Civic Technologies — Tools or Therapy?

Dietmar Offenhuber

First published in Ars Electronica 2015: Post City. Hatje Cantz

Jean Luc Godard’s Alphaville was perhaps the first film about a smart city: a city where are all infrastructure is controlled by a central computer according to principles of reason and efficiency. That is until the cartoon detective Lemmy Caution takes it down. Even when Alphaville was released in 1965, the idea of the city as an intelligent machine was not new, it was already a familiar science fiction trope. One could, however, object that although the city of Alphaville is intelligent (after all, it engages in a philosophical dialogue with Lemmy), it is not very smart. Smartness does not require human-like intelligence, it requires recognizing patterns, anticipating what needs to be done, and doing it without making a big fuss — keeping things invisible.

Elmo Lincoln in “Tarzan of the Apes” (1918)

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