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Social Justice and the Smart City Interdisciplinary Working Group 2019-20

The Social Justice and the Smart City working group focuses on cross-disciplinary inquiry into the social and environmental justice implications of smart city technologies, policies, and practices. Our goal is to support interdisciplinary research and facilitate the development of a scholarly community through reading groups, writing feedback, and guest speakers.

We seek to expand on the work that our CIH-funded reading group has been carrying out since 2017. The CIH funding obtained in 2017 has been instrumental in the creation of a shared academic culture among our diverse group, which included members (graduate students, postdoctoral scholars and faculty members) from diverse disciplines (geography, history, sociology, communications, anthropology, political science, public health and environmental design). Through our monthly meetings, we have discussed major publications on smart cities and subsequently refined our own positioning with regards to social and environmental justice in the smart city. These discussions have been successfully expanded by the visit of two guest speakers from the USA and Canada, Taylor Shelton and Elvin Wyly. These visits triggered in-depth conversations, but also increased our group’s visibility and fostered new partnerships that will considerably strengthen the global research network that we are seeking to constitute.

In light of this previous experience, our group plans to continue holding monthly meetings to discuss readings from key scholars as well as group members. After a first year characterized by a focus on urban studies scholarship, we seek to expand our critical analysis of smart cities by discussing broader theoretical work (including philosophical writings on justice, Science and Technology Studies – STS, digital humanities, history of technology). Additionally, we will use our CIH reading group meetings as a platform to discuss work in progress and to receive feedback on ongoing projects and publications. These meetings will be complemented by the visit of another guest speaker.

We welcome everyone interested in Smart Cities research and/ or theoretical work that can inform our critical engagement with social justice in the smart city and the digital age more broadly. Graduate students are particularly encouraged to join the group.  Do not hesitate to get in touch with us with any questions you may have.


Ryan Burns (Geography)
Victoria Fast (Geography)
Debra MacKinnon (Sociology)
Byron Miller (Geography)
Elizabeth Paris (Anthropology and Archaeology)
Matt Patterson (Sociology)

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