look at Songdo, Masdar, and PlanIT Valley because "these are the sites on which we can see the ideology of the smart city in its purest and most concentrated form."</p> <p>He expects a trickle-down effect on the places many of us live.</p> <p>"If [Songdo, Masdar, and PlanIT Valley] are places where networked information technology is being brought to bear at its absolute maximum extend on all of the sites, interactions, and experiences of everyday life, they probably have a lot to tell us about the beliefs that the people who have designed those systems have about what urban life is."</p> <p>A short version of Nora Young's interview with Adam Greenfield will air on Spark 227. You can listen to the full, uncut interview below:</p> <!--START Against the Smart City AUDIO HERE --> <div class="clear"></div> <!--END Against the Smart City AUDIO -->

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