Author Archives: Rob Kitchin

New paper: The (In)Security of Smart Cities: Vulnerabilities, Risks, Mitigation, and Prevention

A new paper, ‘The (In)Security of Smart Cities: Vulnerabilities, Risks, Mitigation, and Prevention’ by Rob Kitchin and Martin Dodge, has been published in the Journal of Urban Technology. Download the paper here.

Abstract

In this paper we examine the current state of play with regards to the security of smart city initiatives. Smart city technologies are promoted as an effective way to counter and manage uncertainty and urban risks through the effective and efficient delivery of services, yet paradoxically they create new vulnerabilities and threats, including making city infrastructure and services insecure, brittle, and open to extended forms of criminal activity. This paradox has largely been ignored or underestimated by commercial and governmental interests or tackled through a technically-mediated mitigation approach. We identify five forms of vulnerabilities with respect to smart city technologies, detail the present extent of cyberattacks on networked infrastructure and services, and present a number of illustrative examples. We then adopt a normative approach to explore existing mitigation strategies, suggesting a wider set of systemic interventions (including security-by-design, remedial security patching and replacement, formation of core security and computer emergency response teams, a change in procurement procedures, and continuing professional development). We discuss how this approach might be enacted and enforced through market-led and regulation/management measures, and then examine a more radical preventative approach to security.

Key words: Crime, cyberattack, mitigation, risk, security, smart cities, urban resilience

New paper: slow computing

A new Progcity working paper (No. 36), Slow Computing, has been published by Alistair Fraser and Rob Kitchin.  It was prepared as a position paper for the ‘Slow computing: A workshop on resistance in the algorithmic age’, Dec 14th 2017.

Abstract

In this short position paper we examine some of the dimensions and dynamics of the algorithmic age by considering three broad questions. First, what are the problematic consequences of life mediated by ‘algorithm machines’? Second, how are individuals or groups and associations resisting the problems they encounter? Third, how might the algorithmic age be re-envisioned and re-made in more normative terms? We focus on two key aspects of living with ubiquitous computing, ‘acceleration’ and ‘data grabbing,’ which we contend are two of the most prominent and problematic features of the algorithmic age. We then begin to shed light on the sorts of practices that constitute slow computing responses to these issues. In the conclusion, we make the case for a widescale embrace of slow computing, which we propose is a necessary step for society to make the most of the undeniable opportunities for radical social change emerging from contemporary technological developments.

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New paper: The timescape of smart cities

Rob Kitchin has published a new Progcity working paper (35) – The timescape of smart cities.

Abstract

To date, critical examinations of smart cities have largely ignored their temporality. In this paper I consider smart cities from a temporal perspective arguing that they produce a new timescape and constitute space-time machines. The first half of the paper examines temporal relations and rhythms, exploring how smart cities are the products of and contribute to space-time compression, create new urban polyrhythms, alter the practices of scheduling, and change the pace and tempos of everyday activities. The second half of the paper details how smart cities shape the nature of temporal modalities, considering how they reframe and utilise the relationship between the past, present and future. The analysis draws from a set of 43 interviews conducted in Dublin, Ireland, and highlights that much of the power of smart urbanism is derived from how it produces a new timescape, rather than simply reconfiguring spatial relations.

Key words: time, timescape, temporality, space-time, smart cities, rhythm, pace, tempo, scheduling, real-time, past, present, future

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Algorhythmic governance: Regulating the ‘heartbeat’ of a city using the Internet of Things

A paper by Claudio Coletta and Rob Kitchin, ‘Algorhythmic governance: Regulating the ‘heartbeat’ of a city using the Internet of Things’ has been published in Big Data and Society as part of a special section on ‘Algorithms in Culture’.  It is open access.

