6d. Smart Transformations

Track chairs:

Daphne Ngar-yin Mah. Asian Energy Studies Centre and Department of Geography, Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong, China, daphnemah@hkbu.edu.hk

Annamária Orbán. Department of Sociology and Communication, Budapest University of Technology and Economics, Budapest, Hungary. aorban@eik.bme.hu

Marc Wolfram. Leibniz Institute of Ecological Urban and Regional Development (IOER), Chair of Spatial Development, Dresden University of Technology, Germany, m.wolfram@ioer.de

Goals and objectives of the track:

Since the 1990s the global discourse on "smart cities" has seen a continuous expansion of its influence, and is hardly confined to urban areas alone. Cities and regions from across the globe are actively developing "smart" strategies and projects, focused on the application of (networked) Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in pursuit of diverse policy goals, linked to public service provision, mobility, energy, environment, business development, housing or health, among others.

Yet, empirically substantiated criticisms regarding the sustainability orientation of these "smart" initiatives have also been growing (Karvonen, Cugurullo, & Caprotti, 2019; Valdez, Cook, & Potter, 2018; Grossi & Pianezzi, 2017; Haarstad, 2016; Calzada & Cobo, 2015; Wolfram, 2012): More often than not, their conception, governance and implementation suffers from a bias towards short-termed business interests and readily available solutions, targeting incremental improvements rather than deeper structural changes in urban and regional systems that foster social, environmental and economic justice. Especially the role of social needs, civil society and multi-scalar social-ecological systems tend to be neglected - if not entirely ignored.

Regardless these mainstream deficits, however, the potential for the usage of networked ICT to support and enable systemic change towards urban and regional sustainability remains - if starting from the very conception and design of such usage (TNOC, 2018). This includes, but is not limited to:

  • ICT for transformative governance: Engagement and participation; Open Government; Digital inclusion/exclusion; Empowerment; Multi-level governance; Cross-boundary governance; Cross-sectoral governance; Privacy;
  • ICT for transformative knowledge and learning: Knowledge co-creation and -management; Foresight; Modelling, simulation and experimentation; Monitoring and evaluation; Social learning;
  • ICT for transformative co-design and innovation: Digital collaboration; Participatory GIS; Digital experimentation; Co-production and co-design; Transition management;
  • ICT for transformative service and business models: Innovations in service definition, design and delivery; Changing role of incumbents and new market actors'; Trust (distrust) in public/private institutions;

Against this backdrop, this track aims to critically review current policies and practices of "smart" urban and regional development, and to explore the emergence of innovative forms of ICT usage for instigating deeper sustainability transformations.


Track questions

The overarching questions addressed by this track are therefore:

  • How can we characterize transformative ICT usage in urban and regional development?
  • What are practical examples of transformative ICT usage and their impacts?
  • What are the promises, practices and problems of conventional "smart" strategies and initiatives for achieving transformative change?
  • What is the role of different actors, institutions and discourses in developing and implementing "smart" / transformative ICT usages?
  • What are practical approaches and methods for identifying, enabling and designing transformative ICT usages?

Contributions to this track should thus engage theoretically and/or empirically with the conception, design and usage of (networked) ICT to support and enhance wider sustainability transformations in and through cities and regions. They should also strive to critically assess the potential of these ICT-enabled solutions for accelerating and achieving such wider system innovations.

The subject areas addressed may thus be diverse, including e.g. one or more of the following: spatial and urban development, land use, architecture, urban design, climate change, mobility, energy, water, food, biodiversity, waste, building, green/blue infrastructures, circular economy, social inclusion, health, etc.


ICT-enabled solutions; Open data; Open source; Open government; Participation; Digital inclusion; Empowerment; Knowledge co-creation and -management; Foresight; Modelling, simulation and experimentation; Monitoring; Evaluation; Social Learning; Digital collaboration; Co-production and co-design; Transition management;