Learning from Small Cities (exhibition) is open in the Foyer Gallery from 12 November until 10 December 2021. Free to visit Monday – Friday 9am-6pm, Saturday 10am – 4pm.
This exhibition presents findings from Learning from Small Cities an ESRC-Newton funded international research collaboration from 2018-2021 that sought to learn how small cities in India undergoing rapid and radical urban transformations, can reimagine and realise new urban futures in a digital age. Moving away from the earlier focuses on metropolitan cities in the global south, it shifts our attention towards the much neglected but dynamic context of ‘small cities’ that are now the frontiers of planetary scale urbanisation. The exhibition invites the public to ‘learn’ from small cities through a variety of textual and audio-visual materials, including photographs, animations and story boards.
This conference seeks to explore how we may rethink ‘smart’ by rebuilding its scalar logics from the global to the local, from the regional to the relational, from the urban to the domestic. It initiates a rethinking of ‘smart cities’ through a scalar shift – from large city-based infrastructure projects to smaller community level endeavours, from Big Data initiatives to deep and open data practices, from an Internet of Things (IoT) to a ‘politics of things’ (Willems 2019). In rethinking smart through scalar shifts we take seriously Smith’s (1984) claim that different levels of scale (e.g. urban, global, national) are characterised and described by different types of relationships to capital and labour. We argue that this means a focus on the smart city from everyday prosaic relations of power from below, which has the potential to disrupt utopian imaginaries of technological driven urban life from above. We ask how we might go about rethinking 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.
The exhibition and conference are generously supported by the Economic and Social Research Council and Newton Fund. Find out more about the wider project here: Learning From Small Cities which is a collaboration between University College London, University of Birmingham, Birkbeck, University of London, and Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi. (Principal Investigators Prof. Ayona Datta, Prof. Sanjay Srivastava; Co-Investigators: Dr. Sophie Hadfield-Hill, Prof. Melissa Butcher).