Category Archives: publications

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

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.

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New paper on collaborative urban infrastructuring

Sung-Yueh Perng has published a new working paper entitled Practices and politics of collaborative urban infrastructuring: Traffic Light Box Artworks in Dublin Streets, as part of the Programmable City Working Paper series.

Paper Abstract
Cities are transformed into sites of experimentation through large-scale smart city initiatives, but the visions and practices of establishing public, private and civic partnerships are often overshadowed by corporate interests, governance convenience and efficiency, with an overemphasis on technological innovations. Instead of relying on these partnerships, civic hacking initiatives seek to develop collaboration between programmers and community members, on the one hand, and government officials and organisations, on the other, for experimenting prototyping processes that foreground community needs. These initiatives are considered as pursuing open, inclusive and collaborative governance and is analysed through the lens of collaborative urban infrastructuring to attend to the dynamics, consequences and implications emerging from the prototyping processes. The analysis of the collaboration between Code for Ireland and Dublin City Council Beta suggests that the spatio-temporal scaling of prototypes lead to the continual and contested scaling of skills, knowledges, capabilities, organisational procedures and socio-technical arrangements. These heterogeneous scaling engenders desirable futures and future problems. The articulation and enactment of the values that attract diverse visions, viewpoints and practices into collaborative experimentation can be challenged by agonistic relationships arising from exploring practical arrangements for the mutual shaping of desirable governance procedures and the organisational expectations, obligations and constraints that are already in place. Furthermore, in the processes of scaling, there are constant dangers of enacting patriarchal stewardships and taking an all-knowing position for caring and evaluating impacts, which makes it critical to also experiment with ways of disclosing urban techno-politics that emerges continuously and in unanticipated ways.

If you are interested, full working paper can be found here: https://osf.io/2xpq7