Lecture: Acknowledging the Idiot in the Smart City: Laboratisation and Citizenship in the making of a low-carbon district in Santiago de Chile


In this presentation I will like to share some empirical reflections about the notion of Smart City and its socio-technical implications in urban space in Santiago. From my research project called “Smart Citizen”, developing with my colleague Matias Valderrama, I have been studying different empirical cases trying to understand how the idea of smart urbanism is implemented; that is, through what kind of socio-material repertoires it’s develops.

My approach is pragmatist: rather than fix a definition of the smart city, I explore how this notion emerge through interventions and practices, breakdowns and justifications, technologies and expectations. From a more political perspective, I’m interested to understand how sociotechnical frames of Smart City becomes a mechanism for enrolment (or what I call as a “conscription device’) distributing priorities and capacities of the urban actors, shaping up particulars way of understand urban spaces, public participation and the very idea of smartness.

Based on recent works on the concept of the idiot, I argue that this Smart intervention (Shared Streets for a Low-Carbon District) made invisible the “idiotic manifestations” of indifference and problematisation that emerge during the intervention. This work of purification of the urban complexity -avoiding frictions, recalcitrant and agonistic situations- blocked the unfolding capacity of the experiment to rethink urban participation, in which the idiotic manifestations could be considered as sites of inventive process, becoming a ground for the deployment of critical competencies of the actors and entities involved. In other words, I will argue that this project, like many other Smart Experiments in public space, conceived the experimentation in its enfolding capacities, rather than use the urban experimentation in its unfolding capacities; that is, the capacity for open up new sites of political engagement and speculation whit the city and democracy