The smart city model: A new panacea for urban sustainability or unmanageable complexity?


Despite several calls in this journal of debating the rapid growth of the literature on “smart cities”, such a debate has in large been absent. Smart cities are often un-critically launched as a sustainable way of developing cities. When cities become increasingly complex as its features are wired into the Internet, theories for their understanding is lagging behind. As it is prospected that a greater number of people and things will become connected by Information and Computer Technology, the complexity of urban systems will over time increase. Historical insights reveal that as complexity in societies increase, growth in energy consumption tends to follow. In this paper, we discuss whether complexity carried too far could lead to diminishing returns of energy saving and create unmanageable urban systems.

As part of initiating such a debate, this commentary asks whether the smart cities development has a bearing on the issue whether a society can erode its capacity of sustaining itself? We pose this question against the backdrop that no one actually knows what type of society the smart cities model in the end will generate.


Link to centre authors: Barthel, Stephan, Colding, Johan
Publication info: Colding, J., Colding, M. and Barthel, S., 2020. The smart city model: A new panacea for urban sustainability or unmanageable complexity?. Environment and Planning B: Urban Analytics and City Science, 47(1), pp.179-187.


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