9 February 2014

A review of Adam Greenfield’s Against the Smart City

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Chris Carlsson started reading Adam Greenfield’s new book, Against the Smart City, “with the expectation that it would be a critical view of the ways our urban lives have changed during the past half decade with the massive adoption of so-called “smart phones” and the rest of the ubiquitous technosphere.” But it turns out, writes Carlsson, he has “a rather different target in mind. His polemic, delivered by EPUB and kindle only (so far), is directed at a techno-utopian fantasy promulgated by large multinational corporations and their government client-sponsors.”

“The information platforms projected to undergird Smart Cities are to be privately owned. No open source or free software here! “The smart city is a place where the technical platforms on which everyday life is built are privately owned and monetized, and information is reserved exclusively for the use of those willing and able to pay for it.” As Greenfield notes in one chapter, the whole model is based on a neoliberal sensibility in which government is stripped down to its most minimal functionality (primarily policing and systems administration), while as much as possible of the surrounding society is privately owned. Most of what people might do with and for each other is to the greatest extent possible monetized and commodified, to be packaged and sold to the residents (clients) of the new towns. Greenfield has looked carefully at the promises and projections of the various corporate plans and nowhere has he found anything to indicate open access to “disaggregated raw [data] feeds.”

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