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The Governance Approach of Smart City Initiatives. Evidence from Trondheim, Bergen, and Bodø
Article
Peer-Review Record

Prevailing Approaches and Practices of Citizen Participation in Smart City Projects: Lessons from Trondheim, Norway

Infrastructures 2020, 5(4), 36; https://doi.org/10.3390/infrastructures5040036
Reviewer 1: Anonymous
Reviewer 2: Anonymous
Reviewer 3: Anonymous
Infrastructures 2020, 5(4), 36; https://doi.org/10.3390/infrastructures5040036
Received: 9 March 2020 / Revised: 10 April 2020 / Accepted: 16 April 2020 / Published: 20 April 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Smart Cities and Infrastructures)

Round 1

Reviewer 1 Report

Despite the extensive revision, the paper is still very long and difficult to read because of the wording and the style of the presentation. There are still long and complex sentences (e.g., 789 “Through a categorization of understandings based on the input and output oriented approaches to citizen participation (participatory and deliberative democracy), this paper has tried to investigate the prevailing approaches and practices in one of the smart pilot projects, exploring which structures and functions can inhibit or reinforce the aimed democratic legitimacy”) and some remain obscure to me (e.g.,12 “Smart city is being reinforced along with a largely ‘compliant and accommodating citizenry”). There are still errors (e.g., 16 “transmission” for transition; 137 “These causalities is relevant”; 256 “which is influences”; 399 “How do citizens can better participate”). The overall style is redundant and repetitive (the words “smart city” are repeated 55 times, and “citizen participation” 99 times in 25 pages!); the sentence “we believe that the project is only able to reach output legitimacy (if it will be successful) by acting on behalf of, and bringing benefits to, citizens” is repeated at lines 647-648 and 741-742.

Going beyond all these problems, the paper has a first part in which the issue of citizen participation in urban planning is discussed by going through the relevant literature. In this analysis, the term “smart city” is used as a buzzword without a precise meaning, and indeed the discussion is very general about the essence of democracy and representation. I suggest that this part is rewritten, omitting all the references to the “smart cities,” after a short introduction clarifying that the hint for the paper comes from the evaluation of a project that EU classified in the category of “smart city.”
The second part of the paper is devoted to some considerations about a specific EU project developed in Trondheim. Despite my previous request, nothing is said about the city or the project itself (specific purpose, funding, number of people involved, number of meetings,…) and, from the technical point of view, the analysis is simply supported by the experience of the authors and by ten interviews. Again, the details of such interviews are not reported neither are the technicalities for their processing. We are simply informed at line 620 that “After the project was kicked-off, extensive resources, time and energy have been used to communicate the project’s objectives with other local stakeholders to fulfil the pre-determined milestones and deliverables of the contract.” And, at line 405, that “we recoded based on the standardized labels taken from the theoretical framework” without any explanation on how this recoding was implemented.
This technical weakness also appears in the unjustified use of technical words such as “non-linear” at line 233, or “data base” at 665.

This second part mixes several times the authors own judgment with the concepts derived from the interviews and the specific problems of the considered project with the general conclusions about the participation of citizens. Indeed, +CityxChange, like all other EU funded research projects, is conceived and written by research institutions with the primary objective of having them accepted and funded by the Commission. To do so, they must underline aspects such as co-design, co-creation, and so on. However, particularly for the project at hand, that concerns a specific energy-saving initiative, the participation of citizens is indeed marginal in the project design phase, while essential to achieve some results. This has nothing to do with the idea of “smart city” (that remains rather vague until the end of the paper) and is strictly linked with the standard funding scheme of the EU.

In conclusion, it is unclear whether the authors want to criticize the way EU funds are assigned, the way the municipality of Trondheim managed the specific project (a full page is devoted to explaining that the project was not embedded in the normal urban planning process), the neoliberal political trend in Norway (see lines 271-277), the concept of “smart city” or what else.
The final suggestion that representatives closer to citizens, i.e., ‘community representatives’ “who have shared values, interests, and needs with citizens.” (line 848) appears more grounded on common sense, rather than on the analysis carried out in the paper.