Abstract

To date, research examining the socio-spatial effects of smart city technologies have charted how they are reconfiguring the production of space, spatiality and mobility, and how urban space is governed, but have paid little attention to how the temporality of cities is being reshaped by systems and infrastructure that capture, process and act on real-time data. In this article, we map out the ways in which city-scale Internet of Things infrastructures, and their associated networks of sensors, meters, transponders, actuators and algorithms, are used to measure, monitor and regulate the polymorphic temporal rhythms of urban life. Drawing on Lefebvre, and subsequent research, we employ rhythmanalysis in conjunction with Miyazaki’s notion of ‘algorhythm’ and nascent work on algorithmic governance, to develop a concept of ‘algorhythmic governance’. We then use this framing to make sense of two empirical case studies: a traffic management system and sound monitoring and modelling. Our analysis reveals: (1) how smart city technologies computationally perform rhythmanalysis and undertake rhythm-making that intervenes in space-time processes; (2) distinct forms of algorhythmic governance, varying on the basis of adaptiveness, immediacy of action, and whether humans are in-, on-, or, off-the-loop; (3) and a number of factors that shape how algorhythmic governance works in practice.

control room 2

Slow computing: A workshop on resistance in the algorithmic age

One-day Workshop, Hamilton Seminar Room (317), Eolas Building, North Campus, Maynooth University, Ireland, December 14th, 2017

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

Places are strictly limited so please register by December 1st Register Now

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 will discuss these and other questions about slow computing.

For further information, please contact mussi@mu.ie

Programme

10.00-10.15    Welcome: Rob Kitchin & Alistair Fraser

10.15-11.30    Keynote address:  Stefania Milan, Associate Professor of New Media and Digital Culture at the University of Amsterdam and Associate Professor of Media Innovation (II) at the University of Oslo.

Paper session 1: Problematising the algorithmic age

11.30-11.45    Nancy Ettlinger, Algorithmic affordances for resistance

11.45-12.00    Jess Hoare, Slippery people: Technologization and technoratization of cities and bodies

12.00-12.15    Pip Thornton, Language in the age of algorithmic reproduction: a critique of linguistic capitalism and an artistic intervention

12.15-12.30    Chris Pinchen, Dance Like Your Microwave Isn’t Watching: (From CryptoParty to Teen Vogue via Emma Goldman and reverse engineered sex toys)

12.30-13.10    Discussion

13.10-14.00   Lunch

Paper Session 2: Rights and resistance in the algorithmic age

14.00-14.15    Aphra Kerr, Bringing the citizen back into the Algorithmic Age

14.15-14.30    Gabriela Avram, Community networks as a form of resistance

14.30-14.45    Adi Kuntsman and Esperanza Miyake, Digital disengagement as a right and a privilege: challenges and socio-political possibilities of refusal in dataised times

14.45-15.00    Marguerite Barry, Kalpana Shankar, Aphra Kerr, Slowcalisation – towards an ethic of care for human-data interactions

15.00-15.40    Discussion

15.40-16.00    Coffee

Paper Session 3: Practising slow computing

16.00-16.15    Paul O’Neill, Practice what we preach: Tactical media art as a form of political resistance

16.15-16.30    Rachel O’Dwyer, Coined Liberty: Cash as Resistance to Transactional Dataveillance

16.30-16.45    Lindsay Ems, Global Resistance through Technology Non-Use: An Amish Case Study

16.45-17.00    Kate Symons, OxChain – Reshaping development donors and recipients

17.00-17.40    Discussion

New paper: A smart place to work? Big data systems, labour, control, and modern retail stores

Leighton Evans and Rob Kitchin have published a new Programmable City working paper (No. 34): A smart place to work? Big data systems, labour, control, and modern retail stores.

Abstract

The modern retail store is a complex coded assemblage and data-intensive environment, its operations and management mediated by a number of interlinked big data systems. This paper draws on an ethnography of a superstore in Ireland to examine how these systems modulate the functioning of the store and working practices of employees. It was found that retail work involves a continual movement between a governance regime of control reliant on big data systems which seek to regulate and harnesses formal labour and automation into enterprise planning, and a disciplinary regime that deals with the symbolic, interactive labour that workers perform and acts as a reserve mode of governmentality if control fails. This continual movement is caused by new systems of control being open to vertical and horizontal fissures. While retail functions as a coded assemblage of control, systems are too brittle to sustain the code/space and governmentality desired.

Access the PDF here