10 May

Public workshop: Planning and Building the Smart City

  • 14:00 - 16:00
  • Meerminne Building - Sint-Jacobstraat 2-4, Room M.101, University of Antwerp

Guy Baeten will be the keynote speaker at the event Planning and Building the Smart City where he will present “What would happen if you just give us a city and put us in charge?” When Google wants to build a city.

Abstract: Under the banner of ‘smart city’, global tech corporations increasingly seek cooperation with city authorities to accommodate the city’s transformation into a data mine. This would allow tech companies to expand their big data gathering activities into the physical realm – a giant (future) data market with real cities as its mining ground. The growing involvement of tech companies in urban development has potentially revolutionary consequences for the way we plan our cities, and will potentially create entirely new power relations in the urban realm.Arguably the most high-profile case so far is the Quayside in downtown Toronto where Google’s sister company Sidewalk Labs has aligned with the public partnership Waterfront Toronto to form ‘Sidewalk Toronto’. Sidewalk Labs is currently preparing a $50 million master plan for the site and, if approved, will go ahead with the construction of a new neighbourhood with ubiquitous sensoring devices. Reports leaked in a local newspaper in February 2019 have revealed that Google has hidden plans for a much larger part of the city than originally agreed. The Toronto testbed will be transformed into an urban development model that can be exported ‘all over the world’ (interview Google employee, 2018). The project is increasingly contested by data experts, planners and the public alike who express their growing concerns regarding intellectual property, the nature of public-private cooperation, urban democracy, the role of technology in urban development, and more. The paper seeks to critically reflect on possible city futures after growing engagement by global tech companies in urban development, and what lessons can be learned about how (not) to govern a large-scale smart city project.

Chair: Stijn Oosterlynck (University of Antwerp)

Discussants: Jan Adriaenssen (IMEC), Vlaamse Vereniging voor Ruimte en Planning (VRP) (TBC), and Gert Vandermosten (StadsLab2050, TBC)