Category Archives: events

Video: Slow computing workshop, afternoon sessions

Happy New Year!

As promised, we are sharing the video of the presentations in the afternoon sessions of the Slow Computing workshop. To catch up the keynote and papers in the morning, see here.

Aphra Kerr (Maynooth University) – Bringing the citizen back into the Algorithmic Age

Adi Kuntsman and Esperanza Miyake (Manchester Metropolitan University) – Digital disengagement as a right and a privilege: Challenges and socio-political possibilities of refusal in dataised times

Kate Symons (University of Edinburgh) – OxChain – Reshaping development donors and recipients

Gabriela Avram (University of Limerick) – Community networks as a form of resistance

Rachel O’Dwyer (Trinity College Dublin) – Coined liberty: Cash as resistance to transactional dataveillance

Lindsay Ems (Butler University) – Global resistance through technology non-use: An Amish case

Video: Slow computing workshop, session 1

On the 14th December, we organised the event Slow computing: A workshop on resistance in the algorithmic age. We are processing the video from the day, slowly of course, for those of you who could not attend or those who did but would like to relive the many interesting talks again.

To kick-off, we are sharing the video from the first session. More will follow in the new year, so stay tuned!

Introduction: Rob Kitchin and Alistair Fraser (Maynooth University) – Slow computing

Keynote: Stefania Milan (University of Amsterdam and University of Oslo) – Resist, subvert, accelerate

Nancy Ettlinger (Ohio State University) – Algorithmic affordances for resistance

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


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

Video: Right to the Smart City Session 5: Shared City Making

Catch up with the video of previous sessions: Session 1, Session 2, Session 3 and Session 4.



Toward an Actual Theory of the City: “Civic Tech” as a Mid-Level, Organic Model of Urban Change
Andrew Schrock (Chapman, USA)

“We don’t simply want to take a predictive analytics view of the world,” Nigel Jacobs told me, “because that means that we will never have an actual theory of the city.” Nigel co-founded the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics (MONUM), the most long-lived innovation team in the country and among the most respected. MONUM took an omnivorous, experimental approach to urban improvement. They tried everything from using iPhones to detect potholes and retrofitting a food truck as a “city hall to go.” The office is relatively autonomous, insulating collaborators from risk while running small-scale experiments to tangibly improve life for residents. Nigel’s grounded, iterative approach with MONUM aligned with my conversations and collaborations over the last several years with other civic technologists who used similar language to describe their goals and practices.
The benefits and drawbacks of “civic tech” are hotly debated. Policy makers see civic tech as a helpful way to balance competing demands in government for external participation and internal efficiency. Critical scholars regard it as Silicon Valley style tech “solutionism,” while political scientists believe it stretches thin a model of the informed citizen. Civic technologists themselves embrace such a variety of practices – participatory design, agile development, and open government – that they struggle to articulate shared convictions characteristic of social movements. As a result, they are often misunderstood as yet another elitist model of technocratic change. In this paper I explore a more nuanced alternative: civic technologists like Nigel Jacobs are engaging in theorizing about how to change notoriously obdurate systems (e.g. Weberian bureaucracy and built urban environment).
My intention in this paper – to situate civic tech as a mid-level, organic model of urban change – is far from armchair theorizing. We need shared models to collaborate, not just platforms and data. In this paper I follow how theories of Tocqueville, Robert E. Park, and Jane Jacobs arose from in situ interventions and reflexive interpretation. Second, I map how an organic model of change in “civic tech” contrasts with a dominant “smart cities” vision. Civic tech is a politically left effort that embraces small, scalable interventions and collaborations that change systems, tangibly improving lives of residents. Civic technologists use technology in tandem with infrastructure, policy, and process change. Behind a veneer of politically neutral liberalism lies a more radical approach that seeks to re-configure the very building blocks of democracy.


Participatory Urban Sensing: a Blueprint for a Community-led Smart City
Catherine D’Ignazio, Eric Gordon & Elizabeth Christoforetti (Emerson, USA)

The ability to gather, store and make meaning from large amounts of sensor data is becoming a technological and financial reality for cities. Many of these initiatives are happening through deals brokered between vendors, developers and cities. They are made manifest in the environment as infrastructure – invisible to citizens and communities. We assert that in order to have community-centered smart cities, we need to transform sensor data collection and usage from invisible infrastructure into visible and legible interface. In this paper, we compare two different urban sensing initiatives and examine the methods used for feedback between sensors and people. We question how value gets produced and communicated to citizens in urban sensing projects and what kind of oversight and ethical considerations are necessary. Finally, we make a case for “seamful” interfaces between communities, sensors and cities that reveal their inner workings for the purposes of civic pedagogy and dialogue. We conclude with five preliminary design principles for a community-centered smart city.


Programming rights to shared technology making
Sung-Yueh Perng (Maynooth)

Shared technology making refers to the practices, spaces and events that bear the hope and belief that collaborative and open ways of designing, making and modifying technology can improve our ways of living. Shared technology making in the context of the smart city, where a majority of such events, initiatives and spaces are organised, reinvigorates explorations of the possibility of free, open and collaborative ways of engineering urban spaces, infrastructures and public life. Open innovation events and civic hacking initiatives often encourage members of local communities, residents or city administrations to participate, so that the problems they face and the knowledge they obtain can be leveraged to develop innovations from the working (and failure) of urban everyday life and (non-)expert knowledges. However, the incorporation of shared technology making into urban contexts and processes engender problems and concerns around the rights to participate in shared technology- and city-making. This paper addresses the issue by suggesting ways to consider both the neoliberal patterning of shared technology making and the patches and gaps that show the future possibility of shared technology- and city-making.

