‘Smart Cities’ Should Mean ‘Sharing Cities’


Medellín, Colombia (Christian Heeb—Getty Images)

Medellín, Colombia
(Christian Heeb—Getty Images)

When mayors and developers focus on technology rather than people, smart quickly becomes stupid, threatening to exacerbate inequality and undermine the social cooperation essential to successful cities.These days every city claims to be a “smart” city, or is becoming one, with heavy investments in modern information and computing technology to attract businesses and make the city competitive. After researching leading cities around the world, we’ve concluded that truly smart cities will be those that deploy modern technology in building a new urban commons to support communal sharing.

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Moving Beyond the Sharing Economy: The Case for ‘Sharing Cities’.

© CUNY 2012 The Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture

© CUNY 2012 The Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture

What can be bad about an economy that’s called ‘sharing’? Sharing is the antithesis of our current dog-eat-dog economy right? With a booming global population and mass-migration to cities, surely anything that encourages getting-along with each other is a good thing?

But the sharing economy is under attack – though surprisingly not from market-is-gospel neoliberals. It’s being rejected by people who put ‘all for one and one for all’ at the center of their politics. The sharing economy, they say, is nothing more than sly companies profiteering from the skills, possessions and spaces that people would otherwise never think of making money from. Let’s take a closer look at why we must move beyond the current concept of a sharing economy and make the wider case for Sharing Cities.

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Storying institutions: Understanding why things are as they are.

20130430214013_91226Stories are everywhere. We tell stories about who we are, stories about other people and stories about our past. We read stories and watch them on our screens. We even use stories as professionals, students, and academics in planning and policymaking, although they aren’t always acknowledged as such. Storytelling and story-listening are important both because they are happening all around us, whether we realize it or not, and because stories can lead to change. In particular, they can help lead to equitable and just change.

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Moving the Field of Food Justice Forward Through the Lens of Urban Political Ecology

IMG_0002Food justice has emerged as a powerful social movement across the USA as well as an increasingly studied academic concept. In many circumstances, the food justice movement operates to reject the neoliberal mechanisms that dominate today s food system, but simultaneously needs to operate within this system (to a degree) in order to exist. The movement s engagement with larger neoliberal structures, such as the increasingly consolidated transnational food retail industry, can lead to it being co-opted. For instance, selective patronage campaigns focused on the local scale may create market mechanisms that are alternative to those of the conventional market by circumventing intermediaries, but they operate along similar lines of logic that fetishize the commoditization of food for profit.

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Rooted. Stories, recipes, and traditions from the Dudley Street neighborhood

UntitledOne of the many rewards of working in a university is the pleasure that I get from fabulous work by my students. Emma Scudder, a Senior at Tufts University, developed ‘Rooted’ in the fall of 2013 with the help of her UEP 293 Food Justice: Critical Approaches in Policy and Planning classmates Leah Lazer, Amanda Miller, Abby Harper, and Lissette Castillo and staff at The Food Project. It is a wonderful paean to diversity, place, culture and food. Emma’s appreciation of the power of story in building and nurturing community shines through as you will see as you read the document:

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Incomplete streets: Processes, practices and possibilities.

9780415725873The ‘Complete Streets’ concept and movement in urban planning and policy has been hailed by many as a revolution that aims to challenge the auto-normative paradigm by reversing the broader effects of an urban form shaped by the logic of keeping automobiles moving. By enabling safe access for all users, Complete Streets promise to make cities more walkable and livable and at the same time more sustainable. This book problematizes the Complete Streets concept by suggesting that streets should not be thought of as merely physical spaces, but as symbolic and social spaces. When important social and symbolic narratives are missing from the discourse and practice of Complete Streets, what actually results are incomplete streets.

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Entering cosmopolis: Crossingover, hybridity, conciliation and the Intercultural City Ecosystem

diversityBefore I answer the question: “How is nature critical to a twenty-first century urban ethic?” I first need to ask the more fundamental question: “What is nature and how is it constructed by people in our increasingly different and diverse urban communities?” Cities of difference are places where we are “in the presence of otherness,” as Sennett puts it—namely, our increasingly different, diverse, and culturally heterogeneous urban areas

Read the full article here 

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Farewell Madiba. You ‘belong to the ages’

Nelson Mandela comes to Brixton. July 12 1996.

Nelson Mandela comes to Brixton. July 12 1996.

I cannot even begin to fully assess the influence of Nelson Mandela on my life. From first hearing his name as a teenager to fighting against apartheid through disinvestment campaigns as a student at Durham University in the 1970s; from my outrage at the killing of Steve Biko in September 1977 to my exultation at Madiba’s freedom from prison in February 1990; from my tears at his inauguration as President in May 1994 to my awe at his visit to Brixton, South London on July 12 1996 where, only feet away, I took this precious picture, Madiba has been a towering figure, a colossus in my life.

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We are in a spatial moment…..

6a00d83451db7969e2016766c67d48970bWe are in a spatial moment. Around the world, there has never been a time when the role and possibilities of public spaces including our most commonly used space, the street, have been so prominent in the news and social media. New spaces are being created and used as sites for recreation, such as New York City’s High Line, once a disused elevated rail bed and now a highly used urban park running along the lower west side of Manhattan.

Listen to/read my ‘Academic Minute’ here

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Sharing cities: Reinventing and reviving sharing to enhance equity, rebuild community and cut resource use.


medellinA reinvention and revival of sharing in our cities could enhance equity, rebuild community and dramatically cut resource use. With modern technologies the intersection of urban space and cyber-space provides an unsurpassed platform for a more inclusive and environmentally efficient sharing economy. Yet this opportunity is currently being overlooked. Cities have always been about shared space, interaction and the exchange of goods and services through marketplaces and money-lending, for example.

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