Knowledge politics in the smart city: a case study of strategic urban planning in Cambridge, UK

Timea Nochta, Noura Wahby, Jennifer M. Schooling

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This paper highlights the need and opportunities for constructively combining different types of (analogue and data-driven) knowledges in evidence-informed policy decision-making in future smart cities. Problematizing the assumed universality and objectivity of data-driven knowledge, we call attention to notions of “positionality” and “situatedness” in knowledge production relating to the urban present and possible futures. In order to illustrate our arguments, we draw on a case study of strategic urban (spatial) planning in the Cambridge city region in the United Kingdom. Tracing diverse knowledge production processes, including top-down data-driven knowledges derived from urban modeling, and bottom-up analogue community-based knowledges, allows us to identify locationally specific knowledge politics around evidence for policy. The findings highlight how evidence-informed urban policy can benefit from political processes of competition, contestation, negotiation, and complementarity that arise from interactions between diverse “digital” and “analogue” knowledges. We argue that studying such processes can help in assembling a more multifaceted, diverse and inclusive knowledge-base on which to base policy decisions, as well as to raise awareness and improve active participation in the ongoing “smartification” of cities.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere31
Number of pages13
JournalData & Policy
Publication statusPublished - 17 Nov 2021


  • city science
  • knowledge production
  • situated knowledge
  • smart city
  • urban planning


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