Seminar 2 (video): Gillian Rose – Tweeting the Smart City

We are delighted to share the video of our second seminar in our 2017/18 series, entitled Tweeting the Smart City: The Affective Enactments of the Smart City on Social Media given by Professor Gillian Rose from Oxford University on the 26th October 2017 and co-hosted with the Geography Department at Maynooth University.

Digital technologies of various kinds are now the means through which many cities are made visible and their spatialities negotiated. From casual snaps shared on Instagram to elaborate photo-realistic visualisations, digital technologies for making, distributing and viewing cities are more and more pervasive. This talk will explore some of the implications of that digital mediation of urban spaces. What forms of urban life are being made visible in these digitally mediated cities, and how? Through what configurations of temporality, spatiality and embodiment? And how should that picturing be theorised? Drawing on recent work on the visualisation of so-called ‘smart cities’ on social media, the lecture will suggest the scale and pervasiveness of digital imagery now means that notions of ‘representation’ have to be rethought. Cities and their inhabitants are increasingly mediated through a febrile cloud of streaming image files; as well as representing cities, this cloud also operationalises particular, affective ways of being urban. The lecture will explore some of the implications of this shift for both theory and method as well as critique.

Video: Right to the Smart City Session 4: Public Labs, Citizen-centric Living Labs, Citizen Science

Catch up with the video of previous sessions: Session 1, Session 2 and Session 3.



Matters of fact and matters of concern: issues of legitimacy, trust and resistance in citizen science
Tara Whelan (Limerick)

This paper examines the tension between institutional science and citizen science. While ample consideration has been given to questions of the legitimacy of science done with and by citizens (i.e. scientist-led projects involving citizens, and citizen-led projects involving the scientific community, respectively), less attention has been afforded to citizen scientists whose practice operates wholly (and sometimes deliberately) outside the boundaries of the scientific academy. Rather than engaging with questions regarding how to, and who may, produce academically credible knowledge, this critical approach to citizen science is concerned with tackling personal, cosmopolitical, and explicitly value-laden approaches to knowledge production. In its tactical circumvention of the academy, critical citizen science can offer pertinent critiques of how science is done, and to what ends, as well as addressing issues of agency, universality, and the tension (and overlap) between “matters of fact” and “matters of concern”. This paper examines a number of cases of citizen-led science and explores what motivates citizens to take on the role of scientist.


Smart cities by design? Interrogating human-centred design as a tool for civic participation
Gabriele Schliwa (Manchester, UK)

Citizen participation in urban governance has established itself as a paradigm, promising greater democracy, empowerment and more cost-effective public service delivery against the backdrop of increased urban conflicts. The dominant focus on the ‘citizen’ or even ‘smart citizen’ in the context of smart cities and urban innovation is however a relatively recent phenomenon. While the smart urbanism agenda fails to realise added value for cities and citizens alike due to a lack of acceptance and trust, a growing number of initiatives seeks to revamp the smart city as ‘human smart city’. Therein, design thinking and human-centred design have become the buzzwords of choice to describe ‘putting people first’ approaches to develop solutions tailored to citizens’ needs. What was previously known as user-centred design in the context of ICT product and service development, now proliferates the urban through a variety of organisations and initiatives such as innovation labs, living labs or civic hackathons. Just as urban infrastructures often only become visible and disrupt cities when they fail, good design is invisible and might function strategically like a ‘Trojan Horse’.
So what are the implications of using ‘human-centred design’ in the smart city context? And moreover, how does ‘human-centred design’ and ’design thinking’ fit into urban scholarship? This draft paper renders often implicit design processes explicit. It finds that the design industry offers ’design thinking’ as process commodity to facilitate citizen participation in innovation workshops and smart city initiatives. A variety of versions and (re-)appropriations of ‘design thinking’ increasingly link social innovation with military innovation processes, however the political implications of mobilising ‘design thinking’ as mode of governing are yet unknown. While ‘governing through design’ is becoming big business with the support of meta government and philantrocapitalists, existing research is dominated by private sector institutions. Drawing upon ongoing research in Manchester and Amsterdam, this draft paper encourages urban scholarship to critically engage with this emerging trend and to develop a research agenda that further links urban with design research.


Calculating publics and citizenship distributed sensing
Claudio Coletta & Caspar Menkman (Maynooth)

This paper deals with the secondary effects of the integration of sensing devices into publicly accessible infrastructures. The smart promise that foreground an increase in efficiency and sustainability has now been widely documented. Therefore we shift the attention to how the proliferation of sensors and systems of calculation impact not on those systems themselves but rather how they impact on publics and the modes of differentiated citizenship they generate as a result. We do so by focussing on smart meters and energy infrastructure on the one hand and sensing devices and Low-Power Wide-Area Networks (LPWANs) on the other.
Across both cases we recognize a common shift. That is, through the addition of sensing devices traditional regimes of undifferentiated access to the public are acted upon. Rather it is through the addition of sensing devices that new regimes emerge that emphasise not ‘access to’ as the penultimate goal, but focus on forms of active management and governance of those spaces and infrastructures vis-a-vis their publics. A practical infrastructural inversion is what follows.
The politics of supply and management that comes with this infrastructural transition are acted upon by these sensing networks. Where these systems previously organic and operated according to a demand-following logics, they now follow that of calculation. This is where experimental circumstances like test-beds and living labs emerge not as incidents, but as part of a persistent reality of the public. We argue that in the same way as citizens are instrumented as sensing devices, publics become a prosthesis to those infrastructures initially designed as a service to them. What emerges are more hybrid and flexible relations between infrastructure and their publics as well as new civic rationalities and citizenship contingent on sensed environmental relations. Thus conceived, such infrastructures raise a number of concerns from an STS perspective regarding the relations between centralised and distributed calculation, differentiation of access, as well as the kinds and agency of publics mobilised.