A foundational framework for smart sustainable city development: Theoretical, disciplinary, and discursive dimensions and their synergies
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionSustainable cities and society. 2018, 38 758-794. 10.1016/j.scs.2017.12.032
In the subject of smart sustainable cities, the underlying theories are a foundation for practice. Moreover, scholarly research in the field of smart sustainable cities operates out of the understanding that advances in the underlying knowledge necessitate pursuing multifaceted questions that can only be resolved from the vantage point of interdisciplinarity or transdisciplinarity. Indeed, research problems in this field are inherently too complex to be addressed by single disciplines. The PhD study addressing the topic of smart sustainable city development falls within the broad research field of sustainability transition and sustainability science where ICT is seen as a salient factor given its transformational, disruptive, and synergetic effects as an enabling, integrative, and constitutive technology. In light of this, the approach to the PhD study is of an applied theoretical kind, and its aim is to investigate and analyze how to advance and sustain the contribution of sustainable urban forms to the goals of sustainable development with support of ICT of pervasive computing. This is to primarily create a framework for strategic smart sustainable city development based on scientific principles, theories, and academic disciplines and discourses used to guide urban actors in their practice towards sustainability and analyze its impact. This involves the application of a set of integrative foundational elements drawn from urban planning, urban design, sustainability, sustainable development, sustainability science, data science, computer science, complexity science, systems theory, systems thinking, and ICT. Accordingly, it is deemed of high significance to devise a multidimensional framework consisting of relevant theories and academic disciplines and discourses that underpin the development of smart sustainable cities as a set of future practices. This framework in turn emphasizes the interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary nature and orientation of the topic of smart sustainable cities and thus the relevance of pursuing an interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approach into studying this topic. Therefore, this paper endeavors to systematize the very complex and dense scientific area of smart sustainable cities in terms of identifying, distilling, and structuring the core dimensions of a foundational framework for smart sustainable city development as a set of future practices. In doing so, it focuses on a number of fundamental theories along with academic disciplines and discourses, with the aim of setting a framework that analytically relates city development, sustainability, and ICT, while emphasizing how and to what extent sustainability and ICT have particularly become influential in city development in modern society. In addition, this paper offers an in–depth interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary discussion covering topics of high relevance to the PhD study and at the heart of the very synergic relationship between the theoretical, disciplinary, and discursive dimensions of the foundational framework underpinning smart sustainable city development. These dimensions thus form the basis for the framework for strategic smart sustainable city development that is under investigation and will be developed based on a backcasting approach to strategic planning. This study provides an important lens through which to understand a set of influential theories and established academic disciplines and discourses with high potential for integration, fusion, and practicality in relation to the practice of smart sustainable city development.