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Moving from Smart Citizens to Technological Sovereignty?

The Right to the Smart City

ISBN: 978-1-78769-140-7, eISBN: 978-1-78769-139-1

Publication date: 7 June 2019


This chapter explores if alternative participatory co-creation approaches have the potential for deploying an emancipatory urbanism that is able to contest the urban dynamics of (digital) capitalism. It does so by focusing on the Barcelona case. Barcelona fully embraced a “smart citizen” approach in 2011 to become a European referent in smart urban strategies. However, in 2015, with the arrival of a new municipal government, Barcelona has situated itself contesting the “smart city” and at the forefront of alternative possibilities with its “technological sovereignty” strategy. This shift aims to remake the smart city agenda for citizens through the advancement of the right to information and guarantees to open, transparent, and participatory decision-making through new digital and platform technologies. The chapter argues, first, that “technological sovereignty” has been instrumental in re-politicizing the notions of (smart) citizenship and technology, deploying initiatives aimed at regaining public control on data and citizens participating in policy-making. Second, Barcelona’s technological sovereignty strategy, though framed as locally and bottom-up, is based on a global comprehension and diagnosis of the global dynamics of digital capitalism. However, sometimes, there still remains an over-optimistic stance concerning digital technology. Thus, for any alternative to the neoliberal smart city, it is necessary to decenter the debate from the technologies themselves or the local, and recognize that any emancipatory strategy is also about acknowledging that technology-led solutions are not autonomous of broader relations of production and complex political economy geographies.



Ribera-Fumaz, R. (2019), "Moving from Smart Citizens to Technological Sovereignty?", Cardullo, P., Di Feliciantonio, C. and Kitchin, R. (Ed.) The Right to the Smart City, Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 177-191.



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