Author Response

Dear Reviewer,

Co-authors and I very much appreciated the critical, constructive and positive comments on this manuscript. The comments have been very thorough and useful in improving the manuscript and increasing the scientific value. We have taken them fully into account in revision. The manuscript has also undergone English language editing by a native colleague.

Our responses to your comments are as follows:

Point 1: Despite the extensive revision, the paper is still very long and difficult to read because of the wording and the style of the presentation. There are still long and complex sentences (e.g., 789 “Through a categorization of understandings based on the input and output oriented approaches to citizen participation (participatory and deliberative democracy), this paper has tried to investigate the prevailing approaches and practices in one of the smart pilot projects, exploring which structures and functions can inhibit or reinforce the aimed democratic legitimacy”)

Response-We agree with this and have incorporated your suggestion throughout the manuscript. We have asked a native colleague to proofread our manuscript as well.

Point 2: Some remain obscure to me (e.g.,12 “Smart city is being reinforced along with a largely ‘compliant and accommodating citizenry”).

Response- We have deleted this part and tried to clarify our arguments better throughout the paper.

Point 3: There are still errors (e.g., 16 “transmission” for transition; 137 “These causalities is relevant”; 256 “which is influences”; 399 “How do citizens can better participate”).

Response- We really appreciate your sharp and detailed review. We have corrected the errors.

Point 4: The overall style is redundant and repetitive (the words “smart city” are repeated 55 times, and “citizen participation” 99 times in 25 pages!);

Response- Thank you for pointing this out. We have tried to remove these words, where their usage was unnecessary. However, we do not agree that the number of the words can necessarily make the style redundant and repetitive. For example, in table 11, we used ‘smart city’11 times, in order to keep the original name of the theoretical model, create coherence and to improve the quality of our presentation, using table instead of figure.

Point 5: the sentence “we believe that the project is only able to reach output legitimacy (if it will be successful) by acting on behalf of, and bringing benefits to, citizens” is repeated at lines 647-648 and 741-742.

Response- Once again thanks for your detailed attention. We have corrected it.

Point 6: Going beyond all these problems, the paper has a first part in which the issue of citizen participation in urban planning is discussed by going through the relevant literature. In this analysis, the term “smart city” is used as a buzzword without a precise meaning, and indeed the discussion is very general about the essence of democracy and representation. I suggest that this part is rewritten, omitting all the references to the “smart cities,” after a short introduction clarifying that the hint for the paper comes from the evaluation of a project that EU classified in the category of “smart city.”

Response- Thank you so much for your suggestion. This part and adding all the references were in response to the other reviewer’s comment, therefore we have written a new introduction based on your suggestion and shifted that part to the literature review (section 2).

Point 7: The second part of the paper is devoted to some considerations about a specific EU project developed in Trondheim. Despite my previous request, nothing is said about the city or the project itself (specific purpose, funding, number of people involved, number of meetings,…) and, from the technical point of view, the analysis is simply supported by the experience of the authors and by ten interviews.

Response- We apologize if the information provided in your request was not satisfactory in the first revision. In addition to the information we had provided before, we have added:

The funding is 300 million Norwegian Kroner for the period November 2018 until November 2023. The consortium for +CityxChange comprises 32 partners, consisting of the municipalities of the seven cities involved, two universities, nine large enterprises, two distributed network operators, nine SMEs and three non-profit organizations (see [53] for the list of partners). Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) is coordinating the project with the two Lighthouse Cities of Trondheim and Limerick and five Follower Cities of Alba Iulia, Písek, Sestao, Smolyan and Võru.

Trondheim is the third largest city in Norway, with a population of about 190,500 people and is known as the technological capital of Norway, hosting the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and the research foundation SINTEF. One of the main goals of Trondheim is to develop the city into a smart and sustainable city, where it is easy for the inhabitants to live environmentally friendly [53]. Trondheim municipality is governed by the City Council and the Mayor and is run under the Planning and Building Act, the Pollution Act, and other relevant thematic laws and regulations.

There are eleven demonstration projects which are developed in the Lighthouse Cities and will be replicated in the Follower Cities. These demonstration projects will showcase how digital technologies can be exploited to improve the quality of life, make cities more climate-friendly and productive, and facilitate business development as well as citizen-participation.

