Is the ‘smart city’ the utopia we’ve been waiting for?
The promise of the so-called smart city has been at the forefront of urban planning and development since the early 2010s, and the tech industry that supplies smart city software and hardware is now worth hundreds of billions a year.
But the ideas and approaches underpinning smart city tech raise tough and important questions about the future of urban communities, surveillance, automation, and public participation. The smart city era, moreover, belongs firmly in a longer historical narrative about cities — one defined by utopian ideologies, architectural visions, and technological fantasies.
Smart streetlights, water and air quality tracking, autonomous vehicles: with examples from all over the world, including New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Portland, and Chicago, Dream States unpacks the world of smart city tech, but also situates this important shift in city-building into a broader story about why we still dream about perfect places.
"John Lorinc’s incisive analysis in Dream States reminds us that the search for urban utopia is not new. Throughout the book, Lorinc underscores the fact that a gamut of urban innovations – from smart city megaprojects to e-government to pandemic preparedness tools – only provide promise when scrutinized together with the political, economic, social, and physical complexities of urban life." – Shauna Brail, University of Toronto
"Dream States: Smart Cities, Technology, and the Pursuit of Urban Utopias takes us on a fascinating journey across world cities to show how technology has shaped them in the past and how smart city technology will reshape them in the future. This book is essential reading for policy makers, researchers, and practitioners interested in understanding the opportunities and challenges of smart city technology and what it means for city building." – Enid Slack, University of Toronto School of Cities
"“Utopia may be the oldest grift in the city-building business, but Dream States shows that technology is a timeless tool for turning the most ordinary of urban dreams – clean air and water, safe streets, and decent homes – into reality. As digital dilettantes try to sell us on a software overhaul, John Lorinc provides us an indispensable and flawless guide to the must-haves and never-agains of the smart city.” – Anthony Townsend, Urbanist in Residence, Cornell Tech, author of Smart Cities
About the author
John Lorinc is a journalist and editor. He reports on urban affairs, politics, business, technology, and local history for a range of media, including the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, Walrus, Maclean’s, and Spacing, where he is senior editor. John is the author of three books, including The New City (Penguin, 2006) and Dream States: Smart Cities, Technology, and the Pursuit of Urban Utopias (Coach House Books, 2022), and has coedited four other anthologies for Coach House Books: The Ward (2015), Subdivided (2016), Any Other Way (2017), and The Ward Uncovered (2018). John is the recipient of the 2019/2020 Atkinson Fellowship in Public Policy. He lives in Toronto.
Karon Liu has been a staff food reporter for the Toronto Star since 2015 and aims to link food with culture, history, identity, politics – anything you can imagine. He's also an avid home cook, and his favourite utensil is a pair of wooden chopsticks his grandma used to use.
Other titles by John Lorinc
What We Talk About When We Talk About Dumplings
The Carrying Place
Stories of Indigenous Toronto
How the Missing Middle Will Solve Toronto's Affordability Crisis
The Ward Uncovered
The Archaeology of Everyday Life
Any Other Way
How Toronto Got Queer
City-Building in an Age of Hyper-Diversity
The Life and Loss of Toronto's First Immigrant Neighbourhood
How The Crisis Of Canada's Cities Is Reshaping Our Nation
A Groundwork Guide