The Smart City in a Digital World

ISBN: 978-1-78769-138-4, eISBN: 978-1-78769-135-3

Publication date: 28 August 2019


Mosco, V. (2019), "Prelims", The Smart City in a Digital World (Society Now), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. i-xviii.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019 Emerald Publishing Limited

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The Smart City in a Digital World

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The Smart City in a Digital World

Vincent Mosco

United Kingdom – North America – Japan India – Malaysia – China

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Howard House, Wagon Lane, Bingley BD16 1WA, UK

First edition 2019

Copyright © 2019 by Emerald Publishing Limited.

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ISBN: 978-1-78769-138-4 (Print)

ISBN: 978-1-78769-135-3 (Online)

ISBN: 978-1-78769-137-7 (Epub)


To my father Frank Mosco, whose devotion to the New York City he loved earned a new name for the Manhattan block we lived on: Mosco Street.

To my grandparents Lucy and Vincent DiPilato. Immigrants to America. Driven out of the coal-mining town of Barton, Maryland by the Ku Klux Klan. Planned a return to Italy. Stopped off in New York City. Made a life.


I’d got a bit o’ the brave by now an’ I asked our visitor why Prescients with all their high Smart’n’all want to learn all ‘bout us Valleysmen. What could we poss’bly teach her what she din’t know? The learnin’ mind is the livin’ mind, Meronym said, an’ any sort o’ Smart is truesome Smart, old Smart or new, high Smart or low.

— David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas: A Novel


List of Tables xiii
About the Author xv
Acknowledgements xvii
1. The World is Urban 1
  City–states 2
  Critical Social Science 3
  Climate Change 8
  Networks of Cities 10
  What Makes a City Smart? 11
  Smart City Patterns 12
  A Trilogy 13
  From an Urban Village to a Life in Cities 15
  Overview of the Book 18
  Smart City in a Bottle 24
2. How to Think About Smart Cities 27
  Stop Using the Term 28
  The Smart City is About Technology 28
  The Smart City is About Citizens 30
  The Smart City is a Space-Time Machine 32
  The Smart City is a Computer 33
  The Smart City is a Platform 34
  Time’s Twisted Arrow 38
  The First Smart City 38
  Architecture Without Architects 40
  Sedentary and Smart 41
  IBM’s Smarter City 44
  Computer Simulations and Urban Dynamics in the Steel City 46
  Punch Cards in the City of Angels 47
  The 1964 New York World’s Fair 47
  From Progressland to Epcot 48
  The Wired City 50
  The Technological Sublime 51
  The Past Is Not Necessarily Prologue 52
3. City of Technology: Where the Streets are Paved with Data 59
  Technology: The Next Internet 59
  The Internet of Things 60
  Cloud Computing 61
  Big Data Analytics 64
  Smart Transportation, Smart Energy, Smart Communication 65
  Big Savings 67
  Command and Control in the Smart City 68
  Google Toronto and it Comes Up New York 71
  Don’t Google This 85
4. Who Governs? State-driven Smart Cities 97
  Three Types of Governance 97
  Government-led Smart Cities 98
  Singapore: City-state, Smart Nation, Surveillance Pioneer 98
  High-tech China: What’s Your Social Credit Score? 101
  Modi’s India: Let 100 Smart Cities Bloom 116
5. Who Governs? Private Smart Cities 129
  But First a Word About Disney 129
  Amazon in Seattle: When a Big City Becomes a Private Laboratory 132
  Company Towns: As American as Apple Pie 134
  Zucktown 137
  Y Combinator and the New Cities Initiative 138
  No, Not Muskville, YarraBend 139
  Peter Thiel’s Floating Cities 141
  Bill Gates in the Desert 142
  Blockchain USA 143
  Will Big Tech Run Smart Cities? 144
6. Who Governs? Citizens 151
  Citizens and Participation 151
  Barcelona en Comú: Democracy by Design 154
  Amsterdam: DECODE and FairBnB 160
  Ouishare Paris 161
  Sharing Services in Seoul 162
  Smart City Governance and the Inevitability of Climate Change 163
7. The Urban Imaginary: Myths and Markets 169
  The Machine in the Garden 170
  The Tower in the Park 175
  The Urban Dance: Eyes on the Street 182
  From the Creative Class to the Smart City 187
  The Panoptic City? 196
  Selling the Smart City 197
8. Whose Smart City? 215
  Why Create an Urban Imaginary? 216
  Profit and Power 216
  Livability 217
  Surveillance and Privacy 219
  Ownership of Data 222
  Black Gold for Hackers 224
  Normal Cities, Normal Accidents 227
  Smart Distraction, Climate Change and the Efficiency Trap 230
  Resistance 232
  Municipalism 239
  A Manifesto for the Smart City 241
Further Reading 249
Index 251

