Urban Transformation Toward a Smart City: An E-Commerce–Induced Path-Dependent Analysis

Making cities smart is an inherent goal and challenge for contemporary cities. This phenomenon becomes more complicated when there is an urgent need to adopt smart city principles against the backdrop of visible and invisible factors that cause urban transformations with varying magnitudes. One type of visibly invisible factor is e-commerce and its expanding operation that is understood to cause changes to a city’s conventional spatial structure. However, very limited research exists about its momentum and pervasive magnitude of impact. Current literature predominantly focuses on the relationship and effect of e-commerce on transportation studies – notably, the influence of e-commerce on the direction and volume of traffic flow, the changing dynamics of logistics, and operational strategies. As a transitory variable, how e-commerce is going to influence a city's conventional spatial structure, the interwoven relationship between the city core, fringe, and rural areas, and in building smart cities remains unclear. This paper will attempt to explore the changing dynamics of a city’s spatial structure with a specific focus on e-commerce induced changes in the retail landscape. Specifically, this paper aims to theoretically gauge the nature of these changes, which include division and fragmentation, reconceptualization, and relocation of retail stores and conceptually capturing the scenarios through critical analysis. Contemporary evidence further substantiates the need to account for e-commerce induced influence on contemporary thoughts on smart cities. Essentially, this stems from the requirement for a systemic analysis that explains the path-dependency framework of the complex relationship between e-commerce and shifts in a city’s changing spatial structure. Based on the requirement for a path-dependent analysis, this paper calls for an ideological shift in the conceptualization of a smart city definition from a concept to a process. It argues that such a shift has a critical impact that determines what makes cities truly smart.


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  • Accession Number: 01764527
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS, ASCE
  • Created Date: Dec 14 2020 3:04PM