Author Archives: Rob Kitchin

CFP: Slow computing: A workshop on resistance in the algorithmic age

Call for Papers

One-day workshop, Maynooth University, Ireland, December 14th, 2017

 Hosted by the Programmable City project at Maynooth University Social Sciences Institute and the Department of Geography

In line with the parallel concepts of slow food (e.g. Miele & Murdoch 2002) or slow scholarship (Mountz et al 2015), ‘slow computing’ (Fraser 2017) is a provocation to resist. In this case, the idea of ‘slow computing’ prompts users of contemporary technologies to consider ways of refusing the invitation to enroll in data grabbing architectures – constituted in complex overlapping ways by today’s technology services and devices – and by accepting greater levels of inconvenience while also pursuing data security, privacy, and even a degree of isolation from the online worlds of social networks.

The case for slow computing arises from the emerging form and nature of ‘the algorithmic age.’ As is widely noted across the sciences today (e.g. see Boyd & Crawford 2012; Kitchin 2014), the algorithmic age is propelled forward by a wide range of firms and government agencies pursuing the roll-out of data-driven and data-demanding technologies. The effects are varied, differentiated, and heavily debated. However, one obvious effect entails the re-formatting of consumers into data producers who (knowingly or unwittingly) generate millions of data points that technology firms can crunch and manipulate to understand specific markets and society as a whole, not to mention the public and private lives of everyday users. Once these users are dispossessed of the value they help create (Thatcher et al 2016), and then conceivably targeted in nefarious ways by advertisers and political campaigners (e.g. see Winston 2016), the subsequent implications for economic and democratic life are potentially far-reaching.

As such, as we move further into a world of ‘big data’ and the so-called ‘digital economy,’ there is a need to ask how individuals – as well as civil society organizations, small firms, small-scale farmers, and many others – might continue to make appropriate and fruitful use of today’s technologies, but while also trying to avoid becoming another data point in the new data-aggregating market. Does slow computing offer a way to navigate the algorithmic age while taking justice seriously? Can slow computing become a part of diverse strategies or tactics of resistance today? Just what are the possibilities and limitations of slow computing?

This one-day workshop invites participation from scholars, practitioners, artists and others who might be exploring these, or other related questions, about slow computing. Papers might contain explorations of:

  • Slow computing practices (whether using auto-ethnography, ethnography, or other qualitative or quantitative methodologies);
  • How slow computing technologies could be designed for private or public institutions;
  • The challenges facing actors who try to unplug, shield, or silo data or other products of social life from the digital economy;
  • The socio-political possibilities emerging from efforts to avoid data-grabbing architectures;
  • Efforts to raise awareness about the privacy implications of contemporary data-grabbing technologies.

Confirmed keynote speaker: Prof. Stefania Milan, University of Amsterdam

Those interested in participating should send a proposed title and abstract of no more than 250 words to Dr. Alistair Fraser – alistair.fraser@mu.ie – by September 29th 2017. Informal enquiries about the workshop can also be sent to the co-organizer, Prof. Rob Kitchin: rob.kitchin@mu.ie

Works cited:

Boyd, D. and Crawford, K. 2012. Critical questions for big data: Provocations for a cultural, technological, and scholarly phenomenon. Information, Communication & Society. doi:10.1080/1369118X.2012.678878

Fraser, A. 2017. Land Grab / Data Grab. SocArXiv. May 19. osf.io/preprints/socarxiv/9utyh.

Kitchin, R. 2014. Big Data, new epistemologies and paradigm shifts. Big Data & Society. doi:10.1177/2053951714528481

Miele, M. and Murdoch, J., 2002. The practical aesthetics of traditional cuisines: slow food in Tuscany. Sociologia Ruralis, 42(4), pp.312-328. doi: 10.1111/1467-9523.00219

Mountz, A., Bonds, A., Mansfield, B., Loyd, J., Hyndman, J., Walton-Roberts, M., Basu, R., Whitson, R., Hawkins, R., Hamilton, T. and Curran, W., 2015. For slow scholarship: A feminist politics of resistance through collective action in the neoliberal university. ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, 14(4), pp.1235-1259.

Thatcher. J., O’Sullivan, D., and Mahmoudi, D. 2016. ‘Data Colonialism through accumulation by dispossession: New metaphors for daily data. Environment & Planning D: Society & Space 34: 990-1006. doi: 10.1177/0263775816633195

Winston, J. 2016. How the Trump campaign built an identity database and used facebook ads to win the election. Startup Grind, Nov 18.

