An Ontological Analysis of Cities, Smart Cities and Their Components

In Michael Nagenborg, Taylor Stone, Margoth González Woge & Pieter E. Vermaas (eds.), Technology and the City: Towards a Philosophy of Urban Technologies. Springer Verlag. pp. 365-387 (2021)
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Abstract

The arising of smart cities has shown the limitations of the traditional attempts to understand and characterize cities. The smart city marks a relevant step in the evolution of urban systems which is expected to have disruptive impacts in the near future. Indeed, the ‘smartness’ qualification of cities points to relevant changes in the possibilities these complex systems offer mainly due to changes in the information which is made available. This chapter studies the notion of city from an ontological viewpoint, and provides the first elements of a general framework aimed to characterize and unify how to understand the city and its evolution. It starts from historical considerations to isolate the factors that drove the changes from ancient to modern cities, and the complexity that characterizes the nature of cities. Our analysis departs from the traditional views and leads to distinguish three ontological components in the city: the modified physical place, the distributed agentivity, and the knowledge present in the system. The analysis of these components and their interactions, we argue, provides a coherent reading of the city across its evolution steps, and may be used to establish the maturity of today’s smart cities.

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