Science fiction and the smart-eco city

7 October 2016

Science fiction and eco-city

A new conference paper by Rob Cowley, a partner in the SMART-ECO project, investigates the relationship between science fiction and the recent discourses around 'smart' and 'eco' cities.

How could science fiction have affected the collective imagination about the city, having real impacts on the development of cities today? This and related questions are explored in the new paper, first presented at the Society for the History of Technology (SHOT) Annual Meeting 2016, Singapore, 22–26 June 2016.

The paper starts from the observation that there is a clear science fictional aesthetic in the way that many urban initiatives are promoted, particularly those following the recent 'smart' theme. Their utopian presentation, however, is at odds with the often dystopian vision found in science fiction. Critics may even argue that the revolutionary connotations of science fiction may misrepresent the reality of smart-city initiatives, which have the potential to reinforce an unsustainable business as usual.

However, the author finds a value in this form of storytelling about the city: it has been successful in mobilising groups of actors and using narratives in this way may be a useful and legitimate approach to planning in a postmodern context.

This year’s SHOT Annual Meeting featured a session on technology and the city, which explored how cities have been imagined, designed and built along with the progress of science and technology. Simon Joss and Rob Cowley of the International Eco-Cities Initiative each presented papers.

Download the conference paper (PDF)

Visit the SHOT Annual Meeting 2016 website

Image: Rick Guidice, Cutaway View of a Toroidal Colony. Image credit: NASA Ames Research Center.

About the University of Westminster:

The University of Westminster boasts a vibrant learning environment attracting more than 20,000 students from over 150 nations and we continue to invest in our future with new developments, research projects and new ideas.

We offer highly attractive practice-based courses that are independently rated as excellent, many with international recognition. Our distinguished 180-year history has meant we lead the way in many areas of research, particularly politics, media, art and design, architecture and biomedical sciences, and our position in the city of London allows us to continue to build on our close connections with leading figures and organisations in these areas as well as in the worlds of business, information technology, politics and law.

Our commitment to educating graduates for the needs of professional life attracts high quality students from within the UK and around the globe.

Internationalisation, employability and sustainability are key elements in the University of Westminster’s vision for the future and we strive to ensure the very highest standards are met and maintained.

For the media

For the media

Here we hope you find everything you will need to research, write and publish your story or blog post.