Smart Law for Smart Cities Symposium: introduction.

Author:Decker, Annie

Introduction I. The Symposium and Its Perspectives A. The Metropticon B. Energy and Microgrids C. The Interwebs D. Local Service Delivery: The Transportation Example E. Local Political Participation Conclusion INTRODUCTION

When the Fordham Urban Law Journal, along with a consortium of centers at Fordham University, (1) decided to organize a two-day "Smart Law for Smart Cities: Regulation, Technology, and the Future of Cities" Symposium, the need was clear. The interest in "smart cities" had grown exponentially across disciplines--from urban planning and sociology to environmental studies and history--as well as in general interest press. (2) Local elected officials (3) and cities started using smart city technology to, for example, decrease crime rates, (4) develop municipal infrastructure, (5) and even to develop entirely new city models. (6) The "smart cities" topic therefore is exceedingly wideranging.

The Smart Law for Smart Cities Symposium took hold of this broad subject and focused on the questions most pressing to the legal community. As far as the organizers knew, no one had written about (7) or gathered together experts to set out an agenda for the law and smart cities: identifying the particular barriers that legal and regulatory regimes present to the emergence of smart cities and envisioning how the law could help support the best aspects of smart cities while preventing the least desired ones. (8) The Symposium, and now this book, in other words, have begun the conversation by asking both the descriptive question--what role the law is playing in the development of smart cities--and the normative one--what role the law should play.

The Articles in this book capture the core issues that structured the Symposium--local service delivery, broadband and the new digital divide, regulating big data, resident engagement, energy and infrastructure, and surveillance--while also indicating how rich and multi-layered each of these categories is. Running throughout the contributions is a steady stream of optimism, tempered by realism.


  1. The Metropticon

    Kelsey Finch and Omer Tene take us on an invigorating ride. (9) They begin with the benefits of smart cities--including the potential to increase residents' mobility, expand access to information, and improve quality of services. Then they lucidly identify the problems that smart cities pose. (10) In particular, they provide a haunting picture of the surveillance and privacy concerns created by the "metropticon": an urban government that wields advanced technology to track, infiltrate, and modify the lives of its residents, (11) fulfilling George Orwell's dystopian predictions. (12) Yet after sending us into a near and justified panic, the authors lay out a set of legally sound proposals--including strategies for engendering trust in residents, stripping data of identifying markers, and embracing transparency--that can help cities avoid falling into those traps and instead build on the potential of new technology. (13)

    Finch and Tene's Article speaks to the literature that criticizes how technology has oversaturated our lives. (14) It also contributes to the burgeoning work on big data and cities. The technology transforming urban governance inhales significant amounts of potentially sensitive information. (15) bleated debates are underway about the proper level of regulation. (16) As data continues to drive decision making, cities face increasing challenges in protecting residents' sensitive information. (17)

  2. Energy and Microgrids

    Kevin Jones and his co-authors, Sylvia J.S. Bartell, Daniel Nugent, Jonathan Hart, and Achyut Sherestha, share a series of fascinating case studies on urban microgrids (including a portrayal of how NYU's microgrid system survived the onslaught of Superstorm Sandy while most other power systems failed) to show that clean energy use in cities not only is theoretically possible but also is happening right now. (18) Scholars such as Jones and his co-authors understand the importance of highlighting successful projects and innovations, grounding the dialogue in real models of confronting and overcoming legal challenges. (19) Indeed, understanding how technically complex infrastructure works proves incredibly useful in tandem with recommendations for legal change. (20)

    Jones et al. might be the book's greatest boosters of urban...

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