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Against the smart city (The city is here for you to use Book 1) Kindle Edition

13 customer reviews

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Length: 153 pages
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Product Details

  • File Size: 351 KB
  • Print Length: 153 pages
  • Publisher: Do projects; 1.3 edition (December 20, 2013)
  • Publication Date: December 20, 2013
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #215,111 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

ADAM GREENFIELD lives in London, where he maintains a consulting practice called Urbanscale, collaborates with his wife Nurri Kim under the Do projects banner, and occasionally writes pieces on cities for the Guardian. When he finds the time and energy, he does his best to organize his scattered thoughts into books, the next of which is forthcoming from Verso in 2016.

Previously Senior Urban Fellow at LSE Cities in London, at various points in his career Adam has also been head of design direction for Nokia in Helsinki; an information architect in Tokyo; a rock critic for SPIN Magazine; a medic at the Berkeley Free Clinic; manager of a coffeehouse in West Philadelphia; and a PSYOP sergeant in the US Army's Special Operations Command.

You can sign up for Adam's weekly dispatches at

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Jon Husband on October 2, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Adam Greenfield unpacks the conventional wisdom about "smart cities", much of which has been led by large IT and infrastructure vendors like IBM, Cisco and Siemens, and reminds us in a range of articulate ways that cities' key ingredient and foremost concern is humans .. how they live, work and play, and how cities have grown based on the messiness, inconsistencies and layers of history that humans create and live in.

He warns us against overly-enthusiastic centralization and the predominance of imprecise (and mainly marketing-oriented) language used to date in the conversations about "smart cities" and offers a thoughtful and profoundly human perspective on how the opportunities and challenges might be addressed.

I will read it several times.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ryan betts on October 29, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Technology doesn't change cities, people do.

Adam has been saying this for a while:
"Societies, as it happens, turn their backs on technologies all the time, even some that seem to be at the very cusp of their accession to prominence. Citizen initiatives have significantly shaped [technologies'] emergence -- and [their] commercial viability -- ... and this has been the case even when groups of disconnected individuals have faced coherent, swaggeringly self-confident, and infinitely better-funded pro-technology lobbies." - Adam Greenfield, Everyware (2006)

Jane Jacobs was saying pretty similar things even a half a century ago:
"For all our conformity, we are too adventurous, inquisitive, egoistic and competitive to be a harmonious society of artists by consensus, and what is more, we place a high value upon the very traits that prevent us from being so." - Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961)

Cities are complex and inefficient things teeming with citizens pulling in different directions. This is their main strength. This is why they are effective.

But as much as humans like cities, we don't like disorder all that much. We've spent a lot of the history of cities deploying 'high technology' in an attempt to quiet urban madness. Even when well intentioned, these efforts rarely succeed. Adam's new book offers and incredibly well-informed and well-articulated perspective on the challenges that face us now, with the current bundle of technologies known as the "Smart City."

Much like the Smart Fridges and Smart Televisions that came before it, the Smart City hasn't really lived up to its potential.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Anthony Leone on October 5, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
In a time of unparalleled access to realtime information and communication via smartphones, tablets and so forth, computing power that has increased exponentially in just a few years, how is it the de facto urban planners of tomorrow's cities seem so trapped in stale, limited visions of the past? And how does this institutionalized myopia put at risk the true potential of these advances to improve just about every aspect of our lives, from cultural uniqueness to safety to protecting our democratic ideals?

In Adam Greenfield's AGAINST THE SMART CITY, he examines in great detail plans both proposed and enacted by leading tech giants(with governmental blessing) to create the modern urban utopia, sometimes within existing cities and occasionally built from scratch. He deftly identifies stunning examples in these plans of short sightedness, naive optimism and ignorance of past failures to account for the true nature of how cities work, adapt and thrive. He examines how the modern nature of online communication can perpetuate these incomplete visions as some sort of flawless ideal, and outlines both in theory and practice how their implementation could have serious repercussions in every stratum, obvious or not, that this technological integration may reach.

Greenfield's points are not that of a luddite, to be clear. In his excellent book EVERYWARE: THE DAWN OF UBIQUITOUS COMPUTING he excitedly outlined the awesome possibilities of technology for improving the public good, but always with an understanding of the potential for misuse.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Ethan Zuckerman on October 15, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Adam Greenfield is a smart and nuanced thinker about how cities work and don't work and how technologies attempt to alter how we interact with a city, sometimes succeeding, sometimes getting changed through their encounters with large masses of people living closely together. (I've spent whole evenings with Adam discussing the topic of bollards, removable posts that prevent cars from accessing a street while allowing pedestrians and bicyclists to pass through.) So it was only natural that he would turn his analytic powers to the ida of the "smart city", one of the prevailing memes in contemporary urban planning.

The problem with critiquing the smart city is that you're critiquing an idea, not a reality. Greenfield is sensitive to this problem, apologizing for subjecting marketing copy to a critical reading. But there's a reason to "break a butterfly on a wheel" in this way - the sort of language used to describe smart cities built from the ground up, like Masdar City or New Songdo, gets used to talk about aspirations for changes to existing cities. The assumptions behind smart cities designed ex nihilo are build into the language and shape the aspirations for how existing cities are shaped by data. And, as Greenfield skillfully explains, those assumptions run directly counter to generations of wisdom about how cities actually operate, expand and thrive.

I've been recommending Greenfield's book to my students as they think about urban planning and technology and the assumptions they're bringing to their projects. And I am especially grateful that Greenfield couples his potent critique with a helpful section that considers how cities could learn from their citizens in ways that are participatory and not exploitative. I've got high hopes that Greenfield's highly readable critique will spread far and wide and will help bring about a richer dialog about what we want from our cities and what we should and shouldn't expect technology to help us to do.
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