From the smart city to the wise city: The role of universities in place-based leadership

Paper by Hambleton, R.: “For a variety of reasons the notion of the smart city has grown in popularity and some even claim that all cities now have to be ‘smart’. For example, some digital enthusiasts argue that advances in Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) are ushering in a new era in which pervasive electronic connections will inevitably lead to significant changes that make cities more liveable and more democratic. This paper will cast a critical eye over these claims. It will unpack the smart city rhetoric and show that, in fact, three competing perspectives are struggling for ascendancy within the smart cities discourse: 1) The digital city (emphasising a strong commitment to the use of ICT in governance), 2) The green city (reflecting the growing use of the US phrase smart growth, which is concerned to apply sound urban planning principles), and 3) The learning city (emphasising the way in which cities learn, network and innovate). Five digital danger zones will be identified and discussed. This analysis will suggest that scholars and policy makers who wish to improve the quality of life in cities should focus their attention on wisdom, not smartness. Civic leaders need to exercise judgement based on values if they are to create inclusive, sustainable cities. It is not enough to be clever, quick, ingenious, nor will it help if Big Data is superseded by Even Bigger Data. Universities can play a much more active role in place-based leadership in the cities where they are located. To do this effectively they need to reconsider the nature of modern scholarship. The paper will show how a growing number of universities are doing precisely this. Two respected examples will be presented to show how urban universities, if they are committed to engaged scholarship, can make a significant contribution to the creation of the wise city.”