PROGRESS IN GEOGRAPHY ›› 2022, Vol. 41 ›› Issue (3): 488-498.doi: 10.18306/dlkxjz.2022.03.011

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From technocentrism to humanism: Progress and prospects of smart city research

GUO Jie1,2(), WANG June3, JIANG Lu1, ZHANG Hong'ou1, HUANG Gengzhi4,5,*()   

  1. 1. Key Lab of Guangdong for Utilization of Remote Sensing and Geographical Information System, Guangzhou Institute of Geography, Guangdong Academy of Sciences, Guangzhou 510070, China
    2. The Institute of Chinese Studies at Freie Universit?t Berlin, 10115 Berlin, Germany;
    3. Department of Public Policy, City University of Hong Kong,Hong Kong 999077, China
    4. School of Geography and Planning, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou 510275, China
    5. Southern Marine Science and Engineering Guangdong Laboratory (Zhuhai), Zhuhai 519082, Guangdong, China;
  • Received:2021-05-08 Revised:2021-08-26 Online:2022-03-28 Published:2022-05-28
  • Contact: HUANG Gengzhi;
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China, No(42101211);National Natural Science Foundation of China, No(42122007);National Key Research and Development Program, No(2019YFB2103101);GDAS' Project of Science and Technology Development, No(2020GDASYL-20200103013);German BMBF Joint Project "Worldmaking from a Global Perspective: A Dialogue with China"


With the implementation of new technologies such as 5G networks, the Internet of Things, cloud computing, big data analysis, and so on, inclusive and innovative governance and efficient innovation and application of technologies that lead cities towards smartness have become crucial and frontier topics of exploration in current international urban geography. The study of smart cities from the perspective of humanism provides an effective theoretical tool for geographiers in this field. Different from the perspective of technocentrism that regards smart cities as a collection of physical spaces composed of a communication infrastructure network and digital technology, the humanism perspective emphasizes the interaction of technology, humanistic governance (society), and space in a specific (local) context. It calls for a micro-survey of the local cooperation mechanism of information and communication technology (ICT) innovation and smart city construction, as well as governance decision making carried out by multiple actors, with a view to revealing the construction process and localized driving mechanism of smart cities, and with an emphasis on the data analysis of individual actions to find out a development path consistent with local conditions. This study examined the latest developments in humanistic research on smart cities, arguing that current studies still follow the technocentric perspective or adopt the opposite knowledge-centric position, but lack a technology-society synergy perspective. On this basis, this article proposes future research topics that are worthy of in-depth discussion, namely, the symbiosis of technology and society, the complexity of social interactions on technology innovation, and the contextual analysis of technology innovation and interactions. Our discussion may help to understand how smart cities, as a complex human-environment system, undergo transformation in the continuous interaction of people and technology, and provide some theoretical references for the study of smart cities in China.

Key words: smart city, urban governance, technolocentrism, humanism, social-technical synergy