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(Re)thinking Smart, (Re)building Scale in a Digital Urban Age

Sat 13 Nov 2021, 9.30am - 5.30pm

This two-day conference, which can be attended in person or online via live stream, invites scholars from institutions around the world to discuss their research on themes of smartness, scale, everyday use of technology, governance, small and big data, and data democracy in urban contexts. 

It accompanies the Learning from Small Cities exhibition that presents findings from an international research collaboration into how small cities in India undergoing rapid and radical urban transformations can help us reimagine and realise new urban futures in a digital age.

Over two days speakers will explore the relationship between scale and smart futures. The event will question how we might rethink smart through smaller spaces and scales, from the small and medium sized cities to rebuilding data democracy and internet freedom from within communities and homes. Speakers will consider if ‘smartness’ as we understand it at the urban scale, translates to the domestic in the Smart Home, as well as how the global, urban, and workplaces have been folded into the domestic scale (Lindner 2021).

Given the tendency of new surveillant, efficiency saving technologies to disproportionately make the already marginalised vulnerable, what does this mean in terms of renegotiating power at the most intimate, domestic and bodily scales? How could this scalar shift enable us to capture the embodiment of data injustices and take into account urban relations of labour, capital, assets, markets, and the prosaic conditions of everyday life? How will rethinking smart through frugal technologies rupture and recalibrate the wider urban and regional inequalities? The conference will examine how rethinking 'smart' can rebuild new and novel assemblages of ‘small data’ that can be both empowering and emancipatory.

Keynote speakers

Prof. Sarah Elwood (University of Washington)

Title: Reorienting toward ‘small’ digital urbanisms: Pandemic, protest, and their afterlives

Prof. Susan Parnell (University of Bristol)

Title: Exploring digital interfaces across the multiple systems of the city

Prof. Ursula Rao (Max Planck Institute) 

Title: In between tinkering and the grand development vision. Towards an alternative theory of digital innovation

Prof. René Véron (University of Lausanne)

Title: Everyday governance and the smart city: Insights from research on municipal agency in small Gujarati and Bengali towns

Prof. Katharine Willis (University of Plymouth)

Title: tbc


Find out more and register here.


The cost of an in-person ticket includes lunch on both days and an evening drinks reception for the launch of Learning from Small Cities on Friday 12 November. 



Find out more about the wider project here: Learning From Small Cities (, which is a collaboration between University College London, University of Birmingham and Birkbeck, University of London, and Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi.


Follow us on Twitter for all the latest news and announcements about the conference @SmartSmallCity

#Learningfromsmallcities #Smartcity


The exhibition and conference are generously supported by the Economic and Social Research Council and Newton Fund (Principal Investigator Prof. Ayona DattaProf. Sanjay Srivastava; Co-Investigators: Dr. Sophie Hadfield-HillProf. Melissa Butcher). 


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