References to the smart city have multiplied since the turn of the 2010s. Yet the concept is criticized for both its lack of consistency and of clarity. Beyond the great diversity of information on the subject, four approaches to the smart city seem to coexist:
- A network-based, technicist approach that considers the smart city as a space structured by the automated generation, collection, management and processing of big data produced by urban technologization.
- An approach influenced by the sociology of science and techniques, that defines the smart city in terms of its digital deployment optimization regimes. As opposed to the technicist approach, the aim here is not to consider the smart city as an operation intended to rationalize the urban environment, but rather as a movement that complexifies city governance, due to the uncontrolled effects of the diffusion of digital technology and its uses.
- Inspired by the libertarian values promoted by the Internet’s founders, works based on the collaborative economy, open source and direct democracy make the smart city a space where the bottom-up logic allowed by the diffusion of the web through connected objects meets the inhabitants’ civic emancipation aspirations. The smart city would then become the place for a digital empowerment of urban societies.
- Conversely, a top-down approach centered on institutional actors (particularly private actors) and the capitalist thinking of urbanization processes considers the smart city as the last frontier for the growth of capitalism and authoritarian regimes.
With this research project, La Fabrique de la Cité will question these four approaches.