The Smart City and the new urban complexity

Deadline: 
December 05,

In recent decades, the integration of the most advanced technological and communication tools in every sphere of daily life and the introduction of the smart city paradigm into a social engineering planning of our cities brought about major changes in urban lifestyles and in the way we understand society.

Investing in a huge flow of information, new mobility options, environmental criticalities and energy efficiency, cities become the place where social change takes place in its organizational (social order, work) and structural (family, school, politics, culture) dimensions. As a result of a series of complex phenomena such as population growth, unequal access and consumption of environmental resources, increasing social inequalities, unequal access to public services between the various areas of the city, the urban context changes. This leads to the question of: what is the true innovative scope of the smart city paradigm? What are its repercussions on citizenship identity? And, what relationship it entails with the right to the city?

Given the extreme complexity of the phenomenon under consideration and the multidisciplinary orientation of the Journal, the authors are invited to present contributions of theoretical and/or empirical nature of high scientific value combining and/or offering new perspectives of analysis on the orientations listed below.

 

Area of General Sociology

From a sociological perspective, the theme of the smart city may be interpreted according to a multiplicity of levels of analysis. From the perspective of the interaction between global systems, the themes of social organization, social order and urban renaissance represent an interesting object of analysis. The introduction of technologies into daily life is contributing to change the ways in which the social individuals perceive the structures and the means they use to interface with them. The introduction of innovations into the community dimension - smart communities - and the new ways to use technologies in the process of smart city transformation, feeding the emergence of a feeling of "community connection", guarantees individual presence/participation in the transformation leaving aside any form of territorial connotation. Another example are the changes in the city's welfare systems aimed at guaranteeing the well-being of the urban population or the emergence of new social policies in the field of work, training, education, environment.

Furthermore, if one enters into the social processes inherent in these global systems, the attention inevitably runs to the role played by new technologies in redefining the themes of conflict and consensus, social control, adaptation, social integration, social justice, social change, and trust. It is sufficient to think – for example – of problems such as those of the digital divide, or of new cognitive contexts such as those of cyber security, drawing attention to the new generation of rights (first and foremost privacy rights).

From a cultural perspective, the issue can be addressed through the analysis of the changes introduced by the massification of culture, the digitization of daily life and the changes in the social value attributed to knowledge, today representing the true hallmark of the current phase of advanced capitalism.

 

Area of Political Sociology and Political Science

Adopting a political perspective, the transformations of collective life that are taking place in cities with a "smart" vocation pose complex political questions about the "governance of social space". In this perspective, the concept of the intelligent city is particularly significant because is associated with the raise of demands for new forms of management of the urban spaces: a new place and necessarily directed with foresight by politics (not just local), which addresses the challenge that globalization and the economic crisis pose in terms of competitiveness and sustainable development. In the analysis of empirical cases, particular attention must be paid to its effects in terms of social cohesion, dissemination and availability of knowledge, creativity, freedom and mobility effectively usable, quality of the natural and cultural environment..

 

Area of Sociology of cultural and communicative processes

The possibility to communicate and be constantly informed is one of the most important aspects of this precise phase of advanced capitalism and one of the most important demands made by the citizens of the smart cities. The question then arises as to what role communication plays in the achievement of the objectives of "smartification" of the cities and which are the following cultural processes that may be able to bring about change. With reference to studies on communication, the theme of technological transformation may be declined, for example, with reference to artificial intelligence, devices and methods of collection of personal data and profiling and/or automatic learning. In general, it seems important to shed light on the possibility of deconstruction of "smart" narratives hiding technocratic ideologies that are able to depoliticise social life.

 

Area of Environmental Sociology

The topicality of the theme of the transformation of the places where collective life takes place is currently feeding a heated debate on the opportunity to continue to associate technology with sustainability, because not everything that is "smart" can be said to be effectively sustainable. The attractive term "smart city" is often connoted in a positive way and in the collective imagination often ends up being associated to the theme of environmental protection – for example energy saving or water efficiency - although the race for efficiency of smart cities more often ends up being a way to impose poorly or not at all sustainable solutions for urban contexts. The heart of the problem lies in the use individuals, communities and politics make of technology and its possible applications in inappropriate contexts. In some cases, the difference in the use of the technological element and its adaptation to "other" contexts, ends up causing the emergence of technological abuses justified by the banner of sustainability. The limits of technology and their impact on sustainability are therefore an important critical issue that deserves extensive discussion and study.

