A Brazil-UK academic partnership critically examining emerging forms of digital urbanism

A Critical Research Agenda

A Critical Research Agenda

This project collaboration brings together two interconnected research areas: digital technologies and smart cities. These are important subjects for understanding the enormous urban transformations occurring in cities worldwide. It draws together researchers from a range of critical social science standpoints including urban studies, science technology and society, geography and media technologies. These researchers have a strong existing social science research agenda on smart cities, the integration of digital technologies and urban space, augmented space, and the Internet of Things.

The idea of smart cities is based on the assumption that a substantial (and instrumental) use of technologies, in the management of urban functions and public services (particularly information and communication technologies) can make cities work more efficiently and effectively, improve urban management, and enhance urban competitiveness and security. Whilst the potential of digital and smart technologies and approaches to transform the city cannot be overlooked, there is little critical research examining the actual delivery of the promise as well as its broader social and political implications.

The research team seek to have a critical engagement with these ideas. This means questioning relations and claims of promise of the smart city, and the tensions between centralization and decentralization in novel urban management functions. It also means examining how smart urbanism operates through relations between formal and informal as well as top down and bottom up pathways, as well as asking questions around the temporal and sectoral fragmentation of the city emerging through digital technologies. Research fostered through the project will critically explore the implications of this ‘digital augmentation of urban space’, stimulating debate and capacity for research about the use of ICTs in urban contexts.

The collaboration is developing collective debate and shared understanding whilst building capacity to further develop a critical research agenda around smart urbanism. This is being achieved through four workshop meetings between Brazilian and UK based academics alongside a series of ‘infralab’ site visits to exemplar smart city projects.

Augmented urbanity and smart technologies