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A capitalocentric review of technology for sustainable development: The case for more-than-human design. Global Information Society Watch (GISWatch).
reportposted on 2020-08-01, 00:00 authored by Marcus Foth, Monique MannMonique Mann, Laura BedfordLaura Bedford, Walter Frieuw, Reece WaltersReece Walters
We study sustainability in the context of technology design for smart cities, their legal and policy implications, and are now leading a new programme of investigation into more-than-human futures and post-anthropocentric approaches to sustainability. Sustainable development is often defined in a way that presents technological progress geared for incremental improvements and small efficiency gains as humanity’s response to the imminent planetary ecocide. Critics claim that this is too simplistic, because it does not account for the complex entanglements of Earth’s ecosystems. It also relegates responsibility away from systemic economic frameworks and onto ordinary people making everyday consumption choices. We use the notion of the Capitalocene to critique these conventional views, and present an alternative, more-than-human perspective. We highlight the widespread co-option of the original conceptualisation of ‘sustainable development’, and the erosion of its emphasis on social justice, grassroots participation, equality and low impact development by market forces. This co-option, we argue, has taken place under the banner of ‘green growth’ and the current conceptualisation of ‘smart cities’. In response, we provide three examples of alternative approaches to ‘green growth’-based smart cities: planning, design, and regulation. Cutting across all three practices, we posit the case for more-than-human principles to be more broadly embraced. (1) We focus on the potential role of more-than-human principles in planning for smart cities. Here, we discuss technological issues and examples of implementing Indigenous data sovereignty and implications for smart cities and the people, plants and animals that live in them. (2) We grapple with the socio-cultural dimensions of a more-than-human approach, such as new participatory methods of decentring humans in the design of smart city technology. (3) We then discuss regulatory and governance issues such as active resistance to planned obsolescence of digital devices and people’s right to repair. More broadly, we discuss how more-than-human perspectives may centre ecosystems in the approach to the planning, design, regulation and governance of urban space.