Curating smart cities

Cook, Matthew and Valdez, Miguel (2023). Curating smart cities. Urban Geography, 44(6) pp. 1192–1210.



In this paper, a curatorial perspective is developed to draw attention to the notion that smart cities are assembled within a field of relations and thus inevitably connected to constellations of actors, histories, materialities and ideas. In this way, a curatorial perspective informed by diverse disciplines such as art history, critical theory and institutional critique, can be used to reveal the struggles through which fragmented, entangled and shifting constellations of technologies, places and policy ideas are purposely cultivated to prefigure new ways of living in smart cities. Drawing on an in-depth longitudinal case study of Milton Keynes (MK), an English new town founded in 1967, this paper examines how concepts of a smart city were used to draw together, catalyze and possibly (re)configure pre-existing policies, narratives and materialities, i.e. to curate smart city developments. Urban curation, understood as the selection, organization and care for a constellation of elements and their relation to place, is revealed to be profoundly political. Actors with local remits curate urban constellations to render them receptive to smart city agendas while pursuing their contextually defined goals and often resisting those imposed from elsewhere.

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