Living Labs, vacancy, and gentrification

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Description: This paper evaluates smart city (SC) initiatives in the context of re-using vacant property. More specifically, we focus on living labs (LL) and vacancy in general, as well as on their potential role in fostering creative economy-fuelled gentrification. LL utilise Lo-Fi technologies to foster local digital innovation and support community-focused civic hacking, running various kinds of workshops and engaging with local citizens to co-create digital interventions and apps aimed at ‘solving’ local issues. Five approaches to LL are outlined and discussed in relation to vacancy and gentrification: pop-up initiatives, university-led activities, community organised venues/activities, citizen sensing and crowdsourcing, and tech-led regeneration initiatives. Notwithstanding the potential for generating temporary and independent spaces for transferring and fostering digital competences and increasing citizens’ participation in the SC, we argue that LL largely foster a form of participation framed within a model of civic stewardship for ‘smart citizens’. While presented as horizontal, open, and participative, LL and civic hacking are often rooted in pragmatic and paternalistic discourses and practices related to the production of a creative economy and a specific version of SC. As such, by encouraging a particular kind of re-use of vacant space, LL potentially contributes to gentrification pressures within locales by attracting the creative classes and new investment. We discuss these approaches and issues generally and with respect to examples in Dublin, Ireland.

License: CC0 1.0 Universal

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