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it - Information Technology

Methods and Applications of Informatics and Information Technology

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Volume 59, Issue 6


The citizen in the smart city. How the smart city could transform citizenship

Martijn de Waal
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  • Play and Civic Media, Faculty of Digital Media and Creative Industries, Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, Amsterdam Netherlands
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/ Marloes Dignum
Published Online: 2017-11-27 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/itit-2017-0012


Smart city-policy makers and technology vendors are increasingly stating they want to bring about citizen-centered smart cities. Yet, it often remains unclear what exactly that means, and how citizens are envisaged as actors in smart cities. This article wants to contribute to this discussion by exploring the relation between smart cities and citizenship. It aims to do this by introducing a heuristic scheme that brings out the implied notions of citizenship in three distinct sets of smart city visions and practices: The Control Room envisages the city as a collection of infrastructures and services; The Creative City views the city from the perspective of (economic) geography and ponders on local and regional systems of innovation; The Smart Citizens discourse addresses the city as a political and civic community. These smart city discourses are mapped against two visions on citizenship and governance taken from political philosophy. A `republican' perspective with strong presence in social-democratic countries is contrasted with a libertarian one, most prominent in Silicon Valley approaches to smart city technologies. This provides a scheme to reflect on potential benefits and downsides if a specific smart city discourse would develop. Instances of smart cities may promote notions of citizenship that are based on consumer choice and individual responsibility, alternatively they could also reinforce collective responsibilities towards the common good of society.

Keywords: Smart cities; civic media; smart citizens; urban informatics; citizenship

ACM CCS: Human-centered computing→Human computer interaction (HCI)→ HCI theory; concepts and models

About the article

Martijn de Waal

Martijn de Waal is a senior researcher at the research group of Play & Civic Media at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences. His most recent book is De Platformsamenleving. Strijd om publieke waarden in een online wereld. (The Platform Society. The Struggle for public values in an online world) which he co-authored with José van Dijck and Thomas Poell. In 2014 he wrote The City as Interface. How Digital Media Are Changing the City (Rotterdam: Nai010 Publishers), a book on the relation between digital media and the urban public sphere. With Michiel de Lange, in 2007 he founded TheMobileCity.nl, an international think tank and research network on New Media and Urban Culture. Over the last few years we have organized a variety of conferences and workshops, in amongst other Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Shanghai and Shenzhen. In 2009 he was a visiting scholar at MIT Center for Civic Media. In 2016 he was the lead organizer of the Design & The City Conference held in Amsterdam (see www.designandthecity.eu).

Play and Civic Media, Faculty of Digital Media and Creative Industries, Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, Amsterdam, Netherlands, Homepage: www.martijndewaal.nl

Marloes Dignum

Marloes Dignum studied Innovation Sciences in Eindhoven University of Technology and holds a PhD from the same university. Her PhD research centered on the shaping capabilities of large technological visions in societal and institutional change processes, focusing on hydrogen as a potential alternative to fossil fuel. She worked as a postdoctoral researcher at Delft University of Technology in the fields of transition studies and responsible innovation. Her postdoctoral work focused on the energy domain and included analysis on the public acceptance of new energy technologies, institutional and procedural development of new energy systems, public values and participatory decision making, collaboration and scaling energy sustainability. Since March 2017, she works as a researcher on urban innovation at The Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL). In this position her research focuses on urban innovation and experimentation in relation to transitions.

PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, Postbus 30314, 2500 GH The Hague, Netherlands

Revised: 2017-10-30

Accepted: 2017-11-03

Received: 2017-08-04

Published Online: 2017-11-27

Published in Print: 2017-12-20

Citation Information: it - Information Technology, Volume 59, Issue 6, Pages 263–273, ISSN (Online) 2196-7032, ISSN (Print) 1611-2776, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/itit-2017-0012.

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