Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting 2017, Boston, MA, April 5-9

Sessions title: Is another smart city possible? Sharing cities and the urban commons in a digital age

Session organisers: Julian Agyeman (UEP, Tufts University), Ayona Datta (Geography, King’s College London), Rob Kitchin (NIRSA, Maynooth University) and Duncan McLaren (LEC, Lancaster University).

In practice, so-called ‘smart cities’ typically fit a technical, corporatist and neoliberal model. Claims of citizen involvement rarely extend beyond lip-service. Profoundly political questions regarding social inclusion, environmental sustainability and cultural diversity are unanswered by a uniform technological solutionism. The same technologies also enable sharing platforms in commercial, cooperative, civic and communal forms. Here too there are tensions between the ‘death-star platforms’ (Uber, etc), venture-funded, monopolistic sharing models driving precarity and more community oriented initiatives.

Is another model possible? Do sharing and commoning offer a third way, neither state and market? What politics would make such a path feasible? Can existing commons be protected from or enhanced by smart city policies and business models?

Some questions contributors might consider:

• How do we think about the urban commons in the era of ubiquitous computing, the app and gig economy, smart city-led urban development?
• How is the smart/shared city understood, and can be re-envisioned/remade, through different lens? Political economy, political ecology, post-political, postcolonialism, feminism, critical discourse analysis, etc.
• How can the tensions between smartness and sharing be managed / made constructive? Eg Surveillance vs locational matching …
• What prospects are there for alternative funding and business models for smart and sharing cities?
• How can the smart city democratize the urban commons to produce various forms of active and dissenting urban citizenships?
• What do the range of postcolonial applications of the smart city in emerging economies tell us about the future trajectories, itineraries and local manifestations of a global trope?
• What are the practical/political interventions needed? Within communities, within local government, within business …
• What would genuine citizen / resident participation and involvement look like? What tools could generate real engagement?

We welcome papers addressing these themes in general, or with reference to specific urban commons including: open data commons, open source apps, community wifi, alternative energy, housing, food sharing, transportation (bike share, ride share), public spaces, community gardens, planning, PPGIS etc.

If contributors are interested, papers will also be considered for a planned forthcoming edited volume intended to explore new dimensions of smart/sharing cities.

Abstracts (maximum of 250 words) should be submitted via email to<> by September 30th 2016.

All accepted participants will be required to register and submit your abstract to the AAG following the AAG guidelines and to send your PIN number to<> by October 27, 2016.

Further reading:

Sharing Cities: a case for truly smart and sustainable cities. Duncan McLaren and Julian Agyeman, MIT Press, 2015.
The City as Commons: A policy reader. Ed Jose Ramos, 2016. Available at