The aim of +CityxChange is to improve the quality of life through the use of digital services, co-producing more energy than is consumed, and exchanging experiences with other cities across Europe (+CityxChange, 2019). Co-creation of positive energy blocks and districts (PEB/PED) will be fulfilled through citizen participation, integrated planning, common energy markets, regulatory sandboxes, and business models. The expected outcome is to create recommendations for new policy intervention, market (de)regulation and business models that deliver positive energy communities integrating e-Mobility as a Service (eMaaS). Besides building up knowledge and competence within the municipality administration, the participation in the project is also seen as av fertilizer to step up urban sustainable transition.

Point 8: Again, the details of such interviews are not reported neither are the technicalities for their processing.

Response- We had reported our interview questions, sampling and coding methods in the revision. But we added:

Interviews were recorded, transcribed and coded manually according to key themes of the conceptual framework and transferred into the Excel file. Some codes were based on the researchers’ own naming convention, such as smart city, +CityxChange, Citizens engagement and participation, Municipality’s strategic planning, Decision-making, Decision-power, Role, Interest and Culture. The chosen technique of analysis for this study was pattern matching, in which the findings are compared with our theoretical framework (see table Table 1). Therefore, we recoded based on the standardized labels taken from the theoretical framework, such as Democracy, Information, Manipulation, Participation ladder, Input Legitimacy and Output Legitimacy. These codes were juxtaposed and put into different arrays of citizen participation, from citizen power to non-participation (see figure 1) and matrices of two categories; approaches and practices. Then, based on the relation between these variables and the frequency of different words, a relational flowchart or matrix was drawn by the researchers (see table 3 and figure 4). The researcher team then met to discuss and analyze the data as a group, discussing the link between the different researchers’ own observations during their participation in the pilot project’s meetings and workshops. This analysis was formative for the arguments in the discussion.

In addition, as Reviewer 2 suggested, we added a section on limitation of our study, which explains some of the methodological challenges relate to the nature of the qualitative research.

Point 9: We are simply informed at line 620 that “After the project was kicked-off, extensive resources, time and energy have been used to communicate the project’s objectives with other local stakeholders to fulfil the pre-determined milestones and deliverables of the contract.”

Response- It is not possible to have an exact information about the used amount of time, resources and energy. None of the partners has this information nor report such information. Therefore, we have re-wrote this part as:

After the project was kicked-off, the local partners used different forum (such as internal and external conferences and workshops, expo, exhibitions and joint project events) and resources (including the project budget) formally and informally to introduce, discuss, and communicate the project’s objectives with other local stakeholders, and to fulfil the pre-determined milestones and deliverables of the contract.

Point 10: This technical weakness also appears in the unjustified use of technical words such as “non-linear” at line 233, or “data base” at 665.

Response- We used “non-linear” as a common concept in decision-making and urban planning, which is against the rational perspective, seeing policy making as a complex interactive process without beginning or end (Lindblom and Woodhouse, 1993). Therefore, analysis of any decision-making setting must consider how the system is structured and organized, but also the way in which the structures in the system function (referring to the process of bargaining and compromise-seeking) in a non-linear way. By non-linear, we account for the numerous dynamic interactions of multiple approaches across scales and policy spheres. Nonetheless, we delete the word in that sentence to avoid any misunderstanding.

We replaced “However, the newspaper does not provide a data base in which you can easily find the desired information” with “However, the newspaper cannot replace the information needed to ensure equal opportunities for citizens to provide input in an informed manner. For instance, it does not provide an accessible archive in which people can easily find the desired information.”

Point 11: +CityxChange, like all other EU funded research projects, is conceived and written by research institutions with the primary objective of having them accepted and funded by the Commission. To do so, they must underline aspects such as co-design, co-creation, and so on. However, particularly for the project at hand, that concerns a specific energy-saving initiative, the participation of citizens is indeed marginal in the project design phase, while essential to achieve some results. This has nothing to do with the idea of “smart city” (that remains rather vague until the end of the paper) and is strictly linked with the standard funding scheme of the EU. In conclusion, it is unclear whether the authors want to criticize the way EU funds are assigned, the way the municipality of Trondheim managed the specific project (a full page is devoted to explaining that the project was not embedded in the normal urban planning process), the neoliberal political trend in Norway (see lines 271-277), the concept of “smart city” or what else.

