Rob Kitchin, Paolo Cardullo and Cesare Di Feliciantonio have published a new Programmable City working paper (No. 41) via OSF: Citizenship, Justice and the Right to the Smart City. The paper is a modified, pre-print version of the opening chapter in the book ‘The Right to the Smart City’ edited by Paolo Cardullo, Cesare Di Feliciantonio and Rob Kitchin to be published by Emerald Publishing.
This paper provides an introduction to the smart city and engages with its idea and ideals from a critical social science perspective. After setting out in brief the emergence of smart cities and current key debates, we note a number of practical, political and normative questions relating to citizenship, social justice, and the public good that warrant examination. The remainder of the paper provides an initial framing for engaging with these questions. The first section details the dominant neoliberal conception and enactment of smart cities and how this works to promote the interests of capital and state power and reshape governmentality. We then detail some of the ethical issues associated with smart city technologies and initiatives. Having set out some of the more troubling aspects of how social relations are produced within smart cities, we then examine how citizens and citizenship have been conceived and operationalised in the smart city to date. We then follow this with a discussion of social justice and the smart city. In the final section, we explore the notion of the ‘right to the smart city’ and how this might be used to recast the smart city in emancipatory and empowering ways.
Keywords: citizenship, social justice, smart cities, right to the city, ethics
Software-enabled technologies and urban big data have become essential to the functioning of cities. Consequently, urban operational governance and city services are becoming highly responsive to a form of data-driven urbanism that is the key mode of production for smart cities. At the heart of data-driven urbanism is a computational understanding of city systems that reduces urban life to logic and calculative rules and procedures, which is underpinned by an instrumental rationality and realist epistemology. This rationality and epistemology are informed by and sustains urban science and urban informatics, which seek to make cities more knowable and controllable. This paper examines the forms, practices and ethics of smart cities and urban science, paying particular attention to: instrumental rationality and realist epistemology; privacy, datafication, dataveillance and geosurveillance; and data uses, such as social sorting and anticipatory governance. It argues that smart city initiatives and urban science need to be re-cast in three ways: a re-orientation in how cities are conceived; a reconfiguring of the underlying epistemology to openly recognize the contingent and relational nature of urban systems, processes and science; and the adoption of ethical principles designed to realize benefits of smart cities and urban science while reducing pernicious effects.
The paper is behind a paywall, so if you don’t have access and you’re interested in reading email Rob (email@example.com) and he’ll send you a copy.
Rob Kitchin gave two invited talks in Boston last week concerning Programmable City research.
The first was at UMass Boston, sponsored by APA-MA, BSA, MAPC, MAPD, MACDC, BRA, Mel King Institute, and was entitled ‘Planning in the era of smart urbanism. The slides for the talk can be found at: http://www.slideshare.net/robkitchin/planning-in-an-era-of-smart-urbanism
The second was at the launch of MIT’s new Institute for Data, Systems and Society and was entitled ‘Ethics and risks of urban big data and smart cities’. The slides for the talk can be found at: http://www.slideshare.net/robkitchin/the-ethics-and-risks-of-urban-big-data-and-smart-cities A video of the event can be found at: https://idss2016.mit.edu/
Rob Kitchin and Gavin McArdle have published a new Programmable City working paper (no. 21) – Urban data and city dashboards: Six key issues – on SocArXiv today. It is a pre-print of a chapter that will be published in Kitchin, R., Lauriault, T.P. and McArdle, G. (eds) (forthcoming) Data and the City. Routledge, London..
This chapter considers the relationship between data and the city by critically examining six key issues with respect city dashboards: epistemology, scope and access, veracity and validity, usability and literacy, use and utility, and ethics. While city dashboards provide useful tools for evaluating and managing urban services, understanding and formulating policy, and creating public knowledge and counter-narratives, our analysis reveals a number of conceptual and practical shortcomings. In order for city dashboards to reach their full potential we advocate a number of related shifts in thinking and praxes and forward an agenda for addressing the issues we highlight. Our analysis is informed by our endeavours in building the Dublin Dashboard.
A couple of weeks ago I attended the Web Summit in Dublin, a large, tech entrepreneur event (my observations on the event are posted here). This week I spent three days at the Smart City Expo World Congress in Barcelona, another event that considered how technology is being used to reshape social and economic life, but which had a very different vibe, a much more mixed constituency of exhibitors and speakers (a mix of tech companies, consultants, city administrations/officials, politicians, NGOs, and academics; over 400 cities sent representatives and 240 companies were present, and there were over 10,000 attendees), and for the most part had a much more tempered discourse. We presented our work on the Dublin Dashboard and the use of indicators in knowing and governing cities, attended the congress (keynote talks, plenary panels, and parallel paper sessions) and toured round the expo (a trade fair made up mostly of company and city stands). I thought it would be useful to share my observations with respect to the event and in particular some of the absences. Continue reading →
A chunk of the Programmable City team attended the Web Summit in Dublin last week. I was fortunate to be asked to MC the Machine Stage for Tuesday afternoon (on smart cities/smart cars), and also presented a paper, participated in a panel discussion, and chaired a private panel session, all on smart cities. As well reported in the media, it was an enormous event attended by 22,000 people, with 600 speakers across nine stages, and hundreds of stands, many of which changed daily to accommodate them all. No doubt a huge amount of business was conducted, personal networks extended, and thousands of pages of copy for newspapers, magazines and websites filed.
To me what was interesting about the event were the silences as much as what was presented and displayed. There were loads of very interesting apps and technologies demoed, many of which will have real world impact. That said, there was also a lot of hype, hubris, hope, self-promotion, buzzwords (to my ear ‘disruption’, ‘smart’, ‘platform’, ‘internet of things’ and ‘use case’ were used a lot), Californian ideology (radical individualism, libertarianism, neoliberal economics, and tech utopianism), and heads in the sand. In contrast, there was an absence of critical reflection about the following three broad concerns. Continue reading →