Tarzan vs. IBM

Value paradigms of urban technologies

Authored by: Dietmar Offenhuber

The New Companion to Urban Design

Print publication date:  May  2019
Online publication date:  June  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138302129
eBook ISBN: 9780203731932
Adobe ISBN:


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The urban planning discourse is increasingly shaped by technological concepts such as Smart Cities, the Open Data movement, or the Internet of Things. Technologies deployed at the urban scale by well-funded tech companies are already reshaping urban environments; ride-sharing platforms or the gig economy are leaving traces on the socioeconomic fabric of many cities. Both proponents and critics often ascribe these changes to inherently disruptive effects of technology. Yet, such an essentialist focus on the nature of technological change distracts from the wide range of different cultures, values, and ideologies these technologies are entangled with. Using recent examples of data-driven urbanism, this chapter will describe the differences between various urban technologies and techno-cultures based on the goals and value propositions of their supporters. The chapter describes four value paradigms derived from recurring themes in the techno-urbanistic discourse – “seamless efficiency,” “responsive transparency,” “empowering devolution,” and “shared stewardship” – and discusses their similarities and differences, their goals and critiques.

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