'SMART' IN BETWEEN PEOPLE AND THE CITY.

AuthorHosu, Ramona
  1. Introduction

    In July 2019, Forbes published an article titled 'Smart Cities Are Built by Smart People, Not Smart Things', signed by Remington Tonar and Ellis Talton, two experts in urban infrastructure and innovation. As announced in the motto of the text belonging to Michael Batty, professor of planning at University College London ('If the essence of urban development is individual action, then a city can only be as smart as its citizens') the article insists on the idea that the key role in building a smart city belongs to the people of that city to the detriment of Information and Communication Technologies and the Internet of Things. Evidently, it is common knowledge that the two components (ICT plus IoT and the citizens) are interdependent and they do not exclude each other, but this text brings forth a set of arguments for the idea that there is the urge to accelerate urban progress mostly by means of digital and data technology and the consequence of this is that the human factor comes a poor second, or, even worse, as the authors outline: 'the most important element of any city is being forgotten: citizens themselves' (Tonar and Talton, 2019).

    The Cambridge Dictionary defines 'smart' as anything that 'uses computers to make it work so that it is able to act in an independent way'. Hence, placed next to anything that is 'computer-assisted', 'smart' has become an abundant adjective today. The opinion piece mentioned above completes this dictionary definition by elaborating on the characteristics of 'smart cities' in connection to emerging technologies, on the one hand: a smart city is 'home as a 'machine for living'' (quoted from Le Corbusier); they are 'economically vibrant cities' and 'hyperconnected, ubiquitous networks'; smart cities use big data and artificial intelligence in order to 'augment' infrastructure; they do 'more with less'; they use smart devices and automated systems in order to enhance 'efficiency, connectedness and convenience', they have 'smarter roadways, railways and utilities' and so on (Tonar and Talton, 2019). Conversely, at the same time and for the sake of emphasizing the shortcomings of such a single-directed project of development of any smart city mostly by means of smart technologies, the article uses a set of solid references in order to highlight the need for 'a more innovative, educated, talented, resilient and empowered citizenry' because such an infrastructure can 'facilitate value creation' but the protagonists in this equation are the people, say Tonar and Talton (2019). The line of reasoning at this point in the article focuses on the idea of citizen participation as 'citizen cocreation' where people have to 'capitalize on the efficiencies and opportunities they [technologies] create'; they are 'thoughtful citizens' able to 'correctly interpret data', able to know when 'to rely on automated systems and when to reassert their agency', and to 'intelligently engage with each other and their environment'; education, not only by means of STEM subjects but also by means of the humanities and the arts, is seen as the 'driver of urban growth'. All in all, Tonar and Talton stress on the idea of 'the bottom up power of empowered and engaged citizens and enterprises co-creating the city' (2019).

    Consequently, who are the people living in smart cities? And, if they are not as 'smart' as the smart technologies and the whole hard infrastructure implemented by the city leaders, what is to be done in this sense? The problem of identity construction at both individual and community level has been discussed for several decades now, and it is an open-ended issue in today's societies all over the world. Moreover, place identity has suffered the same dynamic process, and it has been mostly related to urban planning, urban design and architecture. The way in which place identity is defined interferes with the process of self-conceptualization due to the interconnectedness of meanings, significances and representations exchanged, shared or rejected by the dwellers of a certain place in a certain cultural context. Once more: if smart cities are a reality today, what about the identity of the people living in smart cities and if 'smart people' is the answer, what is the meaning of 'smart' here?

  2. Study design

    The study debates on the dichotomy 'technology and/or the human factor' starting from a general discussion on technological determinism vs. the role of the social context, then on possible new 'smart' identities associated with the contemporary digimodernist society, and it ends with a discussion of the role of human-centered approaches in innovation processes that contribute to the building of smart cities, which is the case of Cluj-Napoca, Romania.

    The basic research questions are: (1) what is the impact of digitalization on the newly emerging community and place identities?; (2) what does 'smart' mean in a smart city and in a smart community?, and (3) how are these concepts defined in the case of Cluj-Napoca, Romania?

    In order to answer these questions and to identify the new 'meanings' of city identity conjoined with individual and community identity, the present study focuses on: (1) specialized literature that provides the starting point and the direction of the study itself; (2) some media outlets; and (3) some official documents of specialized institutions.

    The type of holistic inquiry proposed in the present work is the single instrumental case study (Cluj-Napoca as smart city and community) because the intention is to contribute to some general understanding of the concept of 'smart cities and smart people' by using the particular case of Cluj-Napoca, which could identify some good practices for innovation that entail citizen involvement and participation by means of ICT and IoT.

  3. Identity construction, technological determinism and the social context

    Identity is who one is and who we are is an ongoing constructive process that takes time, it literally needs space, either physical or virtual, and it must accommodate a cultural context consisting not only of spatial and temporal elements but also of complex social, historical, economic, political, technological factors. Identity conjoins sameness with difference, idem with ipse, common collective characteristics with personal, unique and authentic features. Thus, identity is both an individual project and also a socially produced construction, emerging in interaction, in communication, in-between 'I' and 'the Other(s)'.

    Evidently, each cultural or historical epoch generated a type of cultural and social identity that replicated the ideological commonalities of the time, visible in art forms, philosophy, the sciences: from the Greco-Roman one, to the Renaissance and Humanism, then Baroque and Rococo, Neoclassicism, the Enlightenment, Romanticism, Realism, Modernism, Postmodernism and Post-Postmodernism or Post-Cyborgism, to succinctly name the grand ones. To refer to the last but one cultural movement, Postmodernism (although many still consider it alive and contemporary): it generated a type of 'subject' to construct himself/ herself as a multiple, plural, fragmented, split, decentered, dislocated, marginal, minor, dissipated, indeterminate, impermanent, undecidable, ambiguous or schizoid identity. It came into being in the second half of the 20th century along with accelerated change in all fields, globalization, trans-national flows, increased cultural and social interferences, all resulting in existential insecurity, when 'our social maps no longer fit our social landscapes' (Jenkins, 1996, p. 9). A multiple or plural cultural context generates more fluid identities. Moreover, with the explosion of IT and communication systems in the last decades of our age, with the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the digital technologies, the world has radically changed in matters of communication first, hence, of social interaction and identity construction, impacting almost all domains. It is commonly known that we are living in the early stages of a new kind of era when technology, media, audiences have a totally different word to say about what is going on in the world than it used to have some (not very many) years ago. This means technological or media determinism, phrased by Marshall McLuhan as follows: 'In a culture like ours, long accustomed to splitting and dividing all things as a means of control, it is sometimes a bit of a shock to be reminded that, in operational and practical fact, the medium is the message. This is merely to say that the personal and social consequences of any medium--that is, of any extension of ourselves--result from the new scale that is introduced into our affairs by each extension of ourselves, or by any new technology [...] it is the medium that shapes and controls the scale and form of human association and action (emphasis added) (McLuhan, 2011, pp. 19-20).

    Opposed to this idea that media or technologies are the message, i.e. the cause and core of modernization and development, we have the British cultural and social analyst Raymond Williams (2004) who sees the phenomenon in a different way. He believes that, regardless of any internal determinant (print or telegraphy or television or the Internet), innovation and change cannot take place autonomously only because of these media and out of a certain social and economic context. This because technologies enter a world based on social relations and the implementation, use and evolution of technological innovation requires interaction among individuals, institutions, corporations, etc., i.e. social power. As Williams formulates it: 'Determination is a real social process, but never (as in some theological and some Marxist versions) a wholly controlling, wholly predicting set of causes. On the contrary, the reality of determination is the setting of limits and the exertion of pressures, within which variable social practices are...

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