About The Project

INFRATIME – Infrastructuring time in smart urbanism and urban transitions

Started in October 30 2020, the INFRATIME Marie Skłodowska Curie Global Fellowship (GA n. 892522) will take a 3 years research and training journey across Italy, Japan and Scandinavia. The project will study how temporalities of urban transformations and networked urban infrastructure interfere with the new climatic regime.

The agenda set by climate change is urgent and accelerating. Cities are at the forefront to respond to climate change effects, to harness the resources for just and sustainable transitions, and to adopt long-term policies and strategies for viable urban futures by 2030-2050. At the same time, existing networked data infrastructures allow the everyday management of cities (e.g. mobility, energy, water) and also interact with the efforts to achieve the climate targets. Yet, most recent scientific evidence shows that the sustainability efforts are jeopardised by existing infrastructures and a further effort is needed already by 2030 to stop irreversible damage from climate change. Subsequently, cities need to revise their climate plans, anticipating their actions and aligning their sustainability goals to the new scenarios. The tensions between the urgent climate change agenda (CCA), the testing of sustainable urban futures and the actual ICT infrastructure already in place For urban management produce multiple temporal interferences that influence the paths towards sustainability. INFRATIME will develop a time-based approach to understand the entangled temporality and rhythm of urban sustainable transitions (UST) and smart urbanism (SU). 

Since the relevance of time for social life has been addressed in social theory, geography and urban studies, the debate has been widely growing in relation to technology and digitalisation of society. Emphasis has been given to the role of speed, acceleration, and anticipation as featuring our modern timescapes, with an increasing (yet limited, especially towards technology aspects) attention to sustainability issues. To fill this gap, INFRATIME will engage with a recent series of contributions across Science and Technology Studies, Urban Studies, and Organization Studies, on three main issues

  1. Networked Data Infrastructures. As literature focused on the time aspects of algorithms and the digital rhythmicity of large infrastructures (e.g. water, energy, mobility, etc.), the research will explore how time devices operate within these different urban systems in relation to sustainability issue, asking: RQ1) How is time inscribed in and performed by rolled-out data infrastructures for managing urban systems? 
  2. Urban Experiments. I will address the relation between UST and experimental urbanism – i.e. Urban Testbeds (UTB) and Urban Living Labs (ULL): as labs act as “truth spots” in urban politics, I will focus on their role as ‘time-spots” asking: RQ2) How are urban futures operationalized in urban experimentations? How does the CCA interact with such temporalities? 
  3. Institutional change. Urban testbedding and transitions, as well as data infrastructures, are also vectors of organizational and institutional change. I will thus look at the narrative approaches to organization studies, as well as the management studies which use time as analytical category, reflecting on the temporal institutional work to enable change, asking: RQ3) How do the urban futures and the CCA translate into, shape and interact with the actual institutional processes and networked data infrastructures for urban management? The issues above will be integrated with the study of the literature on SU&UST in EU, India, Singapore, China, and Japan, which constitute object of increasing attention by scholars, in dialogue with postcolonial studies. 

Based on the research questions above, INFRATIME has four specific objectives:

  1. To achieve knowledge and produce detailed accounts on how CCA, SU&UST are temporally enacted by the interplay of experimental urbanism, data infrastructures, and organizational processes, in transnational settings (WP1). 
  2. To innovate theoretically and methodologically by offering a transdisciplinary approach to study and understand the socio-technical production of time on multiple urban scales (WP2); 
  3. To advance the research field on SU&UST with an original time-based contribution (WP2); 
  4. To disseminate INFRATIME research results impact policy-making on SU&UST at the European and international level (WP3).

In so doing, the project intends also to contribute to better re-temporalize urban transformations to the climate change agenda. The partnership between the University of Bologna (IT) as Beneficiary and the University of Tokyo (JP) as Third Country Organisation, including the planned inter-sectoral secondment in NORDREGIO (SE), will offer the platform to pursue the research objectives.