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Smart cities, smart places, smart democracy: Form-based codes, electronic governance and the role of place in making smart cities

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Place matters in smart towns and cities. Technology may keep pushing us apart, but we as a culture continue to gather. Opinions differ as to whether the centrifugal forces of ‘splintering’ urbanism are stronger than the centripetal power of physical places. This article argues that if policies and implementation tools of placed-based urban design are embedded and encoded within the e-governance structure of a community, a balance can be achieved where both physical and virtual realms enhance the unique character of particular locations. The pervasive reach of electronic data and media can help bind the disparate elements of a community together as much as it may seek to disperse them. The process of developing plans, codes and sustainable strategies for a community seeking a truly ‘smart’ future in a competitive world is illustrated by a case study of Beaufort, a medium-sized town in South Carolina, USA, and these efforts highlight the challenges for English towns and cities in the context of the British Government's shift towards ‘localism’ in planning.
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