CfPs NGM 2022 Joensuu | Session 29. Messy smart cities: Comparative perspectives and methodological challenges 

Adriana de La Peña Espinosa Call for Papers smart cities

Organizers: Lorena Melgaço (Lund University), Claudia Fonseca Alfaro (Malmö University), and Chiara Valli (Malmö University)

Critical scholarship on smart cities has rapidly grown in the past years. From studies of smart imaginaries and discourse to the challenges posed by technocratic governance and neoliberal governmentality (Söderström et al., 2014; Vanolo, 2014), scholars have problematized the use of big data and its impacts on privacy (Kitchin, 2014) and highlighted the dangers of corporate interests shaping the design and planning of cities (Hollands, 2008, 2015). Turning to the global South, scholars such as Ayona Datta, Nancy Odendaal, and Vanessa Watson have looked at how the smart paradigm seems to ignore the basic infrastructural needs of local communities through a reproduction of Eurocentric models of modernity and development. Gillian Rose (2017), on the other hand, has drawn our attention to how the smart city reproduces a white male-centered model that privileges already mobile groups and hinders local forms of agency and governance.

The literature has also focused on highlighting the methodological shortcomings and knowledge gaps within the field. Emphasizing the difference between imaginaries and implementation, Shelton et al. (2015) ask us to ground and situate projects in time and space to study the “actually existing smart city” and understand what the actual effects are on, for example, the everyday, housing, planning, etc. Following a similar line of argument, the work of Kitchin (2015) and Luque-Ayala and Marvin (2015) highlights the need for more case studies and comparative research not only from locations in the global North but also the global South. The latest research has begun to fill this knowledge gap. Examples include a) an edited volume by Karvonen, Cugurullo and Caprotti (2019) Inside Smart Cities: Place, Politics and Urban Innovation which includes several empirical cases from the global North and South, and b) the Special Issue Worlding smart cities: Towards global comparative research which addresses the concerns of postcolonial urban studies and tries to fill the gap in comparative research. However, work remains to not only continue addressing these concerns, but also expanding our lens of research to medium-sized cities and rural areas.

We invite theoretical or empirical contributions that carry out comparative approaches or address methodological/epistemological challenges to understand the messiness of smart cities. We welcome contributions that discuss, but are not limited to, the following questions:

  • How do we carry out comparative research between smart examples across and between the global North, global South and global East?
  • What are the methodological challenges of implementing comparative approaches?
  • How do we carry out the epistemological and methodological process of “worlding” the smart city?
  • What are the forms of the “actually existing smart city” in the global North and South?
  • How does the actually-existing smart manifest in medium-sized cities or rural areas?

Please submit your abstract via the NGM 2022 website:  (Only abstracts submitted through this system will be considered). 

Deadline: 29 October 2021

For any questions regarding the session feel free to contact one of the organizers:; or