The production of smart cities: Learning from an “actually existing” example in Mexico


This project is a study of the socio-political challenges, impacts, and potentialities of smart cities within the context of the Global South. I suggest using qualitative methods from the urban ethnography toolkit to study a smart case in MexicoCiudad Creativa Digital (CCD), and understand it against the background of technology-driven models of urban renewal and development. Framed within two fields, critical smart urbanism and postcolonial urban studies, I see to make a three-fold contribution (empirical, theoretical, and epistemological) by operationalizing this novel approach. Bridging an empirical gap in the literature, the project investigates an “actually existing” (Shelton et al., 2015) smart city from a region, Latin America, where there is little research on. Theoretically, the project also breaks ground by proposing to study the “production of space” (Lefebvre, 1991) of a smart city through a postcolonial lens. This framework — a mix of postcolonial and critical urban theory — builds on theoretical contributions developed in my doctoral dissertation and is an epistemological contribution that advances cosmopolitan scholarship in pursuit of a more global and plural field of urban studies (Robinson, 2016; Roy, 2009; Schwarz and Streule, 2016).

The project’s aims are to (a) study how local decision-makers are operationalizing the smart  narrative, (b) investigate what infrastructure is being built, (c) analyze the impacts that these actions are having on everyday life, and (e) explore the extent to which the smart city project and its actors catalyze change towards a sustainable urban future. 

Partial financing from: The Critical Urban Sustainability Hub (CRUSH), a Strong Research Environment financed by the Swedish Research Council for Sustainable Development (FORMAS).