Smart-sustainability: A new urban fix?

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Urban policy directives have recently emerged within the European Union which position smart urban development as a transformative approach for delivering sustainability. This paper questions the transformative credentials of smartness and argues that it is better understood as a partial fix for the economic, environmental and social challenges faced by cities. Drawing on the urban sustainability and smart city literatures we develop the concept of the smart-sustainability fix. This concept focuses analytical attention on how smart-sustainable city initiatives work to selectively integrate environmental goals and the agendas of digital technology advocates into entrepreneurial forms of urban governance. We then explore and illustrate how smart-sustainability fixes are being constructed, in three cities, as part of a flagship European Commission initiative (Triangulum). Our research reveals three forms of fix: (1) a spatial fix - the development of smart-sustainable districts; (2) a digital fix - the digitisation of urban infrastructure to reveal hidden processes; and, (3) a collaborative fix - collaborative experimentation with low carbon and digital technologies. At the heart of these fixes lies a desire to make the urban realm more manageable. The wider application of these fixes across Europe would amplify the dominant ecological modernisation agenda of sustainable development.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)640-648
Number of pages10
JournalSustainable Cities and Society
Early online date1 Dec 2018
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2019

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