The platform and the bricoleur—Improvisation and smart city initiatives in Indonesia

The platform and the bricoleur—Improvisation and smart city initiatives in Indonesia
D Offenhuber
9/19/19 10:51
Environment and Planning B: Urban Analytics and City
This article investigates the design and evolution of smart city platforms in the global south using the Indonesian cities of Jakarta and Surabaya as case studies. While smart city projects are often framed in generic rhetoric of efficiency and modernization, the concept was originally formulated for cities in developed countries, and therefore requires adjustment for the local conditions in the developing world. While the former can rely on established institutions and well-developed infrastructures, the latter are characterized by rapid urbanization, weaker institutions, a lack of resources and public services. Unlike their highly regulated counterparts, cities in the global south are shaped by a dynamic informal economy and practices of improvisation. Using the lens of organizational improvisation, this article investigates how urban platforms emerge, and how they adapt to improvisational practices in the administration and the urban population. The article investigates different types of urban data platforms and their relationship with the social practices of their users. With Indonesian Smart City initiatives in Jakarta and Surabaya as a case study, this article aims to identify the local needs that motivated these cities to develop their respective projects. The second question asks how smart city implementations respond and adapt to the specific local conditions and the improvisational practices of their users. Distinguishing three types of urban data platforms, the article characterizes specific processes of bricolage and argues for stronger consideration of processes of improvisation in the design of urban data platforms. The contribution is threefold. The article provides a framework based on improvisation and bricolage that allows the social dynamics around smart city platforms and their impact on the system to be differentiated. It provides lessons on how traditional smart city models need to be adapted for cities in emerging economies. Finally, it offers a critique of the platform metaphors that are normally taken for granted.

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