Intelligence for Place-Making and Social Inclusion

Critiques and alternatives to India’s Smart Cities Mission

Authored by: Balaji Parthasarathy , Brinda Sastry

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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New technologies have long played a role in sustaining cities. It is not surprising, then, that as the human race becomes increasingly urban, it turns to contemporary information technologies to give cities “intelligence” and make them “smart.” Deploying technologies to improve physical infrastructure, or to make cities more efficient locations for commerce, is perhaps necessary, especially in the Global South. However, the extent to which smart cities will be experientially rich or socially vibrant is unclear. History suggests caution. For instance, the techno-functional planning and design of 20th-century modernism was subverted because it could not adequately come to terms with human agency in the public realm to shape urban form in a socially inclusive manner. This chapter examines India’s Smart Cities Mission to argue that smart cities run the risk of doing little to improve the quality of urban life, when they fail to conceptually integrate diversity and plurality. The chapter examines cases that show how technology can help placemaking and social inclusion, not by being prescriptive about behavior and the urban built form, but by blending into human activities to help intelligent citizens make smart choices about their cities.

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