A new working paper by Rob Kitchin, Sophia Maalsen and Gavin McArdle – The Praxis and Politics of Building Urban Dashboards – has been published on SSRN as Programmable City Working Paper 11. The abstract runs thus:
This paper critically reflects on the building of the Dublin Dashboard — a website that provides citizens, planners, policy makers and companies with an extensive set of data and interactive visualizations about Dublin City, including real-time information — from the perspective of critical data studies. The analysis draws upon participant observation, ethnography, and an archive of correspondence, to unpack the building of the Dashboard and the emergent politics of data and design. Our findings reveal four main observations. First, a dashboard is a complex socio-technical assemblage of actors and actants that work materially and discursively within a set of social and economic constraints, existing technologies and systems, and power geometries to assemble, produce and maintain the website. Second, the production and maintenance of a dashboard unfolds contextually, contingently and relationally through transduction. Third, the praxis and politics of creating a dashboard has wider recursive effects: just as building the dashboard was shaped by the wider institutional landscape, producing the system inflected that landscape. Fourth, the data, configuration, tools, and modes of presentation of a dashboard produce a particularised set of spatial knowledges about the city. We conclude that rather than frame dashboard development in purely technical terms, it is important to openly recognize their contested and negotiated politics and praxis.
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A new paper by Rob Kitchin has been posted as open access on SSRN. From a Single Line of Code to an Entire City: Reframing Thinking on Code and the City is The Programmable City Working Paper 4.
Cities are rapidly becoming composed of digitally-mediated components and infrastructures, their systems augmented and mediated by software, with widespread consequences for how they are managed, governed and experienced. This transformation has been accompanied by critical scholarship that has sought to understand the relationship between code and the city. Whilst this work has produced many useful insights, in this paper I argue that it also has a number of shortcomings. Principal amongst these is that the literatures concerning code and the city have remained quite divided. Studies that focus on code are often narrow in remit, fading out the city, and tend to fetishize and potentially decontextualises code at the expense of the wider socio-technical assemblage within which it is embedded. Studies that focus on the city tend to examine the effects of code, but rarely unpack the constitution and mechanics of the code producing those effects. To provide a more holistic account of the relationship between code and the city I forward two interlinked conceptual frameworks. The first places code within a wider socio-technical assemblage. The second conceives the city as being composed of millions of such assemblages. In so doing, the latter seeks to provide a means of productively building a conceptual and empirical understanding of programmable urbanism that scales from individual lines of code to the complexity of an entire urban system.
Keywords: code, city, software, programmable urbanism, software studies, smart city, urban studies, assemblages