Project team

Principal investigator: Prof. Ola Söderström (University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland)

OS-2017Ola Söderström is Professor of social and cultural geography at the University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland. His work focuses on global dynamics of urban development, urban material culture, urban visual cultures and tactics of urban living. His recent work has investigated critical forms of mobility (Critical Mobilities, Routledge, 2013), trajectories of urban globalization through relational comparisons of cities of the Global South (Cities in Relations, Wiley-Blackwell, 2014), smart urbanism and relations between urban living and psychosis. Open Access papers and more on CV can be found here.

Co-investigator: Dr Ayona Datta (King’s College London, UK)


Dr Ayona Datta is Reader in Urban Futures in the Department of Geography at King’s College London. Her research interests are in the postcolonial urbanism, gender citizenship, and urban futures. She is author of ‘The Illegal City: Space, law and gender in a Delhi Squatter settlement‘ (2012); co-editor of ‘Mega-Urbanisation in the Global South: Fast cities and new urban utopias of the postcolonial state‘ (2017) and ‘Translocal Geographies: Spaces, places, connections‘ (2011). Read about her research here: The city inside out

Local Academic partner: Dr. Diganta Das (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore)

Sai Diganta NTU-NIEDiganta Das is an assistant professor of geography at Humanities and Social Studies Education Academic Group, NIE, Nanyang Technological University. Diganta is a human geographer whose work focuses on issues of urban development in South Asia, especially around smart city development, urban policy mobility and experience of producing high-tech spaces. He has published in the area of urban policy mobility, production of smart/high-tech spaces in India, and on changing urban waterscapes of South Asia. He is currently the chair of Regional Planning and Development Specialty Group (RDPSG) of American Association of Geographers (AAG) and is active in working on urban and regional planning issues. He is also active regionally around South and Southeast Asia in organizing conferences through Southeast Asian Geography Association (SEAGA) where he is one of the executive members. More update regarding Diganta’s work, research projects and publications can be found on

Local Academic Partner: Dr. Nancy Odendaal (University of Cape Town, South Africa)

IMG_9339Nancy Odendaal is associate professor in city and regional planning at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. She is based in the School of Architecture, Planning and Geomatics and has a working relationship with the African Centre for Cities. Nancy’s work focuses on three distinct but overlapping areas of interest. Her primary research is on urban infrastructure. She has published extensively on the relationship between smart technologies, urbanity in the global South and social justice.  As the former convener of the Association of African Planning Schools (AAPS) and its incoming chair, as well as chair of the Global Planning Education Association Network (GPEAN), she is active in working on planning education and curricula reform. Her publications in this regard focus on the challenges of training built environment professionals in response to African urbanization challenges. As a spatial planner, she has written on the efficacy and transformational potential of spatial planning in the global South. An update on Nancy’s publications can be found on:

Advisory Board: Prof Gillian Rose (University of Oxford)

orange bw copyGillian Rose is Professor of Human Geography at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of the British Academy.  Her current research interests focus on contemporary digital visual culture and on so-called ‘smart cities’.  She is the author of Visual Methodologies (Sage, fourth edition 2016), as well as a number of papers on images, visualising technologies and ways of seeing in urban and domestic spaces. She is currently leading the ESRC-funded project Smart Cities in the Making: Learning from Milton Keynes; her particular interest is how digital visualisations operationalise smart cities ( Gillian blogs at visual/method/culture.

Advisory Board: Dr Federico Caprotti (University of Exeter)

fcaprottiFederico Caprotti is an Associate Professor in human geography at the University of Exeter: he is interested in sustainable cities. He currently leads the ‘Smart Eco-Cities for a Green Economy (SMART-ECO)’ research consortium (, funded by the ESRC, China’s NSFC, and the national research funding agencies of France, Germany, and the Netherlands. Federico also leads an ESRC Urban Transformations project on energy transitions in South African municipalities ( Federico has recently co-edited (with Li Yu) Sustainable Cities in Asia (Routledge, 2017), and in 2015 he published Eco-Cities and the Transition to Low-Carbon Economies (Palgrave).

Doctoral Students: Evan Blake (University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland)

downloadEvan Blake is a doctorate student enrolled with The Institute of Geography at the University of Neuchâtel, under the auspices of Prof. Ola Söderström. His previous Human Geography training is coupled with applied experience as a research strategist, affording him a multidisciplinary background covering fields such as urban cultural studies, consumption anthropology, place-centred education, neighbourhood narratives and psychogeographies. Through action-research-oriented approaches, Evan strives to use his participation on this project as an opportunity to produce relevant and accessible knowledge for South African grassroots organisations with a focus placed on their relations with smart city narratives. Evan blogs about moments of mundane cityness at Pavement Specials.

Doctoral Students: Persis Taraporevala (King’s College London, UK)

RPT_3240 (2) Persis Taraporevala is a PhD candidate in the Geography Department at King’s College London. Her research interests include citizenship rights and the enactment of democratic processes in the urban landscape. She has previously worked on the privatisation of municipal government in India, the intersection between land tenure and access to services and race in Delhi and community-based empowerment through the arts. Persis is currently part of the project entitled, ‘Provincializing the global urban age in India and South Africa’ and will focus on the Smart Cities Mission in India. Persis tweets here.


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