Smart Urbanism and Digital Activism in Southern Italy

Smart Urbanism and Digital Activism in Southern Italy

Arturo Di Bella (University of Catania, Italy)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5646-6.ch067
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This chapter debates the competing approaches of the smart city model. It starts by critically discussing top-down approaches, focusing on influence of neoliberal urban experimentation, the role of dominant social interests, the reduction of the city and of urban citizenship, and the risks linked with its uncritical assumption. Then, attention shifts on counter-geographies of digital urbanism drawn from below by citizens, communities, and social movements, as part of a fragmented landscape of activism engaged in building alternative and bottom-up approaches of the smart city. Making use of the case study of a city in southern Italy, Catania, the aim of the chapter is threefold since it discusses the critical aspects linked with dissemination of smart city model as a means for investigating the evolutionary neoliberalization developed in southern Italy during last decades, the influence of neoliberal scripts of urban planning on policy practices, and then the potential alternative activities of digital urbanism hold for a more human-centered and socially embedded smart city.
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Urban Neoliberism And The Triumph Of Smart City

In the context of what has been termed cultural-cognitive capitalism (Scott, 2011), together with a technological and informational vertigo that gives fresh impulse to capital accumulation, there has been an on-going internationalization of policy regimes, which involves the communication of neoliberal and market-oriented policies as best practices orthodoxy and the mobilization of certain neoliberal policy models through the mediation of fast policy circuits (Healey, 2013; Prince, 2012). A growing number of policy makers and urban leaders, persuaded by specialist intermediaries, gurus, centres (think-tanks, cultural, university-based) and corporations, as well as by international agencies, such as UE and World Bank, in the form of public policy programmes and investment incentives, increasingly tend to invoke stories, ideal types, visions and models of urban planning, often as the panacea for the many pressing problems of contemporary cities.

In the post-recession context, the buzzword “smart” indicates a new visionary city, based on the integration of information and communication technologies (ICTs) applications in certain key dimensions, such as energy, mobility, buildings and governance, which through the negotiation between, and the incorporation of, economic imperatives, ecological integrity and social equity goals is directed at the planning of hi-tech-oriented urban efficiency and sustainability.

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