From Metropolis to Electronic Labyrinth. Updated social control in IoT based cities

Pere IV Street, Barcelona.  Author: Beatriz Guijarro

Pere IV Street, Barcelona.  Author: Beatriz Guijarro

This research is conceived with the objective of tracking the effects of the Smart City discourse in the city of Barcelona, it analyzes the updated of the forms of control and social exclusion inaugurated through the communion of the city and the IoT/E based technologies.

The provisional hypothesis on which my project is structured is that the Smart City® model, far from improving the citizen's quality of life, constraints it in a more efficient way. Meanwhile, the new city discourse operates imperceptibly (too imperceptible to be worrying) by deproblematizing the ideological management of public space through the incorporation of a discourse of futuristic technological-fortune.

A new (re)built city thanks to its overlap between Information and Communication Technologies, which has become more efficient in the management of services and resources, increasing responsiveness to the needs of citizens, Promotes dialogue with the Administration and effectively promotes both personal and business development, applying smarter solutions in all its key areas (transport, energy, education, health, waste management, surveillance, economy ...), with the aim of improving the quality of life and the comfort of citizens.

Getting down to business, far from improving the experience and quality of the urban daily life of citizens, it does nothing more than constrain and close their circuit of everyday life, being a proposal that operates through transformations away from the construction of a liberatory space. That is, more flexible and participative, where they can coexist a multidimensionality of profiles and forms of social relation. The city is still being transformed by encouraging one, westernized and technological.

A model that prospers under the ideology of imposition, where the intelligent city is the only way to be a blessed city, and it’s indispensable for the welfare-security-comfort of the citizen. A citizen, who happens to become a mere user-viewer-number, where accountability towards the same is non-existent, and any effort of criticism or transformation, is seen as an exercise in self-destructive stupidity. The cyborg city becomes strictly invulnerable, mathematically incapable of being injured.

Technologies that promote computationally planned cities: designed urban, ideologically and architecturally to maximize their efficiency, and thus, to be accountable to the new logics of the globalized city and knowledge. Algorithmically organized those adapt and adjust goods and services according to the needs of the inhabitants, with the aim of improving the experience, safety, and comfort of citizens. Virtually real-time managed cities that anticipate and, if necessary, resolve anomalous circumstances on the ground. We are faced with the new paradigm of "smart" cities.

It is necessary to clarify that weren’t in front of an innovative formula, if we consider that the fact of "Preparing the design of a place and building it according to a plan is not revolutionary", as neither is the fact to organize it according to the interests of a specific agent or stakeholder. The Smart City is just another modeling exercise, which considers the urban form redeemable according to determined power logic.

But while it is true that we are in front of a known formula, it should not be forgotten that it operates with mechanisms of control and appeasement transmuted, more efficient and interconnected. Where control is out of touch with the totalitarian Metropolis, based on punishment, manifest segregation and conscious mediation of bodies and minds, to become constituted on the basis of the control and discipline devices: the city as Labyrinth Electronic. Who fears citizen THX 1138?

“The city of the future that I see in the promotional videos of mass surveillance and mass control systems seems submerged in a permanent state of normality. It is a city without traffic and without protests, without visible disasters, without spontaneous mobilizations, without surprises”. (Avila, 2016)

Behind, therefore, the dialectics of the Smart City are new ailments and concerns, but also new opportunities for answers transmitted through collective digital intelligence, which must be examined in depth.



Avila, R. (2016). Ciudades Rebeldes - hacia una red global de barrios y ciudades rechazando la vigilancia. Retrieved from https://antivigilancia.org/es/2016/03/ciudades-rebeldes-hacia-una-red-global-de-barrios-y-ciudades-rechazando-la-vigilancia/

Charnock, G., & Ribera-Fumaz, R. (2011). A new space for knowledge and people? Henry Lefebvre, representations of space, and the production of 22@Barcelona. Enviromment and Planning D: Society and Space, 29(4), 613–633. http://doi.org/0263-7758

Lang, F. (1927). Metrópolis. Alemania: UFA.

Lucas, G. (1967). Electronic Labyrinth: THX-1138 4EB. EEUU.

Lucas, G. (1971). THX 1138. EEUU: Warner Bros. Pictures.