Data in the smart city: How incongruent frames challenge the transition from ideal to practice

Last modified: 25.10.2018

Interested in how high-flying visions about the smart city are translated into bureaucratic practices on the ground in the 'actually existing smart city'? Anders Koed's new paper outlines incongruent data-frames at play in this process.

This paper presents an analysis of interviews, focus groups and workshops with employees in the technical administration in the municipality of Copenhagen in the year after it won a prestigious Smart City award. The administration is interpreted as a ‘most likely’ to succeed in translating the idealised version of the smart city into a workable bureaucratic practice. Drawing on the work of Orlikowski and Gash, the empirical analysis identifies and describes two incongruent ‘technological frames’ that illustrates different ways of making sense of data and the smart city within this single organisational unit. One is called the experimentalist’s credo and it is characterised by inspiration from the development of an Internet of Things as well as a readiness to learn from the open source community in software development. The other is called the data-owners vocation and it is characterised by a more situated approach that interprets data as strategic and political. It is argued that the existence of these frames provides two insights relevant for the literature on smart cities. First, they illustrate that one should be careful not to reify the smart city as a phenomenon that can be criticised in generic terms. Second, they suggest that even if there exists a transition toward the implementation of a technocratic smart city paradigm across public administrations, this paradigm is not unique in its focus on markets and evidence in governance.

Find the article here