Response- Thanks for this comment. This is exactly what we try to say. With your suggestion, we wrote in Line 911:

To conclude, our paper emphasizes that there is no specific structural or functional factor that inhibits the citizen participation. On the contrary, the combination and interaction of different interdependent factors have led to such an outcome. We believe that the smart city concept has emerged as a result of the neoliberal political trend. To silent detractors and award international European grants, a citizen participatory ideal appears. In order to keep the central mission of capital accumulation and top-down or technocratic governance intact but also advocate citizen-centric approach, applicants of EU research projects must underline both technical and participatory aspects (such as co-design and co-creation). Accordingly, in projects with a focus on energy-saving solutions (such as +CityxChange), the participation of citizens is indeed marginal in the project design phase, while essential to achieve some results. Therefore, using time and resources to increase the role and power of citizens has nothing to do with the idea of ‘smart city’ that is strictly linked with the standard funding scheme of the EU. Indeed, it should be an integral part of any planning and decision-making processes and not necessarily just the smart ones.

Point 12: The final suggestion that representatives closer to citizens, i.e., ‘community representatives’ “who have shared values, interests, and needs with citizens.” (line 848) appears more grounded on common sense, rather than on the analysis carried out in the paper.

Response- This suggestion is based on our findings and discussion in section 4, where we have provided some quotations to support our argument (see lines 676-686). We moved this part to the Section 5, suggestion lines 837-859.

Reviewer 2 Report

Dear Authors,

In comparison with the previous submission the paper is highly improved.

Just few comments:

  • I would suggest to change "Findings" section with "Findings and discussion";
  • In the last section, I would suggest you to separate Implications and conclusion;   
  • limitations of the study should be mentioned;
  • please provide a higher quality version of figure 1.

Regards,

 

Author Response

Dear Reviewer,

Co-authors and I very much appreciated the critical, constructive and positive comments on this manuscript. The comments have been very thorough and useful in improving the manuscript and increasing the scientific value. We have taken them fully into account in revision. The manuscript has also undergone English language editing by a native colleague.

Our responses to your comments are as follows:

  1. I would suggest to change "Findings" section with "Findings and discussion";

Response- We agree.

  1. In the last section, I would suggest you to separate Implications and conclusion;

Response- We agree. To create the cohesion between our arguments, we add a suggestion section (section 5) after the findings and discussion section.

  1. Limitations of the study should be mentioned;

Response- we added section 3.3 and wrote:

The main limitation of this study refers to the nature of qualitative research as labor-intensive and time-demanding processes. Since this type of research is based more on opinion, personal experience, knowledge and judgment rather than results, it is difficult to verify the findings. In addition, all qualitative studies are unique, which make it difficult to replicate them (Radu, 2019).

The key local actors in this study are/were very busy people and it was difficult to get through all of them. This had reduced the speed at which the interviews were conducted. In addition, different factors, such as job or project context and the broader organizational culture, might influence their responses. In addition, their immediate interest, such as external rewards/punishments, or the culture, values and principles of the society or organization that they belong to might also affect their responses (Trevino, 1986). Even if they might be aware of these influences, they might not be willing to admit it. Therefore, they might unconsciously modify their responses or hesitate to bring up the negative aspects of democracy or citizen participation. Thus, it is important to acknowledge that the researchers were getting the information only as they were willing to pass it on in the interview situations.

Interviewing citizens was challenging due to their lack of motivation and interest. Building trust and attracting their attention demanded more time and resources. Moreover, we needed to delve into personal interaction for data collection, which often caused our discussion to deviate from the main question.

Interviewees’ language style and vocabulary size might be different from the researcher’s, which might raise considerable misunderstanding on the part of the interviewers and interviewees. Therefore, instead of looking for whether the informant was telling the truth, the researchers’ focus was on what the informants’ statements reveal about their feelings and perceptions, and what inferences could be made from them about the actual events they had experienced.

  1. Please provide a higher quality version of figure 1.

Response- We agree. It is done.


