Experiments and the ‘Smart’ City: Governing sustainable and ‘smart’ infrastructures in Singapore’s high rise housing estates

Miss Nurul Amillin Hussain1

1University Of Oxford, United Kingdom

Increasingly, governance within smart cities engage in approaches that reach beyond the institutional, adapting methods accomplished through networks of more-than-human assemblages that include the socio-technical and material. This paper explores how governance takes the shape of “experimentation” within ‘smart city’ laboratories. It contextualizes the realities of governance experiments accomplished on-the-ground through studying the relationship between the human and 2 types of non-human actors – the material and the immaterial – responding to calls for empirically-grounded understandings of what visions of the ‘smart city’ might mean in the everyday lives of citizens. Focusing on the case study of the Singaporean Smart Nation, and in particular, the installation of solar panels and the experience of seasonal haze, this paper explores how conceiving of “living labs” as a particular assemblage of the human and non-human might allow us to reconceptualize notions of power and agency during periods of transformation, such as energy transitions, and periods of emergency, such as the cross-boundary haze crisis.  This paper hopes to expand current understandings of environmental governance by showing how assemblages can generate insights into the complex and often unexpected ways in which the non-material is significant to statecraft.


Nurul Amillin Hussain is a DPhil Candidate at the School of Geography and the Environment, in the University of Oxford. Her project explores ideas around sustainability within the ‘smart city’, focusing on the dense, urban city-state of Singapore. She holds an MPhil in Social Anthropology from the University of Cambridge and a BA in Sociology from the Nanyang Technological University. Amillin worked as a sustainability consultant, working with clients in the maritime and palm-oil agribusiness industries, prior to coming to Oxford.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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