Category Archives: publications

New book: How to Run a City Like Amazon, and Other Fables

How to run a cityRob Kitchin is a co-editor (along with Mark Graham, Shannon Mattern, and Joe Shaw) of a new book ‘How to Run a City Like Amazon, and Other Fables’ published by Meatspace Press. The book consists of 38 chapters, with all but six consisting of speculative short fiction.

Should cities be run like businesses? Should city services and infrastructure be run by businesses? For some urban commentators, policy-makers, politicians and corporate lobby groups, the answer is ‘yes’ to both questions.

Others are critical of such views, cautious about shifting the culture of city administration from management to entrepreneurship, and transforming public assets and services run for the common good into markets run for profit.

The stories and essays in How to Run a City Like Amazon, and Other Fables explore how a city might look, feel and function if the business models, practices and technologies of 38 different companies were applied to the running of cities. What would it be like to live in a city administered using the business model of Amazon (or Apple, IKEA, Pornhub, Spotify, Tinder, Uber, etc.) or a city where critical public services are delivered by these companies?

Collectively, the chapters ask us to imagine and reflect on what kind of cities we want to live in and how they should be managed and governed.

The book is available open-access. There’s also a limited print run, with artwork specially designed by Carlos Romo-Melgar and John Philip Sage.

New paper: Civic infrastructure and the appropriation of the corporate smart city

New Progcity collaboration has been published in the Annals of the American Association of Geographers! Sung-Yueh Perng and Sophia Maalsen ask how we can make sense of the appropriation of the corporate city in the paper entitled Civic infrastructure and the appropriation of the corporate smart city.

Have a look at: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/24694452.2019.1674629. If you do not have institutional subscription, free copies can be downloaded from: https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/NGSGJHRPDVMQX6X7YXEM/full?target=10.1080/24694452.2019.1674629

Abstract

Concerns have been raised regarding smart city innovations leading to, or consolidating, technocratic urban governance and the tokenization of citizens. Less research, however, has explored how we make sense of ongoing appropriation of the resources, skills, and expertise of corporate smart cities and what this means for future cities. In this article, we examine the summoning of political subjectivity through the practices of retrofitting, repurposing, and reinvigorating. We consider them as civic infrastructure to sensitize the infrastructural acts and conventions that are assembled for exploring inclusive and participatory ways of shaping urban futures. These practices, illustrated by examples in Adelaide, Dublin, and Boston, focus on capabilities not only to write code, access data, or design a prototype but also to devise diverse sociotechnical arrangements and power relations to disobey, question, and dissent from technocratic visions and practices. The article concludes by suggesting further examination of the summoning of political subjectivity from within established institutions to widen dissent and appropriation of the corporate smart city.

Key Words: citizen, infrastructure, political subjectivity, smart city, urban future.

New paper: Data ratcheting and data-driven organisational change in transport

A new Progcity paper has been published by Liam Heaphy in Big Data and Society.

Data ratcheting and data-driven organisational change in transport

doi: 10.1177/2053951719867359

Abstract

This article explores the process by which intelligent transport system technologies have further advanced a data-driven culture in public transport and traffic control. Based on 12 interviews with transport engineers and fieldwork visits to three control rooms, it follows the implementation of Real-Time Passenger Information in Dublin and the various technologies on which it is dependent. It uses the concept of ‘data ratcheting’ to describe how a new data-driven rational order supplants a gradualist, conservative ethos, creating technological dependencies that pressure organisations to take control of their own data and curate accessibility to outside organisations. It is argued that the implementation of Real-Time Passenger Information forms part of a changing landscape of urban technologies as cities move from a phase of opening data silos and expanded communication across departments and with citizens towards one in which new streams of digital data are recognised for their value in stabilising novel forms of city administration.

Keywords: Intelligent transport systems, real-time information, smart city, Big Data, organisational change

The paper is open access and you can access it here

New book: The Right to the Smart City

Right to the smart city coverFriday was publication day for ‘The Right to the Smart City‘ book edited by Paolo Cardullo, Cesare Di Feliciantonio and Rob Kitchin published by Emerald. The book is the outcome of the fourth international workshop hosted by the Programmable City project and focuses on the interrelationship of smart cities, rights, citizenship, social justice, commons, civic tech, participation and ethics. It includes chapters by Katharine Willis, Jiska Engelbert, Alberto Vanolo, Michiel de Lange, Catherine D’Ignazio, Eric Gordon, Elizabeth Christoforetti, Andrew Schrock, Sung-Yueh Perng, Gabriele Schliwa, Nancy Odendaal, Ramon Ribera-Fumaz, and the three editors.

1.    Citizenship, Justice and the Right to the Smart City. Rob Kitchin, Paolo Cardullo, Cesare Di Feliciantonio

Part 1: Citizenship and the commons

2.    Whose right to the smart city?
Katharine Willis

3.    Reading the neoliberal smart city narrative: The political potential of everyday meaning making.
Jiska Engelbert

4.    Playable urban citizenship: Social justice and the gamification of civic life.
Alberto Vanolo

5.    The right to the datafied city: Interfacing the urban data commons.
Michiel de Lange

6.    Smart commons or a ‘smart approach’ to the commons?
Paolo Cardullo

7.    Against the romance of the smart community: The case of Milano 4 You.
Cesare Di Feliciantonio

Part 2: Civic engagement, participation and the right to the smart city

8.    Sensors and civics: Towards a community-centred smart city.
Catherine D’Ignazio, , Eric Gordon and Elizabeth Christoforetti

9.    What is civic tech? Defining a practice of technical pluralism.
Andrew Schrock

10.    Hackathons and the practices and possibilities of participation.
Sung-Yueh Perng

11.    Smart cities by design? Interrogating design thinking for citizen participation.
Gabriele Schliwa

12.    Appropriating ‘big data’: exploring the emancipatory potential of the data strategies of civil society organisations in Cape Town, South Africa.
Nancy Odendaal

13.    Moving from smart citizens to technological sovereignty?
Ramon Ribera-Fumaz

14.    Towards a genuinely humanizing smart urbanism.
Rob Kitchin

Ethics washing and smart cities

Rob Kitchin has published a new article on RTE Brainstorm, The ethics of smart cities. The piece argues that the use of big data and artificial intelligence in managing cities creates many ethical issues, but initiatives to address them can enact ethics-washing in order to avoid regulation and more fundamental questions. The argument is illustrated with reference to initiatives in Toronto and Barcelona.

ethics smart cities 2

New Paper: Anticipating digital futures

Sung-Yueh Perng has a new paper published in the journal Mobilites, titled: Anticipating digital futures: ruins, entanglements and the possibilities of shared technology making, doi.org/10.1080/17450101.2019.1594867

Abstract

Contrary to the corporate production of digital cities, shared technology making explores ways of innovation that are open to all, informed by diverse knowledges, and led by citizens. However, this exploration faces corporate translation of ethical and societal values for capital accumulation and concerns around the right to participate. Building on Tsing’s concept of ‘ruins’, this paper considers the anticipation of digital futures while the neoliberal ruination of shared technology making is in full swing. The paper examines the entanglements in hackathon rationalities and practices and demonstrates that the possibilities of shared technology making emerge from disrupting technocratic visions and repurposing corporate innovation resources and techniques. Drawing on the analysis, the paper argues that these entanglements are crucial to digital futures. They disclose in concrete ways how neoliberal co-optation can be disturbed and transformed. Equally importantly, they urge continuous explorations to assemble diverse practices and values for building momentum towards sustained processes of shaping desirable futures.