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There's No App for Silver Bullets

Two planning researchers, one a professor at Tufts and another independent, make the case against apps as a panacea for urban problems.
August 16, 2016, 7am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Julian Agyeman and Duncan McLaren write a dissenting take on the trend of cities seeking the latest in "smart city" technology. According to their argument, "our current smart-city techno fetish rides roughshod across the public realm." Moreover, it "encourages the belief that there’s always 'an app for that' — that we can address deep-seated, structural urban problems through business-led technological innovation and somehow sidestep the messiness of inclusive politics."

As evidence to back up those claims, Agyeman and McLaren first cite the example of a partnership between the city of Boston and Waze, the Google-owned navigation app (not to be confused with the city of Boston's partnership with Uber, which has been the subject of recent criticisms). Despite seeming like a great idea, according to Agyre, and McLaren, the partnership with Waze "merely represents a Band Aid slapped over a problem that still requires brave new political thinking and much-needed infrastructure investment." Agyeman and McLaren's response to the problems of congestion would employ congestion pricing and transit investments, rather than relying on the effects of Waze's data-collection system. 

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Published on Sunday, August 14, 2016 in The Boston Globe
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