Administrative law area

In addition to the social, political, economic and environmental dimensions, "smart cities" lend themselves to important considerations also in the context of administrative disciplines, and in particular with reference to the meaning of mobility.

For various reasons (pollution, lack of parking spaces, limited public spaces, inadequacy and costs of building and maintaining infrastructures, historical character of the city, etc..) and regardless externality of this choice, it is considered useful to increasingly limit individual mobility in favor of mobility by collective or public means. Implemented in different ways according to the dimensions of the various cities, the phenomenon finds different justifications and consequences affecting and transforming individual and collective living habits.

The origins of this strategy lie in the enlargement of urban centres, although this phenomenon is often not matched by an parallel expansion of the working environment (the condition of which often remains unaltered). This situation has resulted in workers having to spend much of their time moving from their place of residence to their place of work, with a clear negative impact on the way in which work is developed, and a corresponding cultural impoverishment of the most peripheral areas of residence, the so-called "dormitories".

On the other hand, the traditional city centres progressively lose their residential destination, transforming themselves into places where the city's vitality is limited to the working hours and determining the relocation of the effective centres to other places (or non-places), originally imagined for commercial purposes.

The consequences for individual freedoms must not be overlooked either. Restricting independent travel and "forcing" people to use public transport ends up making individuals sedentary. They will move only if there is a means of transport assisting them. Those who govern the means and regulate the "delivery" of the service, therefore, also govern the ability of people to move: a constitutionally guaranteed right.

The phenomenon is accentuated in the case in which the "smart" nature of the cities expands to the point of excluding the movement itself, for example, where the so-called smart work is massively practiced reducing or eliminating the possibility to move from a place to another. There is the risk that this phenomenon may induce a sort of sedentariness of the centers of life, which is more appropriate to the past historical eras.

 

Area of economics and management

Finally, from an economic point of view, the issue of smart cities may be interpreted in two ways. On the one hand, it is possible to consider the theme by means of the lenses provided by the role of cities as a place of individual settlement and economic activity. A concomitance of phenomena which disappeared after the industrial revolution, following the intensification of exchange processes and social, economic and environmental factors which changed aspects of the cities.

With the affirmation of communication technologies, the physical boundaries of urban identity became more labile and the densification of housing, business, production, and services changed its form. The theme therefore delineates numerous aspects that - at a macro level - require programming policies with attention to the economic components essential to the implementation of "smartness": from commercial services, revolutionized by the emergence of e-commerce, to individual and goods logistics, digital infrastructure, services for the person (health and education in the first place, but also social, cultural and recreational activities).

The second interpretation of the issue is based on the individual economic operators and the way they can seize the opportunities arising from the changes taking place. In a strong and continuous evolution, emerging technologies are making entire sectors of activity obsolete while favoring others. This is leading to a review of the way of doing business, to the contamination of different sectors, and to question old organizational models. New solutions must be identified, just as, at the macro level, new policy models must be implemented.

 

Abstract submission and deadlines

All proposed articles will be peer-reviewed according to the rules of the Rivista Italiana di Scienza dell'Amministrazione. Studi di Teoria e Ricerca Sociale and its Code of Ethics.

A short abstract (maximum 500 words) including title, names, relevant institutions and e-mail addresses of the authors, as well as the reference area of the Journal, should be sent to redazione [at] rtsa.eu no later than December 5, 2019.

The outcome of the preliminary evaluations will be communicated to the authors within seven days.

The accepted articles must be sent by February 15, 2020.

They must be fully compliant with the format required by the journal, according to the editorial rules published at http://www.rtsa.eu/norme.html and its Manual of style.