Politics of the Technological Fix in UrbanismOla Söderström in conversation with Daniella Zetti and Jörg Stollmann

This talk draws on an on-going research project on the provincialisation of the smart city narrative in South Africa and India. The aim of this research is to move beyond the rehearsed critique of the smart city as a “technological-fix-narrative” to urban problems. If this critique remains largely valid when confronted to actually existing smart cities, it also largely simplifies the “smart city effect”, especially in cities of the Global South. The talk will first show how smart city narratives have been rolled out and taken up by South African and Indian municipalities during the past fifteen years. It will then show how this apparently powerful and highly mobile policy also works as a throw-away “lexical glue” to designate widely different urban initiatives such as road improvements or slum upgrading. Finally, this talk will focus on and discuss various relational forms of “techno-fixes” emerging in the interplay between municipalities, NGOs and urban activists. The conclusion of the talk and its cross-cutting argument is that struggle over data-power and legitimate knowledge as well as politics of technological fix are central processes in present forms of smart urbanism on the ground.