My research explores digitization in urban development, and in particular the “utopian logics” associated with the development of smart cities.
Smart cities have become a very popular term in international planning discourse in recent decades, and a large number of cities in the world have sought to develop smart strategies, focusing on big data collection, artificial intelligence, automation and data platforms. At the same time that smart cities have become increasingly common internationally, this approach to planning has been strongly criticized by both academics and civic groups, among other things for being too centered around technological solutions and for deprioritizing citizens and underestimating the political nature of many of the challenges facing today's cities .
When smart city concepts are so contested, why do planners continue to work for smarter cities? In my dissertation, I am interested in exploring the potential that urban planners see in smart city initiatives and how these think that smart city strategies can improve today's cities.
To explore this topic I use theories dealing with hope and utopianism. Although the term utopia is often seen as an expression of naivety and unrealistic dreams, many uphold utopia as an important tool for social critique. By describing future ideals, the formulation of utopias gives expression to longings and perceived shortcomings in the present. Exploring utopian formulations can therefore give us an insight both into which futures are desired, but also what these reveal about perceptions of the already existing. In my research, I use "utopia as method" to examine utopian logics that are formulated around smart city initiatives and look critically at what such utopian logics reveal about views of current urban areas and their planned and desired development.
Empirically, I investigate the smart city initiative in Stockholm, Sweden, and use qualitative methods such as interviews and document analysis.
Alongside my research, I have been responsible for organizing the OsloMet Urban Research Conference/Storbykonferansen (www.storbykonferansen.no). I am also one of the editors, as well as editorial secretary, for the Nordic Journal of Urban Studies (https://www.idunn.no/njus)
Fields of study
Haarstad, Håvard; Wathne, Marikken Wullf
Smart cities as strategic actors: Insights from EU Lighthouse projects in Stavanger, Stockholm and Nottingham.
Karvonen, Andrew; Cugurullo, Fredrico; Caprotti, Fredrico (Ed.).
Inside Smart Cities: Place, Politics and Urban Innovation.
Haarstad, Håvard; Sareen, Siddharth; Wanvik, Tarje Iversen; Grandin, Jakob; Kjærås, Kristin Edith Abrahamsen; Oseland, Stina Ellevseth; Kvamsås, Hanna; Lillevold, Karin; Wathne, Marikken Wullf
Transformative social science? Modes of engagement in climate and energy solutions.
Energy Research & Social Science.
Haarstad, Håvard; Hanssen, Gro Sandkjær; Andersen, Bengt; Harboe, Lisbet; Ljunggren, Jørn; Røe, Per Gunnar; Wanvik, Tarje Iversen; Wullf-Wathne, Marikken
Nordic responses to urban challenges of the 21st century.
Nordic Journal of Urban Studies.
Wullf-Wathne, Marikken; Haarstad, Håvard (2020). Energisnakk: Gjør smarte byer oss bærekraftige? (Innoasis Science Talks bonusepisode).
Wullf-Wathne, Marikken; Haarstad, Håvard (2020). Innoasis Science Talks: Will smart cities make us sustainable?. Innoasis Science Forum. Nordic Edge,UiS Nettverk for smartby, Future Energy Hub.
Wullf-Wathne, Marikken (2019). Lost utopias: The lack of smart imaginaries and why it should concern you. OsloMet Urban Research Conference. Oslo Metropolitan University.
Wathne, Marikken Wullf (2019). Exploring alternatives: The smart city as an enabler of new imaginaries. Nordic Geographers Meeting 2019.
Haarstad, Håvard; Wathne, Marikken Wullf (2019). Teknologien endrer hverdagen: Smartere byer - smartere liv. Rolstadås, Asbjørn; Krokan, Arne; Schiefloe, Per Morten; Sand, Gunnar; Dyrhaug, Lars Thomas (Ed.). Det Nye Digitale Norge. p. 27-36. John Grieg Forlag.
Wathne, Marikken Wullf; Kjærås, Kristin Edith Abrahamsen (2018). Fra plast i hval til plasthval. NRK - www.nrk.no.
Wathne, Marikken Wullf (2018). The “smart” approach to urban governance.