 

Reviewer 3 Report

Currently, the article contains very detailed content on the project and the methodology of the research. Various approaches to smart citizen participation that were described in the literature were also discussed in detail. Such extensive research material requires a certain summary and summary of the most important results. The authors also asked three research questions. Why did they not provide clear and concise answers to these questions in the summary? Definitely, the article lacked a summary of the entire study. If the results presented in the article are to be a lesson for other cities, then the authors should also define some tips and guidelines regarding the intelligent participation of citizens. These guidelines should be presented in the form of a table or a diagram. This must be completed in the article.

Author Response

Dear Reviewer,

Co-authors and I very much appreciated the critical, constructive and positive comments on this manuscript. The comments have been very thorough and useful in improving the manuscript and increasing the scientific value. We have taken them fully into account in revision. The manuscript has also undergone English language editing by a native colleague.

Our responses to your comments are as follows:

Such extensive research material requires a certain summary and summary of the most important results. The authors also asked three research questions. Why did they not provide clear and concise answers to these questions in the summary? Definitely, the article lacked a summary of the entire study. If the results presented in the article are to be a lesson for other cities, then the authors should also define some tips and guidelines regarding the intelligent participation of citizens. These guidelines should be presented in the form of a table or a diagram. This must be completed in the article.

Response- Thank you for pointing this out. We have added section 5-suggestion to provide our tips and guidelines. We also provided a table at the end of section 5-suggestion to provide a concise answer to our questions. We removed our third question, which was the normative one, and included the answer into the conclusion section. In addition, to provide clear and concise answers to our questions, the headings of section 4.1 and 4.2 are our research questions. We also tried to re-write our conclusion in a way that it briefly recalls the main aspects/points of our paper.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Round 2

Reviewer 1 Report

I do not think the sentence (line 913): "To silent detractors and award international European grants, a citizen participatory ideal appears." is syntactically and semantically correct. "Award" is a transitive verb, so a subject is missing. "Silent" must probably be "silence". And who are the "detractors"? They are just mentioned at line 98, but there the paper was just reporting an external opinion. If this has to be a scientific paper, "detractors" must be defined and their position must be explained.  
Please, revise.

Author Response

Dear Reviewer,

We are very grateful to your for taking your time to review and provide detailed and thorough feedback.

We replaced

"We believe that the smart city concept has emerged as a result of the neoliberal political trend. To silent detractors and award international European grants, a citizen participatory ideal appears. In order to keep the central mission of capital accumulation and top-down or technocratic governance intact but also advocate citizen-centric approach, applicants of EU research projects must underline both technical and participatory aspects (such as co-design and co-creation)."

with

"We believe that the smart city concept has emerged as a result of the neoliberal political trend, in which the invisible hand of the market is supposed to not only ensure an optimal allocation of private goods but also to regulate the public goods’ production more efficiently. However, the increased reliance on market/business forces has been criticized for throwing their weight behind power and money, and thus undermining the social bonds and virtues of civil society [43]. Therefore, the citizen-centric smart city ideal has emerged to silence detractors of high‐tech business‐led smart cities. In order to keep the central mission of capital accumulation and top-down or technocratic governance intact but also advocate citizen-centric approach, applicants of EU research projects must underline both technical and participatory aspects (such as co-design and co-creation)."

This manuscript is a resubmission of an earlier submission. The following is a list of the peer review reports and author responses from that submission.


