Mastodon geographers

Since the regime change at Twitter there’s been a steady of stream of folks trying out Mastodon as an alternative. Mastodon is Twitter-like but is also very much its own platform, consisting of a federation of interlinked ‘instances’. As a newbie you select and join an ‘instance’, which makes a difference as to what posts (‘toots’) are viewed (there are 3 levels of viewing posts: home, posts by people you follow; local, posts by people in your instance; federated, posts from across the whole network that have link with your instance). Toots appear in chronological order rather than being sorted by algorithm. The instance someone belongs to is identifiable by their username and address (in my case @mastodon.social). See the Mastodon quick set guide for more info.

Within a couple of days of setting up I was following a couple of hundred folks and had a similar number of followers, many of whom I knew from Twitter. Quite a few of these are geographers, though I’m sure there are many more than this list, which is designed to help folk find each other and start conversations. You can also do that by joining the @geography@a.gup.pe group and tag your posts with group handle to share there. Also tag your posts with the #geography hashtag. My top tip: having a bio and posting builds your community.

The list is replicated at https://lejun.codeberg.page/Mastodon-Geography/ maintained by @JauneBaguette@framapiaf.org and @michalrzeszewski@mastodon.online This version allows bulk selection of who to follow (with instructions). To be added to the list ask by tagging me in a post or by following.

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New WP: Urban data power: capitalism, governance, ethics and justice

A new ProgCity working paper (46) – Urban data power: capitalism, governance, ethics and justice – has been published. Download PDF

This working paper is a pre-print of Kitchin, R. (in press) Urban data power: capitalism, governance, ethics and justice. In Söderström, O. and Datta, A. (eds) Data Power in Action: Urban Data Politics in Times of Crisis. Bristol University Press.

Abstract
Urban big data systems are thoroughly infused with data power and data politics. These systems mobilise data power as a means to deepen the interests of states and their ability to manage urban life, and companies and their capacity to create and capture new markets and accumulate profit. Data power is thus deeply imbricated into the workings and reproduction of political economies, its deployment justified as a necessary means to tackle various urban crises and sustain growth. The paper details how data power is being claimed and exerted through the logics and practices of data capitalism, particularly with respect to urban platforms, and how data-driven systems are shifting the nature of governmentality and governance, enacting new, stronger forms of data power, as well as transferring some aspects of municipal government and service delivery to companies. The final section considers how data power can be resisted and reconfigured through an engagement with the ideas of data ethics, data justice, data sovereignty, and the practices of data activism.

Key words: urban data, smart city, capitalism, governance, governmentality, data ethics, data justice, data sovereignty

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New paper: Conceptualising smart cities

A new paper by Rob Kitchin titled ‘Conceptualising smart cities’ has been published in Urban Research and Practice. It consider how best to define smart cities and asks whether it is time to decentre and move beyond smart urbanism.

Kitchin, R. (2022) Conceptualising smart cities. Urban Research and Practice 15(1): 155-159. doi: 10.1080/17535069.2022.2031143

Smart city cases – reading lists

I have been creating reading lists for case material on individual smart cities, or for countries/global regions, for one of my modules. I’m sharing as I thought they might be useful for others. If you have any suggestions to add to any section, or a set of readings relating to a city or region not included, please do add them in the comments or email them to me.

Dublin, Ireland

  • Cardullo, P. and Kitchin, R. (2019) Being a ‘citizen’ in the smart city: Up and down the scaffold of smart citizen participation in Dublin, Ireland. GeoJournal 84(1): 1-13.
  • Carvalho, L. and Otgaar, A. (2017) Dublinked (Dublin). In Carvalho, L., van der Berg, L., Galal, H. and Teunisse, P. (eds) Delivering Sustainable Competitiveness: Revisiting the Organising Capacity of Cities. Routledge, London.  pp. 41-60.
  • Coletta, C., Heaphy, L. and Kitchin, R. (2019) From the accidental to articulated smart city: The creation and work of ‘Smart Dublin’. European Urban and Regional Studies 26(4): 349–364
  • Coletta, C., Heaphy, L. and Kitchin, R. (2018) Actually-existing Smart Dublin: Exploring smart city development in history and context. In Karvonen, A., Cugurullo, F. and Caprotti, F. (eds) Inside Smart Cities: Place, Politics and Urban Innovation. Routledge. pp. 85-101.
  • Coletta, C. and Kitchin, R. (2017) Algorhythmic governance: Regulating the ‘heartbeat’ of a city using the Internet of Things. Big Data and Society 4: 1-16.
  • Heaphy, L. J. (2018, January 12). Interfaces and divisions in the Dublin Docklands ‘Smart District’. Programmable City Working Paper 37 https://doi.org/10.31235/osf.io/z2afc
  • Heaphy, L. and Pétercsák, R. (2018) Building smart city partnerships in the “Silicon Docks”
    In Coletta, C., Evans, L., Heaphy, L., and Kitchin, R. (eds) Creating Smart Cities. Oxon and New York: Routledge. pp. 76-89.
  • Kayanan, C. M., Eichenmüller, C. and Chambers, J. (2018). Silicon slipways and slippery slopes: techno-rationality and the reinvigoration of neoliberal logics in the Dublin Docklands. Space and Polity 22(1), 50–66.

