Claudio Coletta has published a new working paper (No. 32) – Rhythm-making, halfway ethnographies and ‘city heartbeats’.
This paper explores the issue of temporality in undertaking ethnographic fieldwork, drawing on research that examined urban automated management, wherein software is used to automatically regulate traffic flow in a city. In this case, the study addressed: 1) polyrhythmia at different scales produced by algorithms, technology, management and urban life, and; 2) the process of organizing multiple timelines to tune the ‘heartbeat’ of the city. Time is a resource for coordination and regulation, as well as for making sense of actions and experience. Being increasingly dispersed, and black-boxed in a multiplicity of processes affecting and configuring the way the past, present and future are perfomed and lived, time also represents a new object of concern for the ethnographic investigation of algorithmic management. I argue that ethnography allows us to understand the material organizing of dispersed and heterogeneous temporalities while also intersecting with such temporalities. Drawing on Guattari and Deleuze’s concept of ‘refrain’ and from Lefebvre’s ‘rhythmanalysis’, I introduce the concepts of rhythm-making and halfway ethnography with the purpose of accounting for the manufacturing of multiple temporalities and for the time-boundedness that links ethnographic practice and the technological, organizational, and cultural ‘heartbeats’ of fieldwork. This approach intends to temporally and spatially reposition organizational ethnography, offering analytical tools to study new contemporary entanglements of ethnographic practice and data.
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’.
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.
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.
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’.
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’.
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.
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.
Sung-Yueh Perng, Robk Kitchin and Darach Mac Donncha draw on their various hackathon experiences, including mentoring and winning!, to present you a close-up look of these tech and ‘innovation’ events. The working paper shared here examines how these events extend the passions for digital innovation and entrepreneurship and act as sites of social learning for the development of smart urbanism. If you are interested, the abstract below provides more detail. Or, you can find the working paper using the link: https://osf.io/nu3ec. If you have any thoughts or comments, do share with us!
Hackathons – quick prototyping events for commercial purposes – have become an important means to foster innovation, entrepreneurship and the start-up economy in smart cities. Smart and entrepreneurial cities have been critiqued with respect to the neoliberalization of governance and statecraft. We consider the passions, inventions and imitations in the assemblage of practices – alongside neoliberalizing and capitalist operations – that shape the economy and governance of smart cities. The paper examines hackathons as tech events that extend the passions for digital innovation and entrepreneurship and act as sites of social learning for the development of smart urbanism. We argue that passionate and imitative practices energize the desire and belief in entrepreneurial life and technocratic governance, and also engender precarious, ambiguous and uncertain future for participants and prototypes.