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Deirdre Sneep

Abstract

Although the growth of the mobile internet is a global phenomenon, several urban agglomerations are in East Asian countries that rank particularly high in mobile internet use. Among them is Tokyo, the cradle of mobile internet technology. The constant connectedness to the internet transforms the city and its communities, making them interesting case studies for research on smart communities. In line with Goggin and McLelland’s 2017 call for a more localized perspective on (mobile) internet use, this article critically re-visits the existing theoretical framework on how virtual space influences the city, and it compares findings with anthropological fieldwork the author conducted in Tokyo. The article looks at how mobile phones can be used to interact with established contacts over a distance, connect strangers by forming ‘mobile phone hubs’, and even disconnect the user when the device is used to ‘shield’ oneself from those in the vicinity.

Michelle Ruiz Andrade

Abstract

Instead of exploring ‘smart cities’ as future utopias, this paper concentrates on historically constructed, yet actively contested socio-spatial inequalities. Drawing upon Chandigarh’s master-planning experience, it explores epistemic, material, and civic dimensions of Chandigarh’s Smart City Proposal to ask whether vernacular reinterpretations of ‘smart citizenry’ help the subaltern reclaim their ‘right to the city’. Thus, following a critical genealogy that shifts attention from ‘smart cities’ towards ‘citizen centeredness’, this research focuses on the construction and contestation of ‘smart citizenship’. Overall, technocratic and city-branding discourses, which legitimate restricting funds to a ‘smart enclave’ at the cost of evictions and banning ‘encroachers’, are confronted by housing rights activists. This motivates scholars to theorize a subversive identity, in which ‘smartness’ gains new meaning. However, epistemic contestations are not enough to create recognition for the needs and rights of the working poor, who work for but cannot reside in Chandigarh. Further alliances and political will are required.

Florian Schneider

Abstract

This introduction to the Asiascape: Digital Asia special issue on ‘smart communities’ discusses how new technologies have created a paradigm of ‘smartness’ that informs how innovators, entrepreneurs, policy makers, and administrators imagine sociality in urban spaces. This is visible in plans for turning Singapore, Hong Kong, or Taipei into ‘smart cities’, and countries such as India, Japan, and South Korea are similarly rolling out initiatives that promise to revamp urban life across the region. Such ‘solutionist’ attempts to address the complexities of contemporary social life through technology cleverly fuse surveillance techniques, capitalist structures, free labour practices, and neoliberal governance to create urban utopias of safety, convenience, and community. We have asked the contributors to this special issue to explore what people do, through and with digital technologies, as they establish, claim, contest, and alter various social relations in the name of ‘smart community’, and this article introduces and discusses their results.

Zane Kripe

Abstract

Based on an ethnographic study of technology entrepreneurs in Singapore between 2011 and 2015, this article explores ‘community’ as an emic concept for those involved in the production of web technologies. One major area in which the concept was used was in the organization of social relationships amongst those who saw themselves as occupied with technology start-ups. However, successful applications were not free of contradictions and required significant investment. This article then takes issue with the often-implicit understanding in academic as well as popular discussions of (digital) communities as organically emerging and self-organizing. Looking at how the notion of ‘community’ operates in practice makes it apparent that in the digital economy it is applied strategically and is considered a highly productive concept in capital production and extraction.

Anoma P. van der Veere

Abstract

Japan is undergoing a significant demographic upheaval, and the Japanese government is formulating policies for stimulating technological advances based on the assumption that they will solve issues such as labour shortages and elder care. The government argues through policy initiatives that technology will decrease the care burden on Japan’s workers, families, and itself. Although the domestic media show awareness of changing family patterns in Japan, newspapers are following a similar pattern of technological utopianism. However, this article posits that the proposed policy reforms rely on a conservative ideal of the extended family that ignores changing patterns in Japanese households. Moreover, it argues that, rather than facilitating a return to the ideal of an extended family, technology is exacerbating separation among families that have been growing apart for some time.