Seminar: Urban Data and Media Art

The Building City Dashboards project is hosting a seminar titled ‘Urban Data and Media Art’, 11.00-13.00, Monday August 28th, in Maynooth University.  The seminar will explore existing and potential modes and methodologies of creative data visualisation both of and in the city. Sign up to attend at: https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/urban-data-and-media-art-tickets-37239904557

Timetable:

11:00 Welcome Prof. Rob Kitchin & Prof. Chris Brunsdon.
11:05 Dr. Maria Mencia, media artist/e-poet, practice-based researcher, School of Performance and Screen Studies, Kingston University
11:30 Dr. Marcos Dias, Lecturer, Media Studies, Maynooth University
11:55 Camille Donegan, VR Consultant
12.20 Questions and Discussions (Chair: Dr. Gareth Young).
13:05 Lunch (sandwiches in the NCG common room).
14:00 Optional: BCD Project Showcase
- A chance for people to engage with and critically discuss BCD Beta Website, VR, and AR platforms.

urban data

New paper: Land grab / data grab

Our colleague from the Geography Department at Maynooth University, Alistair Fraser, has published a fascinating paper as a Progcity working paper (31) – Land grab / data grab. Focusing on the use of big data in food production he develops two useful conceptual tools ‘data grab’ and ‘data sovereignty’, using them to explore ‘precision agriculture’ and the notions that data is a ‘new cash crop’ and the ‘the new soil’.

Abstract

Developments in the area of ‘precision agriculture’ are creating new data points (about flows,
soils, pests, climate) that agricultural technology providers ‘grab,’ aggregate, compute, and/or
sell. Food producers now churn out food and, increasingly, data. ‘Land grabs’ on the horizon
in the global south are bound up with the dynamics of data production and grabbing, although
researchers have not, as yet, revealed enough about the people and projects caught up in this
new arena. Against this backdrop, this paper examines some of the key issues taking shape,
while highlighting new frontiers for research and introducing a concept of ‘data sovereignty,’
which food sovereignty practitioners (and others) need to consider.

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New paper: Being a ‘citizen’ in the smart city: Up and down the scaffold of smart citizen participation

Paolo Cardullo and Rob Kitchin have published a new working paper (No. 30) – Being a ‘citizen’ in the smart city: Up and down the scaffold of smart citizen participation.

Abstract

This paper critically appraises citizens’ participation in the smart city. Reacting to critiques that the smart city is overly technocratic and instrumental, companies and cities have reframed their initiatives as ‘citizen-centric’. However, what ‘citizen-centric’ means in practice is rarely articulated. We draw on and extend Sherry Arnstein’s seminal work on participation in planning and renewal programmes to create the ‘Scaffold of Smart Citizen Participation’ – a conceptual tool to unpack the diverse ways in which the smart city frames citizens. We then use this scaffold to measure smart citizen inclusion, participation, and empowerment in smart city initiatives in Dublin, Ireland. Our analysis illustrates how most ‘citizen-centric’ smart city initiatives are rooted in stewardship, civic paternalism, and a neoliberal conception of citizenship that prioritizes consumption choice and individual autonomy within a framework of state and corporate defined constraints that prioritize market-led solutions to urban issues, rather than being grounded in civil, social and political rights and the common good. We conclude that significant normative work is required to rethink ‘smart citizens’ and ‘smart citizenship’ and to remake smart cities if they are to truly become ‘citizen-centric’.

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New paper: From the accidental to articulated smart city

Claudio Coletta, Liam Heaphy and Rob Kitchin have published a new working paper (No. 28) – From the accidental to articulated smart city: The creation and work of ‘Smart Dublin’.

Abstract
While there is a relatively extensive literature concerning the nature of smart cities in general, the roles of corporate actors in their production, and the development and deployment of specific smart city technologies, to date there have been relatively few studies that have examined the situated practices as to how the smart city as a whole unfolds in specific places. In this paper, we chart the smart city ecosystem in Dublin, Ireland, and examine how the four city authorities have actively collaborated to progressively frame and mobilise an articulated vision of Dublin as a smart city. In particular, we focus on the work of ‘Smart Dublin’, a shared unit established to coordinate, manage and promote Dublin’s smart city initiatives. We argue that Smart Dublin has on the one hand sought to corral smart city initiatives within a common framework, and on the other has acted to boost the city-region’s smart city activities, especially with respect to economic development. Our analysis highlights the value of undertaking a holistic mapping of a smart city in formation, and the role of political and administrative geographies and specialist smart city units in shaping that formation.

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Bridging the adoption gap for smart city technologies

A new open access piece has been published in IEEE Pervasive Computing, an in-depth interview of Rob Kitchin by Katja Schechtner (MIT). The interview discusses how different groups (mainly architects and planners and electronic engineers and computer scientists) have different understandings of cities, and why cities are sometimes reluctant to adopt smart city solutions and how that adoption gap might be closed.