Olivia Bina, Andy Inch, Lavínia Pereira | Futures
In recent years, the ‘smart city’ has become established in policy and planning discourse, embedding visions of an urban future where ubiquitous technology offers efficient solutions to the pathologies of the contemporary city. In response, a rapidly growing social-scientific literature is critically exploring how the smart city imaginary (SCI) promotes ‘techno-utopian’ fantasies, ignoring the risks of a technologically determined future. In this paper we begin by considering SCI as emblematic of the colonization of contemporary (urban) futures by vested interests, arguing for the need for diverse and plural imaginaries and thus for a re-engagement of the social sciences. We explore how critical social scientific contributions to shaping futures might be deepened through further engagement with utopian theory and speculative fiction, two traditions of future-orientated thinking that seek to combine critique with constructive thinking about alternatives. We therefore contribute to ‘50 + 50 Theme 2: Framing Futures in 2068-the limits of and opportunities for futures research’ by 1) extending critique of contemporary claims about (smart urban) futures, and; 2) exploring how utopianism and fiction can expand ways of thinking, imagining and knowing futures.