Like Sisyphus and his boulder, a small community of thinkers is trying to push their vision for the city-of-the-future to the top.
This community is composed of academics, designers, policymakers, and corporations. What unites them is the “Smart City,” a nebulous term for how cities will integrate digital software and hardware into their functioning. It can meany anything from free WiFi to sensors embedded in every street corner and skyscraper. With tens of trillions of dollars estimated for urban infrastructure in the coming decades, everyone is looking to shape the discussion on how that money should be spent. Will the Smart City be about commerce and desirability, ecology and the environment, freedom and individuality? With almost 3/4 of the world living in cities by 2050, the Smart City debate concerns the very essence of the future’s built environment.
However, so far the arguments have yet to grapple with the complexity of this still-amorphous subject. Cities are immeasurably intricate and represent how almost every facet of our civilization, from culture to economics, is organized in space. This struggle was made evident when I reviewed two very different books on Smart Cities. Read on to see two of the many perspectives contending to decide what we think of the Smart City.
Top Image: Cover of The City As Interface: How New Media Are Changing the City, by Martijn de Waal.