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Individual Paper: Are all pathways to Sustainability paved with Digitalization and Technological Acceleration? A Critical Assessment Mapping of Nordic Social Innovation

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Better control of public spending, more engaged citizens, more sharing, improved performance of public transportation, lighter traffic, development of advanced energy and waste management solutions, optimization of energy consumption in buildings, unlimited connectivity and massive technological digital integration are some of the rewards that cities and decision makers are expecting to get from embracing digital and technological approaches. Many cities are developing projects, supporting social innovation and even designing entire new neighborhoods to set in place intelligent communication tracking capabilities that allow collection of real-time digital data. Social innovative enterprises are effervescent with apps offering to solve many service necessities people may not have even known they have. This is done holding the promise that the data will boost the creation of new urban services and the creation of a new form of sustainable urban ecosystem. Smart city approaches and social innovation and entrepreneurial efforts in several European cities are today enjoying great finance and multi-stakeholder backing. Some of these approaches can be assessed ant traced in their evolution over the last five years. This paper poses the question to what extent digitalization and technological acceleration is articulating a form of inevitable pathway through which most of the solution and visionary thinking with regards to sustainability and a low-carbon transition are now being interpreted? The paper focuses in examples of social innovation implemented in Northern Europe and specifically in Nordic countries. The projects target key areas of sustainability such as inclusiveness, democratization and low carbon solutions and the paper analyses the way they have evolved from their idea forming to in some cases becoming a city strategy, impacting a variety of related social projects. For these examples the paper maps the drivers, stakeholders, agency, governing and expected impact contributions to these projects. The resulting positioning and mapping shows how the projects are advancing toward contrasting societal visions between technological acceleration and de-growth, and individualization and community forming solutions. The assessment illuminates the ways in which acceleration of digitalization in society seems to be exerting a stronger pull on the thinking and creation of solutions for sustainability that is by now assumed in a taken-for-granted manner by decision-makers and social innovators. While sustainability solutions created via disruption of social practices, new local engagements and typically leading to dessaceleration and de-growth (f.ex: fewer passenger kilometers by car, re-use of items leading to lower energy consumption), are also to a large extent transitioning digital pathways but still maintaining niche status. The paper raises many more critical questions than offering concrete answers at this point. At the time of submitting this abstract the reflective conclusive questions needing further investigation are: can alternative non-digital, community strengthening visions and solutions be advanced and gain societal traction to contrast the strength or pull created with acceleration of technology and digitalization society? Will it matter to sustainability or to furthering a degrowth agenda?


Day: 2018-08-23
Start time: 11:30
Duration: 00:15
Room: Nöjesteatern (Theater)
Track: Technology in a Degrowth Society



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