Elgar Companion to Sustainable Cities
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Elgar Companion to Sustainable Cities

Strategies, Methods and Outlook

Edited by Daniel A. Mazmanian and Hilda Blanco

Against a backdrop of unprecedented levels of urbanization, 21st century cities across the globe share concerns for the challenges they face. This Companion provides a framework for understanding the city as a critical building block for a more sustainable future within broader subnational, national and continental contexts, and ultimately, within a global systems context. It discusses the sustainable strategies being devised, as well as the methods and tools for achieving them. Examples of social, economic, political and environmental sustainable policy strategies are presented and the extent to which they actually increase sustainability is analyzed.
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Chapter 22: Technology and city sustainability

Bill Tomlinson


Information technology (IT) has a long history as a force multiplier of human endeavors – amplifying the capabilities of both individuals and organizations. From abacuses to printing presses to modern computational systems, IT has transformed the way humans live. As humans across history began living together in larger numbers and formed cities, IT has facilitated and coordinated the complexities that go along with close human cohabitation. Looking forward, if cities are to become sustainable systems, IT systems are likely to factor prominently into the process. How IT influences human activities, though, is complex. IT has been instrumental in enabling the massive exploitation (and many would say overexploitation) of the resources that have supported the growth of human civilizations. Now, as humanity develops a greater awareness of the interdependencies among the ecosystems in which humans live, IT designers and engineers are beginning to build IT systems that support sustainability as an explicit goal (e.g. Millett and Estrin 2012). The design of a system cannot fully predict the role it will play (e.g. Lessig 2000; Benkler 2007); human history is awash in examples of technologies intentionally or accidentally misused for both good and bad ends. Nevertheless, the design of a system does exert a significant influence on how that system will change the contexts in which it is deployed. This chapter highlights four key themes in the relationship between IT and sustainable cities, focusing on likely future outcomes of this relationship.

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