International Handbook of Urban Policy, Volume 1
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International Handbook of Urban Policy, Volume 1

Contentious Global Issues

Edited by H. S. Geyer

This first Handbook in a series of three original reference works looks at globally contentious urban policy issues from a wide variety of different angles and perspectives. Matters related to urban densification, population mobility, urban inequality and sustainability are analysed in a manner that will not only interest the advanced student but also the novice.
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Chapter 14: Cities Mediating Technological Transitions: The Adaptability of Infrastructure and Infrastructures of Adaptability?

M. Hodson and S. Marvin


M. Hodson and S. Marvin Introduction Cities have historically been powerfully shaped by the development of key infrastructural technologies. Complex socio-technical systems of water, energy, transport, communications and waste make the concept of the contemporary city possible (Graham and Marvin, 1996; 2001). While there have been dramatic changes in the social organization of infrastructure and drivers shaping its development, the physical infrastructure of the city is often slow to change. This chapter argues, with this in mind, that the central question is not only how do infrastructures shape cities but also how do cities shape their infrastructures, particularly when they have little direct control over private and often liberalized systems? Cities face the challenge of shaping complex technological transitions – refitting new and often hybrid energy infrastructures, laying new ICT systems over old infrastructures, through road pricing and control technologies, introducing decentralized new and renewable technologies into centralized systems (see Graham and Marvin, 1996; Evans, Guy and Marvin, 2001; Guy and Marvin, 2001; Guy, Marvin and Moss, 2001). Yet we lack a systemic way of understanding the role of places in shaping such socio-technical transitions (Eames et al., 2006; Hodson and Marvin, 2006). Technological transitions (TT) and transition management (TM) approaches have generated considerable interest in academic and policy circles in recent years (Rotmans and Kemp, 2002; Geels, 2004; Kemp and Loorbach, 2005), where, in terms of a loose definition, a ‘transition can be defined as a gradual, continuous process of structural change within a society or culture’...

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