Academic journal article Journal of Theoretical and Applied Electronic Commerce Research

Do Smart Cities Produce Smart Entrepreneurs?

Academic journal article Journal of Theoretical and Applied Electronic Commerce Research

Do Smart Cities Produce Smart Entrepreneurs?

Article excerpt


Living Labs aim to engage in user-centered design practices where users are included in their daily life environment as innovative agents. However, empirical insights in end user engagement in Living Lab practices are currently lacking. This article focuses on opening up this black box of user engagement by analyzing the involvement of a group of entrepreneurs in a Living Lab smart city pilot in Amsterdam, the Climate street. The goal of the article is to analyze how and to what extent the Climate street enabled the involved entrepreneurs to engage in bottom up innovation. Theoretically, the article explores this pilot from a Science and Technology Studies perspective, specifically its notion of the socio-technical network. The article concludes that user innovativeness was limited by the pre-configuration of the entrepreneur as lay tester rather than as an active user-innovator. Furthermore, it is suggested that the inherent tension in Living Lab practices between configuring users and actual user practices hampers user innovativeness in general. Granting users more agency and opening up Living Lab practices to daily life dynamics stimulates the transition from tester to innovator in a daily life setting and subsequently makes entrepreneurs more readily smart.

Keywords: Living labs, Smart cities, Community innovation, Sustainable technologies, Sociotechnical networks

1 Introduction

The concept of the smart city (as defined by [13]) at once stresses the importance of investments in ICT infrastructures to enhance the quality of life and competitive capabilities of cities, as well as the recognition that in order to achieve this smartness, investments in social capital are necessary. To become smart, cities need to innovate technologically, also by making use of the smart, innovative potentials of its citizens. The topic of this special issue Smart Applications for Smart Cities calls for papers about the connection between smart environments and bottom up innovation practices, more specifically how for example collaborative platforms and new technologies sustain innovation driven by the creativity of the population and collective collaboration. Living Laboratories are explicitly referred to, in terms of the changing role they attribute to the city and citizens as users and co-creators of new technologies.

Living Labs are characterized as "both a methodology of user-driven innovation and the organizations that primarily use it" (Site 4). They facilitate "public-private-civic partnerships" [16] that bridge the gap between development and use of ICTs by involving users, as co-producers, "on equal grounds" [2], in different ICT design stages. This type of user-centered innovation reverses traditional top down R&D processes; Living Labs aim to engage in bottom up innovation, granting much agency to users. This practice is hoped to lead to unexpected insights into user needs [9], culminating in the development of more successful ICTs. Apart from including real (end) users, the living part of the laboratory also points to the centrality of daily life environments. These function as "experimentation environments in which technology is given shape in real life context" [16] p. 13, thereby opening up the development process to "the uncontrollable dynamics of daily life" [11].

Literature suggests that although the number of Living Labs has grown exponentially since the conception of the European Network of Living Labs in 2006, achieving user-driven, bottom up innovation is often quite a challenge. This may be partially due to the fact that while users are deemed central, Living Labs do not clearly adhere to a common understanding of how Living Lab processes and methods work to elicit the innovative potential of end users [17]. Furthermore, according to [14] p. 79, relatively little attention has been directed at investigating end user engagement, while acquiring the commitment of users and user communities is a noted challenge [26]. …

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