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New commentary: For or Against ‘The Business of Benchmarking’

A new commentary by Jim Merricks White and Rob Kitchin, ‘For or Against ‘The Business of Benchmarking’,’ has been published in the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research. It is a response to a paper by Michele Acuto, Daniel Pejic and Jessie Briggs.

Abstract
This short response does two things. First, it argues that urban benchmarks have
specific and structural limits not identified in the principal essay in this intervention, which
curtail the kinds of constructive and critical work such benchmarks might be expected to
perform. ISO 37120 is discussed as an example. Second, it proposes a pluralistic approach
to engagement and offers six suggestions for how academics might take urban benchmarks
and their makers seriously without becoming fully embedded in their business. These
are: ethnography, discourse analysis, self-reflexive critique, critical urban benchmarking,
alternative publication channels and scholarly debate.

PDF

New WP: Decentring the smart city

A new Programmable City Working Paper (No. 45) has been published. PDF

Decentering the smart city

Abstract
This short working paper provides a critique of the smart city and the alternative visions of its detractors, who seek a more just and equitable city. Drawing parallels with data activism and data justice, it is argued that two main approaches to recasting the smart city are being adopted: inverting the ethos and use of smart city technologies; and discontinuing and blocking their deployment. The case is made for decentring the smart city, moving away from the reification of technologies to frame and consider their work within the wider (re)production of social relations.

Key words: smart city, technological solutionism, decentring, equality, justice, citizenship

It is a pre-print of Kitchin, R. (in press) Afterword: Decentering the smart city. In Flynn, S. (ed) Equality in the City: Imaginaries of the Smart Future. Intellect, Bristol.

The core argument is captured in this passage.

We need to stop casting ‘smartness’ and digital technologies in a privileged, significant independent role and recognize them as the agents of wider structural forces. This requires us to focus on and imagine the future city in a more holistic sense, and how smartness might or might not be a means of realising a fairer, more open and tolerant city. Rather than trying to work out how to insert equality into smartness, instead the focus is squarely on equality and reconfiguring structural relations and figuring out how smart technologies can be used to create equality and equity in conjunction with other kinds of interventions, such as social, economic and environmental policy, collaborative planning, community development, investment packages, multi-stakeholder engagement, and so on.

The issues facing cities are not going to be fixed through technological solutionism, but a multifaceted approach in which technology is one just one component (Morozov and Bria 2018). Homelessness is not going to be fixed with an app; it requires a complex set of interventions of which technology might be one part, along with health care and welfare reform, tackling domestic abuse, and a shift in the underlying logics of the political economy (Eubanks 2017). Congestion is not going to be fixed with intelligent transport systems that seek to optimize traffic flow, but by shifting people from car-based travel to public transit, cycling and walking. Similarly, institutionalized racism channelled and reproduced through predictive policing will not be fixed solely by tinkering with the data and algorithms to make them more robust, transparent and fairer, but by addressing institutionalized racism more generally and the conditions that enable it (Benjamin 2019).

In such a decentred perspective, platform and surveillance capitalism are not framed as separate and distinct forms of capitalism, and racism expressed through smart urbanism is not cut adrift from the structural logics and operations of institutionalized racism (understood in purely technical and legal terms). Rather, smart city technologies and their operations are framed with respect to capitalism and racism per se, and the solutions are anti-capitalist alternatives and anti-racism in which smart city technologies might or might not play some part.

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Rob Kitchin