A Smart City Anomaly: The Near Becomes Far, The Far Becomes Near

  • Ronit Purian Environmental Studies Department, Urban Innovation and Sustainability Lab, Porter School of the Environment and Earth Sciences, Tel Aviv University, Israel
Keywords: Complex systems, displacement, gentrification, global cities, globalization, integration, segregation, spatial cognition, spatial behavior, urban morphology, urban planning


Social change that results from new information and communication technologies is manifesting in the form of cities. A major body of literature has been dedicated to characterizing the structure of the networks formed by roads, buildings, landmarks, and other elements in urban environments. While most research in the field is dedicated to centrality, connectivity and integration, previous studies were focused on physical separation as the feature that best expresses socioeconomic segregation. This study adds a global layer to the local barriers, developing a ‘theory of smart city form’: urban networks that connect the far and separate the near, eliminate physical distance yet leave physical traces. Significant shifts are occurring in both global and the local processes associated with morphological separation within cities and information flow between cities. Smart cities, global citizens, and urban networks materialize a global regime of competition and innovation that tends to overwhelm local processes of socioeconomic integration and social mobility. Beyond the digital divide and digital literacy, new ecosystems of software development lead innovation in ways that connect the similar while neglecting distance and excluding closer but dissimilar social groups. The establishment of two layers of reference, the local and the global, aligns with the impact of technological progress on the generic city and helps to specify the origins of separability, and the persistence of segregation and displacement. Global connectivity is outward-interconnected but inward-disconnecting. This paper reviews findings to identify this anomaly in global cities and concludes with a theoretical review to frame the proposed explanation for sharp divides in closer proximity. The myth of move fast and break things is not over yet in the accelerating globalization era where cities are connected and forced to move fast.


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