New paper: Urban data and city dashboards: Six key issues

Rob Kitchin and Gavin McArdle have published a new Programmable City working paper (no. 21) – Urban data and city dashboards: Six key issues – on SocArXiv today.  It is a pre-print of a chapter that will be published in Kitchin, R., Lauriault, T.P. and McArdle, G. (eds) (forthcoming) Data and the City. Routledge, London..

Abstract

This chapter considers the relationship between data and the city by critically examining six key issues with respect city dashboards: epistemology, scope and access, veracity and validity, usability and literacy, use and utility, and ethics.  While city dashboards provide useful tools for evaluating and managing urban services, understanding and formulating policy, and creating public knowledge and counter-narratives, our analysis reveals a number of conceptual and practical shortcomings.  In order for city dashboards to reach their full potential we advocate a number of related shifts in thinking and praxes and forward an agenda for addressing the issues we highlight.  Our analysis is informed by our endeavours in building the Dublin Dashboard.

Key words: dashboards, cities, access, epistemology, ethics, open data, scope, usability, utility, veracity, validity

New paper: Reframing, reimagining and remaking smart cities

Rob Kitchin has published a new Programmable City working paper (no. 20) – Reframing, reimagining and remaking smart cities – on SocArXiv today.  It is an introductory framing/provocation essay for the ‘Creating smart cities’ workshop to be hosted at Maynooth University, 5-6 September 2016.

Abstract

Over the past decade the concept and development of smart cities has unfolded rapidly, with many city administrations implementing smart city initiatives and strategies and a diverse ecology of companies and researchers producing and deploying smart city technologies. In contrast to those that seek to realise the benefits of a smart city vision, a number of critics have highlighted a number of shortcomings, challenges and risks with such endeavours.  This short paper outlines a third path, one that aims to realise the benefits of smart city initiatives while recasting the thinking and ethos underpinning them and addressing their deficiencies and limitations.  It argues that smart city thinking and initiatives need to be reframed, reimagined and remade in six ways.  Three of these concern normative and conceptual thinking with regards to goals, cities and epistemology, and three concern more practical and political thinking and praxes with regards to management/governance, ethics and security, and stakeholders and working relationships.  The paper does not seek to be definitive or comprehensive, but rather to provide conceptual and practical suggestions and stimulate debate about how to productively recast smart urbanism and the creation of smart cities.

Key words: smart cities, framing, vision, ethos, politics, urbanism

Two new postdoctoral posts on ProgCity project

The Programmable City project is seeking two postdoctoral researchers (14 month contracts). Preferably the posts will critically examine either:

• the production of software underpinning smart city technologies and how software developers translate rules, procedures and policies into a complex architecture of interlinked algorithms that manage and govern how people traverse or interact with urban systems; or,

• the political economy of smart city technologies and initiatives; the creation of smart city markets; the inter-relation of urban (re)development and smart city initiatives; the relationship between vendors, business lobby groups, economic development agencies, and city administrations; financialization and new business models; or,

• the relationship between the political geography of city administration, governance arrangements, and smart city initiatives; political and legal geographies of testbed urbanism and smart city initiatives; smart city technologies and governmentality.

We are prepared to consider any other proposal that critical interrogates the relationship between software, data and the production of smart cities and there will be some latitude to negotiate with the principal investigator the exact focus of the research undertaken.

While some of the research will require primary fieldwork, it is anticipated it will also involve the secondary analysis of data already generated by the project.

The project will be based in the National Institute for Regional and Spatial Analysis (NIRSA) at Maynooth University.

More details on how to apply can be found on the University human resources site.  Closing date is 5th August.

New Paper: Locative media and data-driven computing experiments

Sung-Yueh Perng, Rob Kitchin and Leighton Evans have a new open access paper, Locative media and data-driven computing experiments, published in Big Data & Society today. It examines the staging of locative data and computing experiments to envision urban futures, and its consequences. More details are in the abstract below and the paper can be downloaded at http://bds.sagepub.com/content/3/1/2053951716652161.

Abstract

Over the past two decades urban social life has undergone a rapid and pervasive geocoding, becoming mediated, augmented and anticipated by location-sensitive technologies and services that generate and utilise big, personal, locative data. The production of these data has prompted the development of exploratory data-driven computing experiments that seek to find ways to extract value and insight from them. These projects often start from the data, rather than from a question or theory, and try to imagine and identify their potential utility. In this paper, we explore the desires and mechanics of data-driven computing experiments. We demonstrate how both locative media data and computing experiments are ‘staged’ to create new values and computing techniques, which in turn are used to try and derive possible futures that are ridden with unintended consequences. We argue that using computing experiments to imagine potential urban futures produces effects that often have little to do with creating new urban practices. Instead, these experiments promote Big Data science and the prospect that data produced for one purpose can be recast for another and act as alternative mechanisms of envisioning urban futures.

Working paper – Crafting code: Gender, coding and spatial hybridity in the events of Pyladies Dublin

A working paper by Sophia Maalsen and Sung-Yueh Perng on the subjectivity and spatiality of coding, prepared for Craft Economies: Cultural Economies of the Handmade, edited by Susan Luckman and Nicola Thomas, is available to view.

In the paper, we look at the integration of the digital and the resurgent interest in crafting artefacts. We do this by focusing on the work, relationships and spaces occupied by Pyladies Dublin – a coding group intended for women to learn and ‘craft’ code in the programming language of Python. Pyladies offers an interesting and fruitful case study as it intersects gender, relations of making and places of making, nested firmly within the digital world. The relations of making within the Pyladies group provides salient insight into the production of code, gender and space. Pyladies is predominantly attended by women with the focus to encourage women to become more active members and leaders of the Python community. By producing code in a friendly space, the group also actively works towards producing coding subjectivities and hybrid, mobile spatiality, seeking to produce coding and technology culture that is diverse and gender equitable. We base our ethnographic study to suggest ways in which Pyladies Dublin is consistently engaging in crafting code and crafting coding subjectivity and spatiality.

We thank the generosity of PyLadies Dublin for accommodating us and engaging in very productive conversation in the process.

Sophia and Sung-Yueh

Gianluca Miscione – Smartcontracts and smartcities, displacing power through authentication?

On May 18th Dr. Gianluca Miscione, lecturer at University College Dublin, delivered a Programmable City seminar on the topics of planning and distributed systems of authentication.

The talk was very well-received and attended. This video of the event offers an account of automation of authentication, blockchain and the novel forms of ‘sociation’ smart contracts
entangle with.