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Policy failure in urban governance: the case of large digital corporations
CARR, Constance; HESSE, Markus
2021
 

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Keywords :
Amazon HQs; Google; data centers; Sidewalk Labs
Abstract :
[en] This paper draws upon the branch of urban studies literature known as policy mobilities (McCann 2011) and, particularly, policy failure (Temenos & Lauermann 2020) to understand the strategic practices of large digital corporations (LDCs) in urban development. While it is a relatively new phenomenon that LDCs are appearing as important actors in the field of urban development, their role has moved beyond being simply the producers of new technological products that supposedly make cities more efficient, green and smart. They are, for example, in the background, forging their central position in the functioning of cities by taking up space (land, water, bodies) for so-called essential urban infrastructures such as data centers (Carr 2021) needed to support their technologies. At the same time, they are also driving the production of what we refer to as their symbolic spaces of LDC-style digital cities. These are Amazon’s HQ2 and the digital city that was proposed by Sidewalk Labs Toronto (daughter firm of Alphabet Inc.), projects that epitomised both their importance in the field and the height of their technological innovation. Yet, striking about these cases is that, with the exception of the HQ2 in Arlington, these projects never materialized. In this paper, we argue that this was not a coincidence. Rather, both Amazon and Alphabet effectively mobilized a strategy of policy-making that has recently received attention in the urban studies literature: policy failure (Lovell 2017; Temenos & Lauermann 2020). Viewing these cases through the lens of policy failure shows that LDC-led digital cities is not so much about producing flashy cities equipped with avant-garde technologies as it is about endorsing a post-political mode of urban governance that drains public institutions of time and resources and reconfigures state-society relations. This is a cautionary tale for practitioners, who need to understand and watch out for the flags of this disingenuous behaviour.
Disciplines :
Human geography & demography
Author, co-author :
CARR, Constance  ;  University of Luxembourg > Faculty of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences (FHSE) > Department of Geography and Spatial Planning (DGEO)
HESSE, Markus  ;  University of Luxembourg > Faculty of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences (FHSE) > Department of Geography and Spatial Planning (DGEO)
Language :
English
Title :
Policy failure in urban governance: the case of large digital corporations
Publication date :
2021
Event name :
Smart City Research Symposium
Event date :
22-09-2021
Available on ORBilu :
since 29 September 2021

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