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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - IRI THESys

KNOWING - The knowledge politics of smart urbanism

Digital technologies are challenging the ways cities and urbanism are analysed, perceived, represented and governed.

Over recent years the concept of ‘smart cities’ has rapidly gained attention in business, policy and academic circles. Whilst expectations of the smart city remain high, social scientists are increasingly questioning core assumptions underpinning ‘smart’ discourses. A key question is how smart city developments are challenging current ways of ‘knowing the city’ and how the politics of knowing the city are changing when smart initiatives materialise. Initiatives that deploy technologies such as GPS devices, smartphone apps and sensors, or the central coordination of responses through collection and analysis of data in ‘control rooms’, are shaping new practices of knowing what is happening in cities and, critically, intervening in urban processes.

With funding from the German Research Foundation (DFG) within the international Open Research Area, IRI THESys is part of a 3-year pan-European project that will analyse encounters and tensions between formal, corporate-led smart city initiatives and the multitude of informal ‘do-it-yourself’ grassroots initiatives in smart urbanism. The study will analyse the knowledge politics of smart urbanism in eight European cities: Eindhoven, Amsterdam, Sheffield, Barcelona, Berlin, Hamburg, Lyon and Paris. Timothy Moss of IRI THESys will be working primarily on the Berlin case study. The project involves other teams from Utrecht University, the University of Freiburg, the University of Sheffield and Toulouse 1 University.

The research project aims to draw on practical experiences from across all the cities in order to develop a framework for better appreciating the knowledge politics involved in smart urbanism. The framework will draw in conceptual resources from across the fields of urban geography, science and technology studies (STS) and socio-technical transitions. Practically, the project will identify ways in which digital technologies are shaping new emancipatory interfaces between business, city administration and citizen initiatives.




Research Group Leader


Prof. Dr. Timothy Moss, Research Group Leader
Phone: +49 (030) 2093-66436
E-Mail: timothy.moss@hu-berlin.de