Category Archives: publications

New book: Slow Computing: Why We Need Balanced Digital Lives

A BOOK ABOUT TAKING CONTROL OF OUR DIGITAL LIVES

By Rob Kitchin and Alistair Fraser

Digital technologies should be making life easier. And to a large degree they do, transforming everyday tasks of work, consumption, communication, travel and play. But they are also accelerating and fragmenting our lives affecting our well-being and exposing us to extensive data extraction and profiling that helps determine our life chances.

Is it then possible to experience the joy and benefits of computing, but to do so in a way that asserts individual and collective autonomy over our time and data?

Drawing on the ideas of the ‘slow movement’, Slow Computing sets out numerous practical and political means to take back control and counter the more pernicious effects of living digital lives.

1 Living Digital Lives (PDF)
2 Accelerating Life
3 Monitoring Life
4 Personal Strategies of Slow Computing
5 Slow Computing Collectively
6 An Ethics of Digital Care
7 Towards a More Balanced Digital Society
Coda: Slow Computing During a Pandemic (PDF)

ISBN 978-1529211269

Book website

Bristol University Press, £14.99 or $26.00; 20% discount (£11.99 or $20.80) at: Bristol University Press, or £9.75 if sign up for BUP newsletter. Select ‘Click to order from North America, Canada and South America’ to get dollar price.

New paper: Civil liberties or public health, or civil liberties and public health?

A new paper by Rob Kitchin has been published in Space and Polity examining the implications to civil liberties of using surveillance technologies to tackle the spread of COVID-19.

Civil liberties or public health, or civil liberties and public health? Using surveillance technologies to tackle the spread of COVID-19

PDF of paper

Abstract

To help tackle the spread of COVID-19 a range of surveillance technologies – smartphone apps, facial recognition and thermal cameras, biometric wearables, smart helmets, drones, and predictive analytics – have been rapidly developed and deployed. Used for contact tracing, quarantine enforcement, travel permission, social distancing/movement monitoring, and symptom tracking, their rushed rollout has been justified by the argument that they are vital to suppressing the virus, and civil liberties have to be sacrificed for public health. I challenge these contentions, questioning the technical and practical efficacy of surveillance technologies, and examining their implications for civil liberties, governmentality, surveillance capitalism, and public health.

Keywords: coronavirus; COVID-19; surveillance; civil liberties; governmentality; citizenship; contact tracing; quarantine; movement; technological solutionism; spatial sorting; social sorting; privacy; control creep; data minimization; surveillance capitalism; ethics; data justice.

 

Using digital technologies to tackle the spread of the coronavirus: Panacea or folly?

Update: a revised version of this working paper has now been published as open access in Space and Polity.

A new paper by Rob Kitchin (Programmable City Working Paper 44) examines whether digital technologies will be effective in tackling the spread of the coronavirus, considers their potential negative costs vis-a-vis civil liberties, citizenship, and surveillance capitalism (see table below), and details what needs to happen.

PDF of working paper          (PDF of revised version in Space and Polity)

Using digital technologies to tackle the spread of the coronavirus: Panacea or folly?

Abstract
Digital technology solutions for contact tracing, quarantine enforcement (digital fences) and movement permission (digital leashes), and social distancing/movement monitoring have been proposed and rolled-out to aid the containment and delay phases of the coronavirus and mitigate against second and third waves of infections. In this essay, I examine numerous examples of deployed and planned technology solutions from around the world, assess their technical and practical feasibility and potential to make an impact, and explore the dangers of tech-led approaches vis-a-vis civil liberties, citizenship, and surveillance capitalism. I make the case that the proffered solutions for contact tracing and quarantining and movement permissions are unlikely to be effective and pose a number of troubling consequences, wherein the supposed benefits will not outweigh potential negative costs. If these concerns are to be ignored and the technologies deployed, I argue that they need to be accompanied by mass testing and certification, and require careful and transparent use for public health only, utilizing a privacy-by-design approach with an expiration date, proper oversight, due processes, and data minimization that forbids data sharing, repurposing and monetization.

Keywords: coronavirus; COVID-19; surveillance; governmentality; citizenship; civil liberties; contact tracing; quarantine; movement; technological solutionism; spatial sorting; social sorting; privacy; control creep; data minimization; surveillance capitalism; ethics; data justice.

coronavirus tech issues

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