“Place-based re-politicisation of socio-digital entanglements in urban governance” @EUGEO2021

I am presenting on the 30th of June 2021 at the EUGEO Conference 2021, in Prague and on-line, my work on a participatory scenario building conducted in the city of Ghent in 2019, during my MSCA project CROWD_USG. Together with key informants I considered the currently un-resolved shortcomings of digital participation processes in urban governance (abstract below).

My presentation will be held during session 3 “Reconsidering the efficacy of smart cities in COVID era”, organised by Stefano de Falco (University Federico II of Naples), Margarita Angelidou (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki), Stefania Cerutti (University of Piemonte Orientale).

Expected interventions include:

A full conference programm is available here.


Place-based re-politicisation of socio-digital entanglements in urban governance. Insights from Ghent.

Chiara Certomà (ESOMAS, University of Turin, Turin, Italy)

In the expanding field of digital urban governance research, critical geographers recently debated what the real smart city is. Still, more limited attention has been paid to DSI initiatives, which are representative of the ultimate transformation of the smart city program under the pressure of participation craze. The mushrooming of Digital Social Innovation (DSI) initiatives and their adoption in urban governance is a recent phenomenon that has been only partially investigated in scholarly research. These are often produced (or co-opted) by the neoliberal strategy of market infiltration in public governance, because of the high economic and financial interests of tech-companies. To discuss the progressive and regressive impacts of the introduction of DSI processes in urban governance, the paper focuses on existing initiatives, ongoing debate and future perspectives in the city of Ghent, West Flanders; and elaborates on a collective critical consideration of the implications of DSI. The paper presents the results of a scenario-building process to explores the socio-political implications of DSI in city life.

From key-experts’ comments emerged that, while DSI for urban governance opens up previously unthinkable opportunities, technology-enthusiast accounts often hide the complex nature of the digital; the flows of power and knowledge it mobilizes; and the (dis)empowerment effects it might exert on society.

The research has been performed before the pandemic when moving participatory processes online was still one of the available options, while today going digital is often the only option. Therefore it presents a provocative case-for-thinking on the current challenges and future perspective of the digital revolution against the neoliberal city backdrop, by analysing the citizens’ fears, hopes and imaginaries associated with the diffusion of digital technologies in urban governance processes – with special consideration of the constraints posed by the pandemic condition.

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