"Toward a Political Economy of Nudge: Smart City Variations." Information, Communication & Society, 2018.

Oscar H. Gandy, Jr. and Selena Nemorin

Transformations in strategies of governmentality have been implemented around the globe through behavioral interventions characterized as ‘nudges.’ This article will focus on the implementation of these practices within geopolitical areas referred to as ‘smart cities.’ Specifically, the article will examine the impacts of technological developments on neuroeconomics and behavioral economics as foundational contributions to smart city governance. Given the resonance between several areas of governmentality explored by Foucault in the 1970s, and by an increasing number of theorists of late, this article sets out a program of research and policy analysis organized by a political economy of communications framework. As such, smart city governance will be identified and assessed in terms of the processes of commodificationspatialization, and structuration. Important concerns emerging from our assessment of the nudge as a governmental policy tool are the implications that this and related approaches to management of populations have for direct and indirect surveillance of people, places, and things. Information and communication technology is expected to play a central role here via its extension of surveillance through multidimensional analysis of massive transaction-generated-information, environmental and personal sensing, and what we have come to refer to as the big data that enable management by code from afar. The implications of these processes for groups within society, especially those already disadvantaged by poverty, segregation, and disregard, will be described and illustrated with examples from around the globe. The article will conclude with an articulation of public policy concerns, including those related to privacy and surveillance.