A collaborative case study of public housing residents’ evolving geography of educational opportunity in a smart city




Sharp, Trent Addison

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Critical urban scholars and educational researchers have demonstrated that urban planning and economic development strategies routinely restrict the “geography of educational opportunity” in racially and economically segregated communities. Today, city governments across the globe are racing enhance their information and communications technologies (ICT) in order to implement “smart city” strategies as a centerpiece of their economic development and urban planning efforts. Many cities are enthusiastic about the potential for ICT-based technologies and a new ecosystem of “smart mobility” options to enhance residents’ access to virtual and physical resources that enhance one’s opportunities and quality of life. Ideally, these two foundational smart cities strategies should help to enhance geographies of educational opportunity in racially and economically segregated communities. However, to date no empirical studies have examined the impact of ICT-based technologies and smart mobility resources on educational opportunities amongst low income communities. As such, the purpose of this collaborative case study critically examines the relationship between ICT-based technologies and smart mobility assets in Austin’s (Texas) urban core and public housing residents’ geography of educational opportunity. To achieve this purpose, I addressed the following research questions: How and in what ways do public housing residents characterize their experience in accessing educational opportunities in the urban core of a smart city? How do public housing residents describe their experience with ICT-based technologies and smart mobility resources? What relationships can be drawn between the factors influencing public housing resident’s access to educational opportunities and their utilization or avoidance of ICT-based technologies and smart mobility resources? The findings suggest that for residents: (a) housing is a stabilizing centerpiece within their geographies of educational opportunity, but the benefits derived from housing are counterbalanced by neighborhood gentrification; (b) educational access and opportunities are limited by public systems and supports that are mismatched to residents needs and aspirations; (c) access to ICT-based technologies and smart mobility options are highly variable and often mismatched to the needs of the residents; and (d) mismatches between shared mobility options, ICT-based technologies and residents’ needs complicates residents’ educational access and opportunities. This study concludes with implications for future research and practice.


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