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Smart City - Creative City

The ‘Smart City’ is concerned with the application of digital infrastructure, sensors and data capture devices, and large scale computing power to previously distinct ‘social’ and governmental dimensions of urban life. Visions of the smart city have largely been built around the centralized, data-driven management of urban spaces and the flows that characterize them: of people, goods, services, and resources. Given the enterprise-driven character of these visions, the focus has been upon transport, utility management, security, and customized commerce. It has been increasingly felt amongst academics and policy-makers that we should not leave the vision for interactive infrastructures solely in the hands of IBM, Siemens, and their various marketers, sub-contractors, and engineers. Nor should we restrict the impact of these technologies on urban culture to data-driven marketing and new consumption platforms.
The ‘Creative City’ attempts to mobilise culture and creativity for city branding, urban regeneration and cultural industries growth, which also point to new forms of urban planning and governance. It has been closely associated with the “creative class” and the creative- entrepreneurial city in ways that have frequently become divisive and exclusionary, focusing on arts flagships, photogenic CBDs, and real estate profits. So too, cultural production has been reformatted under the rubric of the ‘creative industries’ in ways that foreground their contribution to economic growth. Increasingly calls have been for social justice, citizenship and the rights to the city, with a return of community and activist-focused arts activities, as well as new forms of ‘post-capitalist’ production communities.
In an attempt to broaden and re-imagine the data-driven and creative city, this symposium will explore the intersections between these urban agendas with a view to re-imagining their possibilities. It seeks to open out new possibilities for the city contained in both interactive infrastructures and new forms of cultural practice. Cultural workers of all kinds have an important role to play in crafting alternative visions for the implementation of “smart” technologies and the practices they support. These technologies are also opening new physical and social spaces of collaborative production, new kinds of economies which cities constantly seek to capture in the form of ‘creative entrepreneurship’ and similar tropes of a business language.
Is there another kind of urban culture and economy being made possible beyond the tightly controlled formats of the Smart City/ Creative City? What might that look like?

(Un-) Droning the City

Adam Greenfield and others have diagnosed some of the pathologies of the contemporary smart-city “imaginary,” many of which derive from the centralized forms of automation and governance envisioned by the commercial purveyors of data services and infrastructure. This presentation traces the logics of centralized automation (ubiquitous, distributed, and networked monitoring combined with opaque decision-making processes and pre-emptive intervention). Unsurprisingly, centralized automation is highly compatible with authoritarian forms of control and the resuscitated fantasy of hyper-Taylorism. This daunting backdrop provides the incentive for exploring the alternative possibilities of de-centralized forms of automation that decouple decision making processes from the forms of rationalization associated with contemporary visions of the smart city. Such a project remains a speculative one, but it relies on alternative genealogies of automation and on the re-conceptualization of smart infrastructures in ways that foster collaboration, creativity, and transparency.

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