Note — Jun 30, 2019

What’s a ‘Smart City’ Supposed to Look Like?

Quick overview of smart city tropes through a scathing(ish) look at three styles of imageries from various proponents. Also consider this alongside the Revell piece right after.

But for the most part, at this point smart cities are just pictures accompanied by hot air and marketing verbiage. Despite some stylistic difference, these images all speak the same basic language—sleek and a bit soulless, but striking enough to perk up any boardroom. […]

Sidewalk tries to project maturity: They convey a “welcoming tone” that has learned to “speak urbanism.” But what we’re seeing here is humanist window dressing. Those aren’t representations of living people enjoying the city—to Sidewalk, they’re just data inputs. […]

Sidewalk’s trick is making it look like they’re doing something they’re not, like making a neighborhood instead of building a huge behavioral data farm. […]

The smart city isn’t a technological utopia, or an environmental lifeboat. It’s a few PowerPoint slides in a conference room demonstrating that there’s money to be made.