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Joint SMIT/Cosmopolis Lunch Seminar: Tassilo Herrschel (BCUS visiting fellow)
24/06/2015 11:30 - 14:00
iMinds-SMIT-VUB - Pleinlaan 9, 2nd floor, 1050 Brussel
Joint SMIT-Cosmopolis seminar. Informal academic seminars to share research results, working papers, or anything else that is in progress, and to get feedback, opinions and ideas from colleagues.
What is so ‘Smart’ About Smart City-Regional Governance?

Everyone seems to be claiming to do ‘smart’ things or being ‘smart’ when it comes to presenting and discussing policy making or political processes. This applies in particular to governance, because, ‘who wants to be dumb’, as a referee commented on a recent paper draft of mine on ‘smartness’.

Yet, what does this term actually mean? It seems that ‘smartness’ has become the new paradigm de rigueur to characterise urban policy and governance, but without a clear meaning. Rather, there seems to be a ‘fuzzy’ understanding of what ‘smart’ may mean, as it tries to be ‘all things to all men’. And these ‘things’ range from meanings and understandings of a more technological IT perspective (as found at SMIT), seeking to increase the efficiency of service delivery in public administration as part of ‘good governance’, and the more conceptual political-strategic dimension in social sciences, which views it as a way of reconciling several concurrent, even conflicting, agendas and objectives (e.g. economic growth – sustainability).

It is this latter, broader, understanding that is adopted here. ‘Smartness’ is being taken to mean searching for new ways of doing things. This includes stepping back from routines and engrained practices and rationales, and looking for different, novel, even ‘radical’, ways of doing things. And this, of course, involves innovation, enterprise, risk-taking and imagination, all characteristics of shifts in policy-making and governance. In other words, ‘smartness’ is taken here to stand for ‘policy innovation’ or, at a more fundamental, structural level, 'political innovation'. This involves critical reflection and more ‘outside the box’ thinking, but also the taking of political risks by actors, such as associated with leaving established ‘safe’ practices and formulas, and venture instead across apparent gaps between different perspectives and meanings.

The seeming gap between application-oriented IT approaches and discursive-conceptual imaginations (whether realistic or not) in social sciences, is one such case. The outcome may be new types of policies and ways of doing them, as will be illustrated with some examples.

 June 24th, 2015
 iMinds-SMIT-VUB, Pleinlaan 9, 1050 Brussels