The ‘Smart City’ vision is shaped by providers of big technology, who are not attuned to bottom-up innovation, or the messy, disruptive ways that people use technology. It is a vision shaped around the need of the suppliers, and by the mindset of top-down masterplanning. More damningly still, the big technology companies are selling ‘smart city in a box’ solutions to cities, walled gardens that prevent scalable local business innovation. It is not surprising therefore that the technology is not selling, as the ‘smarter’ cities turn away.
The idea of the Smart Citizen has been proposed by thinkers such as Dan Hill […] to shift the debate towards the most important dimension of cities, the people who live, work and create within them.
On the one hand there is the view that Smart City design should allow for the disruptive ways in which people use technology. But there is also a stronger claim here, namely that citizens can, and should, play a leading role in conceiving, designing, building, maintaining our cities of the future.
This is a call for a fundamental shift in the way we think about our cities and about urban development, that goes beyond a plea for wider public consultation in the planning process. Alongside ‘top-down’ master-planning, we need to enable ‘bottom-up’ innovation and collaborative ways of developing systems out of many, loosely joined parts.
The notion of the Smart Citizen as a co-creator draws on a rich intellectual backdrop in both technology design and urban design. Digital culture has given rise to a collaborative code ethic, and there has been a trend towards applying thinking and methods from open source software development to other domains. These ideas resonate with a tradition in urban planning that as first articulated by Patrick Geddes at the turn of the 20th century, and was wielded by Jane Jacobs in the 1960s as she demanded that city planning institutions make space for the voice and views of citizens.”