Analysis of the ambiguity and complexity of the concept of smart city

Document Type : بنیادی(Stem, Basic)


1 دانشکده معماری

2 Associate Professor of of Architecture and Urban Planning Faculty, Tabriz University of Islamic Art, Tabriz, Iran

3 PhD student in Islamic urbanism, Tabriz University of Islamic Arts, Tabriz, Iran



Introduction: In recent years, the concept of smart in urban development in the form of a smart city approach has become increasingly popular in the academic and executive space due to the increasing challenges and problems of cities and the increasing complexity of cities. One of the main reasons for the emergence of the concept of smart as a main research topic has been its multifaceted nature, which affects human, social, economic and technical research fields. In the theoretical literature, a wide range of topics, including communication and information technologies, inclusive communication, knowledge and creativity, free and large information, social capital, business, smart community, ecological sustainability, etc., are used to define the discourse of the smart city. Various researchers believe that there is no single and universally accepted definition for a smart city. So that there are ambiguities and complexities about the definition of the concept of a smart city, and a smart city contains different concepts and meanings for urban activists, including specialists, policymakers and other actors effective in guiding and controlling the city. Based on this, the current research has sought to clarify and reduce the ambiguities and complexities of the concept of a smart city and tries to explain the main common concepts and meanings corresponding to the concept of a smart city, their connections with each other and their impact on the formation and evolution of the concept of a smart city. Clarifying the concept of smart city can facilitate the exchange of ideas, understanding and theoretical progress in smart city approaches and increase our understanding of its opportunities, consequences and challenges. In addition, to prevent inappropriate and wrong interpretations and use of this word in academic and executive communities.

Methodology: The current research is a review article with a fundamental nature, which relies on the meta-synthesis qualitative method to analyze the valid researches conducted on the topic of smart cities, which were mainly conducted in the last decade. Meta-synthesis tries to integrate the results of a number of related qualitative studies on a subject and interpret their results and findings. Meta-synthesis methods can be different according to the purpose of the research and the available data, although they have similarities. The Meta-synthesis process in the current research includes defining the research question, identifying and retrieving information, determining the criteria for entering and exiting the study, extracting the results, and analyzing and interpreting the findings.

Results and discussion: The research findings show that the key concepts and meanings extracted in the smart city literature include the use of information and communication technologies, human and intellectual capital, innovative and creativity, social capital and collective cooperation, holistic view, sustainability, effectiveness and accountability, efficiency and optimality and flexibility. Meanwhile, the use of information and communication technologies is considered the most important concept and meaning corresponding to the smartness of a city in the theoretical literature, which shows the importance and special place of these technologies in improving the condition of cities and responding to urban issues. After that, having human and intellectual capital, social capital and collective cooperation and innovative and creativity in an urban system are among the key concepts and meanings of a smart city. The analysis of the key concepts and meanings used for the smart city and the connections between these concepts shows that they can be divided into three categories: driving force, performance and result. The main driving force of the smart city is the use of information and communication technologies, which, of course, have recently become less important, and along with human and social capital, they have the task of advancing the plans of a smart city. Due to the basic and causal role of the aforementioned driving forces, the smart city in the theoretical literature often implies the possession and use of these capitals and assets in order to achieve urban goals. Because these driving forces create innovative and creativity and increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the urban system. Also, especially when the mentioned driving forces work side by side and synergistically, they can lead to the realization of a holistic view in urban planning and policy-making, and as a result bring about the solution of urban problems and the realization of urban goals. However, some thinkers do not consider relying on these driving forces and the emergence of such functions to be considered smart for a city, and when a city is called smart in the real sense, it has stability or the necessary flexibility to face changes in the future. In other words, in this view, they link the smartness of a city with the ability of a city to survive and have a consequentialist approach to the issue.

Conclusion: The current state of the concept of the smart city, which is associated with the increase of the human-centered view and its greater connection with concepts such as holistic, sustainability and flexibility, although it can help to realize a truly smart city in accordance with what the literal and idiomatic meaning of the word smart is, but also, the ability to measure the smartness of a city has made it more difficult and complicated. Based on this, measuring the real smartness of a city is a difficult task and cities should not be separated into being smart or not, but should be measured in terms of how smart they are and how smart they are. Today, many cities call themselves smart despite the clear differences between their plans and strategies. Smart cities take shape and meaning based on local characteristics and conditions, the needs and priorities of cities, in addition to the pressures of global markets and available technologies. Also, based on the newer key concepts of the smart city concept, many traditional sustainable cities have a higher degree of compliance with smart city criteria than current cities with smart designations. While such a claim and approach has not been raised in the past.


Main Subjects

Articles in Press, Accepted Manuscript
Available Online from 03 December 2023
  • Receive Date: 19 October 2022
  • Revise Date: 26 November 2023
  • Accept Date: 03 December 2023