Visualising and calculating the smart city: a dialogue perspective
This study addresses the implications of smart city development paths (techno-centric and human-centric) by investigating the evolution of a city strategy, focusing on how different actors in a dialogue centred on strategic planning documents for Saint Petersburg, Russia, visualised the smart city and then made it calculable.
The authors conducted a case study based on a documentary analysis supported by ethnographic elements relying on the smart city conceptual proposals, the approved city strategy and the artifacts of expert discussions leading to the strategy implementation plan.
Through the lens of dialogue theory, the authors show how government and non-government actors in different organisational settings devised techno-centric smart city calculations, which arose despite an initial human-centric vision.
While the case study allowed the study to illustrate the depth and richness of the context of the authoritarian Russian state where the role of citizens in public decision-making is rather limited, different and even contrasting results could be produced in other contexts.
There is a gap between a smart city vision and its grounding in calculations. Thus, the human-centric elements require special attention, and the organisation of the dialogue on smart city strategy must enable plurality of voices besides those of government actors.
The case suggests viewing the human-centric and techno-centric perspectives not as dichotomous, but rather emerging consecutively throughout the journey from an initial strategic vision to its implementation in the city's calculations.