Thank you to everyone who attended our 2015 workshop Data and the City in early September. It was a fantastic event. Over the next few days we will make the video recordings of the presentations available online.
Here is the introduction to the workshop and the first session, Critically Framing Data.
Data-driven, networked urbanism
Rob Kitchin, NIRSA, Maynooth University
For as long as data have been generated about cities various kinds of data-informed urbanism have been occurring. In this paper, I argue that a new era is presently unfolding wherein data-informed urbanism is increasingly being complemented and replaced by data-driven, networked urbanism. Cities are becoming ever more instrumented and networked, their systems interlinked and integrated, and vast troves of big urban data are being generated and used to manage and control urban life in real-time. Data-driven, networked urbanism, I contend, is the key mode of production for what have widely been termed smart cities. In this paper I provide a critical overview of data-driven, networked urbanism and smart cities focusing in particular on the relationship between data and the city (rather than network infrastructure or computational or urban issues), and critically examine a number of urban data issues including: the politics of urban data; data ownership, data control, data coverage and access; data security and data integrity; data protection and privacy, dataveillance, and data uses such as social sorting and anticipatory governance; and technical data issues such as data quality, veracity of data models and data analytics, and data integration and interoperability. I conclude that whilst data-driven, networked urbanism purports to produce a commonsensical, pragmatic, neutral, apolitical, evidence-based form of responsive urban governance, it is nonetheless selective, crafted, flawed, normative and politically-inflected. Consequently, whilst data-driven, networked urbanism provides a set of solutions for urban problems, it does so within limitations and in the service of particular interests.
Session 1: Critically Framing Data
Provenance and Possibility: Critically Framing Data
Jim Thatcher, ssistant Professor, Division of Urban Studies, University of Washington – Tacoma
‘Big data’s’ boosters present a mythology wherein it is perpetually new, pushing ever-forwards towards bigger and better representations of the world. Similarly, the vision of the “smart city” is inevitably an ahistorical imaginary of data-intense urban planning and coordination. Data sources, actually existing data, appear in the literature as uncritical, pre-existing, and decontextualized representations of the world to be exploited in service to a techno-utopian urban. The sources of data, its provenance, recede into a technical issue: one in a litany of hurdles to be overcome through austere, computational methodologies. Such technical approaches to provenance efface the intentionality of data creators. They leave out the inscription of meaning that goes into data objects as socio-technical, emergent indicators at urban scales and instead seats them as objective reality. Using a critical data studies approach, this paper connects and contextualizes the conditions of data’s production with its potential uses in the world. Data provenance, the where, how, and from whom data is produced, is intrinsically linked to how it comes to (re)present the world. This exploration serves as the first steps in developing a schema that includes mobile devices, municipal services, and other categories and tie that to the historical ideologies through which these technologies emerged in urban contexts.
Where are data citizens?
Evelyn Ruppert, Professor, Department of Sociology, Goldsmiths, University of London
If we increasingly know, experience and enact cities through data then we need to understand who are the subjects of that data and the space of relations they occupy. The development of the Internet of Things (IoT) means phones, watches, dishwashers, fridges, cars, and many other devices are always already connected to the Internet and generating enormous volumes of data about movements, locations, activities, interests, encounters, and private and public relationships. It also means that conduct is being governed through myriad arrangements and conventions of the Internet. What does this mean for how data subjects become data citizens? If indeed through the act of making claims data subjects become citizens how do we understand the spaces of this becoming? Challenging a separation between ‘real’ space and ‘virtual’ space, I define cyberspace as a space of social struggles: a space of transactions and interactions between and among bodies acting through the Internet. How these struggles are part-and-parcel of the constitution of the programmable city is the critical framing that I take up in this paper.
Unfortunately no video recording of this paper was made. Audio should be made available shortly.
Data cultures, power and the city
Jo Bates, Lecturer in Information Politics and Policy, Information School, University of Sheffield
How might we come to know a city through data? As citizens, policy makers, academics and businesses turn increasingly to data analytics in an effort to gain insight into and manage cities, this paper argues that rather than seeking to find the truth of cities in their data, we might better illuminate the flows of power and influence in the contemporary urban environment through close critical examination of these emerging, intersecting local data cultures and practices.
What value and relevance do local data cultures see in emergent data practices? How do they come to influence and shape them? What are their hopes, aspirations, concerns and fears? What tensions and struggles are emerging? Where and how do these local practices intersect with one another? How are they embedded within and responding to developments in national and transnational data practices, infrastructures and flows?
Through focusing on the complex and contested “assemblages” of political, economic, social and cultural processes that data production and flow are embedded in, and recognising local data practices as specific articulations of social relations situated within time and space, what can we learn about our cities and how they are situated within the global flows of capital and power in the early 21st century?
This paper will begin to address these questions using illustrative examples drawn from empirical research findings.
The remainder of the videos will be released on our website in coming weeks. If you just can’t wait, you can check them out now on our Vimeo account.