Social justice implications of smart urban technologies: an intersectional approach

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Techno-optimistic visions around smart buildings, homes, cities, grids, healthcare, etc. have become ubiquitous over the past decade. Using variations of machine learning and artificial intelligence, smart urbanism (SU) envisions an efficient, digital society. However, research shows that smart technologies reinscribe inequalities by prioritising the interests of the free market, technology-centric governance and data monetisation. Although there has been a growing concern over the injustices SU perpetuates, there is a lack of systematic engagement with power systems such as capitalism or heterosexism that underpin SU visions. A novel framework is presented that situates intersectional justice at the heart of SU. A mapping of 70 cases of ‘trouble’ with the promises of SU is used to address three core research questions: What are the ‘troubles’ with SU? To what extent are they intersectional? What can intersectionality add to the development of a just SU? The analysis shows how SU politics play out in relation to how users are understood and engaged, how different actors institutionalise SU and how dominant power systems are challenged. The presented strategy contributes to understanding not just the data politics in urban spaces, but also how they can be renegotiated and re-evaluated to solve multiple and interconnected urban crises without compromising on social justice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)315–333
Number of pages19
JournalBuildings and Cities
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2023


  • cities
  • data politics
  • Internet of Things
  • intersectionality
  • smart city
  • smart technology
  • smart urbanism
  • social justice

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