The Smart City as Global Discourse: Storylines and Critical Junctures across 27 Cities

Simon Joss, Frans Sengers, Daan Schraven, Federico Caprotti, Youri Dayot

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

75 Citations (Scopus)
107 Downloads (Pure)


Despite its growing ubiquitous presence, the smart city continues to struggle for definitional clarity and practical import. In response, this study interrogates the smart city as global discourse network by examining a collection of key texts associated with cities worldwide. Using a list of 5,553 cities, a systematic webometric exercise was conducted to measure hit counts produced by searching for “smart city.” Consequently, 27 cities with the highest validated hit counts were selected. Next, 346 online texts were collected from among the top 20 hits across each of the selected cities, and analyzed both quantitatively and qualitatively using AntConc software. The findings confirm, first, the presence of a strong globalizing narrative which emphasizes world cities as “best practice” models. Second, they reveal the smart city’s association—beyond the quest for incremental, technical improvements of current urban systems and processes—with a pronounced transformative governance agenda. The article identifies five critical junctures at the heart of the evolving smart city discourse regime; these shed light on the ongoing boundary work in which the smart city is engaged and which contain significant unresolved tensions. The paper concludes with a discussion of resulting implications for research, policy, and practice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-34
Number of pages32
JournalJournal of Urban Technology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • discourse
  • global
  • governance
  • Smart city
  • webometrics


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