Round 1

Reviewer 1 Report

The paper is a very preliminary discussion on some of the topics dealt with by the +CityxChange EU project. It largely follows the approach already presented in Cardullo and Kitchin (2019), correctly quoted in the references.
What is new is the scope, Trondheim instead of Dublin, and the way some of the key issues are presented, the five "cross-roads" in section 4.
However, almost no information about the Trondheim case is provided to the reader, and the discussion about the five "cross-roads" is purely theoretical, being the project at an initial stage. Six interviews with relevant stakeholders representatives provide the only available information about how "citizen participation" is addressed in the project.
EU Horizon 2020 projects, as +CityxChange, are focused on research and it is unclear, in the paper, what are the specific research questions addressed by the project.
Indeed, the authors discuss some very relevant questions about citizens' participation and democracy, in general. These are very difficult and basic issues in all western countries, whose importance and impact goes far beyond the limits of EU financed research projects. I understand and share the authors' viewpoint that citizen involvement is presently more a buzzword than a reality.  However, I think the paper largely overestimate the possibility of active participation of individual citizens to public decisions. Our democracy is based on representatives and there is certainly no way for individuals to do "their own volition." (line 304). So, I only see the possibility of citizens to join in groups, that define some priorities and then nominate a representative to be part of the political discussions. Indeed, in my experience, the possibility of involving individual citizens in urban planning decisions is limited by the lack of scientific knowledge, the overestimation of their own problems, the inability of looking for compromise solutions. And often by the laziness of being really involved. Many (the majority?) prefer to delegate their role to someone else. 
In the end, what is the research or scientific contribution of the proposed approach to the problem? The paper just highlights some evident issues and recommend that "the city planners and decision-makers need to clarify and communicate their approaches to the problem, intervention methods, available resources and possible decisional procedures, identifying why (goals), how and with what means they will reach their visions towards citizen participation" (line 324). It's a bit too obvious.

Specific comments.

The language of the presentation is somehow hard to read. Sentences are very long and sometimes not syntactically correct. An example is "In addition, different employees of the Trondheim municipality that work at different departments and are involved in the project, having different interests/agendas and it is not clear which interests and views they represent" (line 257).
The reference style at line 40 is wrong.
Line 44 "in which the insights about environment and place". What do you mean by "environment and place"? The specific urban context?
Table 2 "for the purpose of the building and real estate"?
Line 240 "which was already in place". What do you mean?
Line 342. The reaserach didn't receive external funding, but the support of the Norway Research Council is acknowledged. This seems contradictory.
I could not find any edition of the Greenfield pamphlet ir ref 1 dated 1.3.2013.
References  2, 13, 14, 17, 21, 22 are either incomplete or contain errors.

 

Reviewer 2 Report

Notes on the attached file.

Comments for author File: Comments.pdf

Reviewer 3 Report

Dear Authors,

in the following lines my comments and suggestions.

1 - Introduction

Literature review on Smart City should be extended; first, milestone papers - as Giffinger et al., 2007; Schaffers et al., 2011; Komninos et al., 2013 - should be mentioned.

Other publications on the topic can be taken into account:

Bifulco, F., Tregua, M., & Amitrano, C. (2017). Co-governing smart cities through living
labs. Top Evidence from EU. Transylvanian Review of Administrative Sciences;
Joss, S., Cook, M., & Dayot, Y. (2017). Smart cities: Towards a new citizenship regime? A discourse analysis of the British smart city standard. Journal of Urban Technology, 24(4), 29-49.   Papers on the evolution of the concept of Smart City have been published on Special issue of Sustainability in 2018.   2 - Methodology   More information about the case study would be useful to frame analysis.   3 - Section 4   More information about the five reasons you identified and the path leading you to detect them are needed;   Lines 180-183: please check this statement, I'm not totally agree;   4 - Results   In my opinion the results are not very significant.     Regards,

 

Reviewer 4 Report

The aim of this paper is to empirically explore the citizen participation in a smart city pilot and assess which types of citizen participation are targeted. In my opinion, this goal has not been achieved. The presented research results are very general and do not achieve the goal set out in the article. The authors also pointed out that the paper asks what actions cities take in order to achieve greater citizen participation through smart city pilots of Horizon 2020 lighthouse projects and how the collaborative nature of smart city processes challenge or reframe the traditional position of citizen participation in urban planning. The presented analyzes are interesting and relevant from the point of view of the conducted research. However, the results presented have not found the answer to either of these two questions asked. Therefore, it is necessary to thoroughly change the described results.

It should also be noted that the analyzes and conclusions presented in the article relate to the general participation of citizens in city decisions. In my opinion, the authors have not clearly presented the specifics of projects in the area of smart city. For this reason, it is difficult to refer to the described research results only to issues related to smart city projects. This makes it unreasonable to indicate this area in the title of the article.

Minor notes on the methodology:

- If the research was carried out only among 6 subjects, then all of them should be characterized, not just 3 examples

- Did the semi-structured interview contain only 2 questions?

- What tools / analysis used to interpret the results?

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