Nathan Flore receives the Seal of Excellence from Cité


Our Research Unit has awarded its 4th Seal of Excellence to Nathan Flore for his research project on smart cities.

Can you tell us more about your research project?

I study the transformation of the role of local public authorities in the context of smart city projects. My research will focus on the case of three cities: Angers, Luxembourg and Namur. The projects that these three cities are developing are representative of the different realities that the protean concept of smart city can cover.

Initially, the smart city concept focused on the use of new information and communication technologies (ICT) to optimize the management of urban flows (e.g., to improve traffic flow, save water or make waste collection more efficient). But this technocentric approach has been questioned by several authors from the human and social sciences, and the concept now encompasses other dimensions of urban life: for example, education, partnerships between citizens, businesses and local elected officials..

In Angers, the project's stated objective is to make public services (lighting, green spaces and building management) more efficient by using ICT. In Luxembourg, the aim is to improve the quality of public services, through the use of ICT, but also through participatory mechanisms such as citizen budgets. Finally, Namur wants to contribute to sustainable development and, more broadly, to the development of its citizens. These three projects can be classified on a continuum of low participation - high participation and low technology - high technology. In each city, I will question the evolution of the role of local authorities in these two dimensions.

How did you become interested in this subject?

I dealt with a lot of issues related to ICT and participatory devices during my master's degree in science, technology and society. I wanted to choose a subject of study that combines these themes and my interest for the local level.

On the other hand, I noticed that the concept of smart city was often used in a managerial perspective aiming at analyzing what is seen as the conditions of success of these projects. As a political scientist, I naturally wanted to question the political implications.

What could be the concrete impacts of your research?

The political impact of the use of ICTs is often neglected, under the guise of a supposed technological neutrality. My research can contribute to a better understanding of how these technologies transform both the form (the modalities of policy definition and implementation) and the substance of public policies 

For example, some municipalities centralize the data collected in what they conceive as an "urban nerve center," sometimes close to a form of technological panopticon. The aggregation of this data makes it possible to redefine the implementation of local public policies in real time, which is likely to radically transform public action. What's more, the nature of the data as well as the way it is collected and aggregated impacts the framing of public policies. The use of Big Data in an institutional context is therefore far from neutral.

Similarly, public and private discourse on the concept of the smart city is based on the promotion of participatory mechanisms, which are very popular today. However, it is still necessary to evaluate the truly participatory nature of smart city projects and their effects on public action, based on political representation.

What are the next steps for your research?

I am currently working on two articles on the legal forms of municipal smart city programs and on the'the work done during the preparation of these articles will allow me to present the results of my research. The work done during the preparation of these articles will allow me to'the work done during the preparation of these articles will allow me to improve the doctoral project that I am currently working on'd. project that I submitted to the FNRS in February 2022, with a view to'd. project that I had submitted to the FNRS in February 2022, with a view to resubmitting the project to the FNRS mandate's mandate in February 2023.

His background

Nathan holds a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of Liège and a master's degree in political science with a specialization in science, technology and society in codiplomation with Maastricht University. In February 2022, he submitted a PhD project to the FNRS which received a very good evaluation, but was not funded. Therefore, the UR Cité grants him, through the Seal of Excellence, funding to resubmit his project next February.

iconeInfo Nathan Flore

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