Data–Driven Smart Sustainable Urbanism: The Intertwined Societal Factors Underlying its Materialization, Success, Expansion, and Evolution
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionGeoJournal. 2019, . 10.1007/s10708-019-10061-x
Visions of future advances in science and technology (S&T) inevitably bring with them wide-ranging common visions on how societies, and thus cities as social organizations, will evolve in the future and the immense opportunities this future will bring. This relates to the role of science-based technology in modern society. The focus here is on big data science and analytics and the underpinning technologies as an instance of S&T and its role in advancing sustainability in modern cities. This relates to what has been dubbed data-driven smart sustainable urbanism. However, there is a little understanding about how it has emerged and why it has become institutionalized and interwoven with politics and policy—urban dissemination. Therefore, this paper examines the intertwined societal factors underlying its materialization, success, expansion, and evolution, as well as critically discusses urban science and big data technology as social constructions in terms of their inherent flaws, limits, and biases. This paper argues that data-driven smart sustainable urbanism is shaped by socio-cultural and politico-institutional structures. And it will prevail for many years to come given the underlying transformational power of big data science and analytics, coupled with its legitimation capacity associated with the scientific discourse as the ultimate form of rational thought and the basis for legitimacy in knowledge-making and policy-making. This paper also argues that there is a need for re-casting urban science in ways that reconfigure the underlying epistemology to recognize the complex and dynamic nature of smart sustainable cities, as well as for re-casting them in ways that re-orientate in how they are conceived.