Of Sensors and Sensitivities. Towards a Cosmopolitics of “Smart Cities”?
Keywords:smart city, cosmopolitics, sensors, experiment, sensitivities
This essay reviews diverse strands of empirical and theoretical work in different urban studies areas (urban planning, urban ethnography, urban geography, and STS) reflecting on the manifold ways in which the smart city project is being “opened up” for scrutiny through experimental projects developing digitally-mediated sensing practices of either a specific or broad kind: i.e., producing both devices formally devised for sensing specific parameters, and sensing devices – emerging from less specific digital technology arrangements – used to share experiences, show solutions or politicize different urban issues. In doing this, we seek to understand, from an STS standpoint, the different ways in which a broad range of works are analysing the development, intervention, maintenance, and opposition of these ideas. In the first section we focus on understanding the definitions, features and clashes that several of these corporate projects (mostly municipal in nature) have come across, deploying smart devices, such as sensors to produce an “algorithmic city”. In the second section we expand the meanings of “smartness,” focusing on grassroots appropriations of broader digital arrangements and politicizations of open source infrastructures to display other forms of urban sensitivities, contributing to the cosmopoliticization of the “smart city” project.