Smartness as Wealth

Projekt: Forschung


  • Beverungen, Armin (Wissenschaftliche Projektleitung)
  • Halpern, Orit (Wissenschaftliche Projektleitung)
  • Steinberg, Marc (Wissenschaftliche Projektleitung)
  • Nag, Anindita (Wissenschaftliche Projektleitung)
  • Cirolia, Liza Rose (Wissenschaftliche Projektleitung)
  • Technische Universität Dresden
  • Universität Cape Town


Smartness promises wealth to cities around the world. Across the planet, we see a growing investment by corporations, philanthropies, start-ups, and governments in computational infrastructures that will manage cities and their inhabitants. This smartness is closely affiliated with venture capital and start-up experiments. It is assumed that smart systems in logistics, real estate, finance, energy and retail will encourage innovation and entrepreneurship, and will resolve problems of top-down economic planning. In this project five particular aspects of this new model of wealth creation and urban management will be examined: optimization, sustainability, inclusion, resilience, and convenience. These are all particular varieties of the promise of wealth associated with smartness: the optimization and subsequent affordability provided by logistics; the sustainability required for living on a planet in crisis; the inclusion in economic life offered by decentralized finance; the energy resilience to climate change, resource limitations, and geopolitics promised by smart grids and financial hedging; and the convenience sold by smart retail. It is smartness which propels these promises a smartness promoted by venture capital. Whether through public smart city initiatives or the plethora of private urban platforms for mobility, sustainability, finance and retail, venture capital is reshaping how wealth is produced and reproduced in the cities of today and tomorrow. This project examines historically and ethnographically the relationship between contemporary smart urbanism and wealth, and the urban economies transformed through smart technologies. Ethnographically the research will occur in five sites in five different countries: Hamburg, Nairobi, Denver and Tokyo. Historically, the research will examine genealogies of smartness and venture capital at these sites and compare smart urban initiatives globally.