“AI Will Be the Beating Heart of the City”: Connectivity and/as Care in The Line

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Artificial intelligence will be “the beating heart” (Bell, 2022, para. 1) of the linear smart city The Line in Saudi Arabia, one of the most expensive and expansive urban living projects of our times—and crucial in the larger vision of a post-oil future for Saudi Arabia. Exemplary of the complex relationship between past and future in constructing alternative urban imaginaries, the promotional material of The Line highlights technology as the best—and apparently only—solution to “maintain, continue, and repair our ‘world’ so that we can live in it as well as possible” (Tronto & Fisher, 1990, p. 40), while at the same time imagining artificial intelligence itself as a living and “organic” presence in the urban. Following David Pinder’s understanding of cities as always both imagined and real, immaterial and material, this article draws on care as a critical lens to explore the construction of The Line in answer to Nick Dunn’s provoking question: “So can imagining the future change it?” (Dunn, 2018, p. 376). Tracing “care in a manufactured landscape” (Mattern, 2021, p. 144) here highlights the entanglement between technology and sustainability, between organic metaphors and artificial environments, between virtual connection and material exhaustion. Critically examining the promise embedded in contemporary architectural projects to deliver “new and imaginative solutions” (NEOM, 2022e) for the physical, psychological, and environmental exhaustion of urban life, this article proposes an understanding of connectivity and care as increasingly entangled—and argues that the urban vision put forward in The Line, ultimately, hinges on care as connectivity rather than caring interconnections, networked logics rather than networks of belonging.
Original languageEnglish
Article number8181
JournalMedia and Communication
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jun 2024

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