Our interdisciplinary Urban Studies list examines how the built environment shapes behaviour and how to address complex problems like urban poverty, gentrification, climate change and educational inequality.
Subjects covered include urban planning, urban geography, urban policy, local governance and community-based participation, to offer a broad understanding of how urban dynamics shape both global interdependence and local spaces.
This conclusion answers the main question posed by the book: if corporate smart promises are inadequate in responding meaningfully to urban challenges in Africa, how do disruptive practices that use digital platforms do so more effectively? It also tells the conceptual story about how we make sense of socio-technical change in geographies that are politically unstable, spatially fragmented and highly inequitable, using a postcolonial STS approach. The chapter is structured around five dimensions of platform urbanism in African cities: space; the importance of flow and connection in socio-technical relations; the centrality of trust and continuity in enabling the application of technology; the tensions between existing governance frames and emerging regimes because of the digital evolution; and the African city as hybrid, that is, a messy entanglement of the old and the new.
Social mobilization is an important feature of African cities where inequality and political power undermine livelihoods. By examining digitally driven activism in South Africa and Sierra Leone, this chapter explores the notion of ‘cyborg activism’ to illustrate the experiential and hybrid dimensions of such processes. Co-production of knowledge is an important aspect of these examples because the notion of agency is revised and revisited.
Food insecurity is increasing in African cities and became particularly pronounced during the COVID-19 pandemic. High food costs and the limited availability of core products are largely informed by inefficient supply chains and the lack of recognition of the informal economy and its role in the supply and distribution of food, as well as its role in enabling livelihoods. The applications discussed in this chapter focus on addressing such inefficiencies and incorporated street vendors and small farmers in the supply chain in Kenya. The chapter also considers community mobilization in relation to food exchange under COVID-19 lockdown measures in South Africa and the use of drones to monitor geophysical change related to crop management in Zanzibar.
The ‘smart city’ is often promoted as a technology-driven solution to complex urban issues. While commentators are increasingly critical of techno-optimistic narratives, the political imagination is dominated by claims that technical solutions can be uniformly applied to intractable problems.
This book provides a much-needed alternative view, exploring how ‘home-grown’ digital disruption, driven and initiated by local actors, upends the mainstream corporate narrative.
Drawing on original research conducted in a range of urban African settings, Odendaal shows how these initiatives can lead to meaningful change.
This is a valuable resource for scholars working in the intersection of science and technology studies, urban and economic geography and sociology.
This chapter is essentially a literature review that focuses primarily on platform urbanism. The aim is to explore current debates on the platform economy in contemporary cities and how this applies to the Global South and Africa. Furthermore, the intention is also to explore the technical qualities of digital platforms and their implications for disruptive urban practices.
One of the most challenging spatial issues in African cities is the lack of adequate and integrated mobility systems. African urban dwellers predominantly rely on paratransit to traverse the city. This chapter explores several locally developed ride-hail applications in Uganda and Kenya, and the implications for future mobility.
This introduction offers an alternative means for understanding smart cities in Africa by surfacing the contradictions and problematic discourses that often inform them. It introduces the structuring themes of the book: mobility, food security, social mobilization and public culture. This chapter is also central to establishing the ethos and conceptual lens that inform its narrative.
This chapter explores the many imaginations of the digital city. It does this from three vantage points. The first explores intentional digital places that seek to use technology to define and articulate their textures and establish global connections in Kenya. The second focuses on cultural practices, also in Kenya, examining an arts hub as a physical and digital melting pot of cultural talents, intended to disrupt urban space through cultural networking. The third vantage point explores the cultural practices and representation of African urban futures through an examination of Afrofuturism as emblematic of the disrupted hybrid city. The aim here is to look towards the future of African urban spaces by examining the present and how it engages the past.
This chapter asks the question, what does this unthinking mean for current anthropogenic climate change policies? This is answered in two ways. First, the concept of urban demand is discussed in its current manifestation as the product of a global Advertising-Big Data-Social Media complex. Second, the mechanisms behind the immensity of Chinese urban growth in recent decades are described. In their different, but intertwined, ways these two expressions of today’s modernity are pointing irrevocably towards terminal consumption. The only means to stop this happening appears to a reinvention of the city, creating an urban demand for stewarding nature for future generations, a posterity city
This chapter provides a description of Jane Jacobs’ legacy beyond her famous intervention into city planning. Five aspects of her work are highlighted. First and foremost she was a knowledge builder, harnessing a voracious curiosity to understand the complexity of the human condition. The most auspicious outcome has been her revision of economics identifying city economies as the loci of economic growth. She made further unusual forays into history – contesting power to eliminate complexity – and politics where her bottom-up approach had drawn admiration from both the right and left. She brought this altogether towards the end of her life as a new understanding of economics as ecology. The chapter concludes with a critical appraisal of her treatment of urban demand – crucial to the argument of this book – and links Jacob’s oeuvre to the work of multiple other radical scholars to aid the process of unthinking.