List of Tables

Chapter 1

Table 1. The World’s 50 Largest Urban Areas (Population in Millions). 4

Chapter 7

Table 2. Top 20 Smart Cities. 204
Table 3. Top 20 Smart Cities by Performance Index. 205

About the Author

Vincent Mosco is Professor Emeritus, Queen’s University, Canada where he held the Canada Research Chair in Communication and Society. He is also Distinguished Professor, New Media Centre, School of Journalism and Communication, Fudan University, Shanghai. He is the author or editor of 26 books and over 200 articles and book chapters on communication, technology and society including The Digital Sublime, The Political Economy of Communication, To the Cloud: Big Data in a Turbulent World and Becoming Digital: Toward a Post-Internet Society.


I am deeply grateful to many people for helping to make this book possible. Catherine McKercher, my partner in life and in research, used her considerable skills as a journalist to improve my first book manuscript, published in 1979, and, 40 years and 25 books later, she was a source of intelligent comment and practical advice on this project. In fact, most of this book was written at one end of a sofa whose other end was occupied by Catherine, hard at work on her own book, keyboard taps interrupted from time to time with questions and advice. Catherine read and commented on drafts of the book proposal and offered valuable suggestions throughout.

I am indebted to Patricia Mazepa, Ian Nagy, Alex Savulescu and Sandra Smeltzer, who also commented on drafts of the book proposal. My deep gratitude goes out to Ian and Alex, who also read and offered constructive criticism on a complete draft of the manuscript. Patricia and Enda Brophy also provided helpful suggestions throughout the writing. I have discussed cities with Ying-Fen Huang for many years and am grateful for her advice, particularly on urban development in China. Manjunath Pendakur, a dear friend and colleague for 40 years, offered insights on information technology in India. Thanks also to my childhood friend Lawrence Venturato, a fellow Mulberry Street kid, who shared his thoughts about a changing New York City.

My projects often benefit from the experience and knowledge of family members and The Smart City in a Digital World is no exception. Not many people know more about Disney than my daughter Madeline Mosco and her partner Derek Morton. Visits with them to ‘the happiest place on earth’ and conversations about Disney’s vision helped me to understand the company’s significant impact on urban design and planning. Through numerous conversations over many years, my daughter Rosemary Mosco, a science communicator and author, schooled me on the significance of climate change, an issue that is all too often ignored or mentioned only briefly in discussions of smart cities.

I owe a debt of gratitude to Gabriele Balbi and Paolo Bori of the Università della Svizzera italiana in Lugano, Switzerland. The occasion of a doctoral dissertation examination led to very interesting discussions on the history of technology-enabled cities and on the role of the imaginary in the culture of technological change. Thanks also to Paško Bilić of the Institute for Development and International Relations in Zagreb, Croatia, whose kind invitation to give a keynote address to a conference on communication, capitalism and social change provided an opportunity to address some of the issues in this book. Thanks also to Sid Shniad, a long-time friend and activist, who asked if I would write a vision statement on smart cities to help candidates running for city council seats in Vancouver, British Columbia. My response evolved into the manifesto for smart cities that concludes the book.

This is my second book with Emerald Publishing and I am especially appreciative to my publisher Jenny McCall, who kindly reached out to ask about my interest in writing for the SocietyNow series. Her initial contact led to my 2017 book Becoming Digital: Toward a Post-Internet Society and her continuing support and encouragement for a book on technology and cities significantly helped to bring this project to fruition.