Tag Archives: software studies

Queering code/space: special section of GPC

There a new special section of Gender, Place and Culture on queer theory and software studies and the queering of code/space edited by Dan Cochayne and Lizzie Richardson. I’ve not had anything to do with the issue other than to referee one paper. It’s nice to see the code/space concept though being re-worked with queer theory and software studies and the digital thought about with respect to sexuality and space because in many ways that is its origin and its publication provides the opportunity to provide a short anecdote of our initial thinking. Myself and Martin Dodge started our work on the first code/space paper in 2002/3.  At that time I was finishing an ESRC-funded project on homophobic violence in Northern Ireland and had been using Michel Foucault, Judith Butler, Gillian Rose and queer theory in general to frame this material. One of the papers I drafted at the time with Karen Lysaght was titled ‘Queering Belfast: Some thoughts on the sexing of space’, which was published as a working paper. Our initial working of code/space was rooted in this work, with the term ‘code/space’ echoing Foucault’s power/knowledge (in terms of being a dyadic relationship). Martin then discovered Adrian Mackenzie’s use of transduction and technicity (borrowed from Simonden), which was also ontogenetic in conception and more centrally focused on technology. I seem to remember us trying to blend performativity and transduction together, then moving to favour transduction. It’s nice to see those ideas now coming together in productive ways. Check out what are a fascinating set of papers.

Rob Kitchin


Industrial Heritage: Software enabled preservation of dispersed and fragile knowledge in miniature.

Developments in software and digital technology have had wide ranging impacts on our leisure time, from movies on demand on our mobiles, internet on public transport and the ‘selfie’  saturated world of social media. Yet advancements in technology have also reached creative activities that are often considered far from mainstream and groups of individuals, who though they share a common interest, may pursue their leisure activity individually and in relative isolation.

One such social group is that of model railway enthusiasts. For these collectors, builders and hobbyists the developments in software have enabled fundamental changes to the way they explore and express their interests.  Geographically dispersed and relatively few in number (estimated in the low hundreds in Ireland) software has offered a means of augmenting the traditional physical locations of interaction, socialising and knowledge sharing. Software and connectivity have enabled a network of online interactions that has linked individuals more closely with the commercial suppliers and the specialist manufacturers of the models they consume, extending the reach of the community beyond the traditional clubs or shows. It has facilitated efficient access to, and the sharing of, previously inaccessible or unknown historic and practical knowledge regarding even the most obscure topics such as window size and seat positions.  Building upon more traditional sources of historic data such as printed media and journals, software has also enabled the capture of dispersed and divergent forms of data and facilitated their transformation, via computerised production methods, into ready-to-run models with unprecedented levels of physical detail and functionality. Continue reading

Code and the City workshop videos: Session 1

We had a wonderful Code and the City workshop in September and we will be making the video recording of the presentations available from today, and on the following Fridays!

Today, we will be sharing videos from the Opening talk and First session: Code, coding and interfaces

Opening talk

Code and the city: Reframing the conceptual terrain
Rob Kitchin, NIRSA, National University of Ireland Maynooth

Software has become essential to the functioning of cities. It is deeply and pervasively embedded into the systems and infrastructure of the built environment and in the management and governance of urban societies. Software-enabled technologies and services augment and facilitate how we understand and plan cities, how we manage urban services and utilities, and how we live urban lives. This paper will provide an overarching overview of the ways in which software has become an indispensible mediator of urban systems and the consequent implications, and makes the case for the study of computational algorithms and how cities are captured in and processed through code.

Session 1: Code, coding and interfaces

Code-crowd: How software repositories express urban life
Adrian Mackenzie, Sociology, Lancaster University

Is code an expression of urban life? This paper analyses around 10 million software repositories on Github.com from the perspective of how they include cities. The methodology here relies on data-intensive work with bodies of code at a number of different levels. It maps the geographies of Github organisations and users to see how location anchors coding work. More experimentally, it tracks how urban spaces, movements and architectures figure in and configure code. The paper’s focus is less on how code shapes cities and more on apprehending code and coding as a way of experientially inhabiting cities. This approach might better highlight how code expresses urban experiences of proximity, mixing, movement, nearness, distance, and location. It might also shed light on the plural forms of spatiality arising from code, particularly as algorithmic processes become more entangled with each other.

Encountering the city at hackathons
Sophia Maalsen and Sung-Yueh Perng, National University of Ireland, Maynooth

The growing significance of hackathons is currently developing in a mutually informing way. On the one hand, there is an increasing use of hackathons to address issues of city governance – Chris Vein, US CTO for government innovation has described them as ‘sensemaking’ tools for government, encouraging agencies to make use of hackathons and “let the collective energy of the people in the room come together and really take that data and solve things in creative and imaginative ways” (Llewellyn 2012). On the other, regular hack nights appear as creative urban space for citizens to discuss problems they encounter and which are not necessarily considered by government, and produce solutions to tackle these issues.

In this paper, we explore potential opportunities and tensions, as well as excitement and inattentiveness, emerging as solutions are proposed and pursued. Through this, we reflect upon how such processes translate the city and transform ways of living in places where the solutions are applied. We further ask whether the positive discourse surrounding hackathons is justified or whether there are limits to their ability to deal with the complexity of urban issues.

Interfacing urban intelligence
Shannon Mattern, Media Studies, New School NY

Technology companies, city governments, and design firms – the entities teaming up to construct our highly-networked cities of the future – have prototyped interfaces through which citizens can engage with the smart city. But those prototypes, almost always envisioned as screens of some sort, embody institutional values that aren’t always aligned with those of citizens who rightfully claim a “right to the city.” Based on promotional materials from Cisco, Siemens, IBM, Microsoft, and their smart-city-making counterparts, it seems that one of the chief preoccupations of our future-cities is to reflect their data consumption and hyper-efficient (often “widgetized”) activity back to themselves. We thus see city “control centers” lined with screens that serve in part to visualize, and celebrate, the city’s own supposedly hyper-rational operation. Public-facing interfaces, meanwhile, are typically rendered via schematic mock-ups, with little consideration given to interface design. They’re portrayed as conduits for transit information, commercial and service locations and reviews, and information about cultural resources and tourist attractions; and as portals for gathering user-generated data. Across the board, these interfacing platforms tend to frame their users as sources of data that feed the urban algorithmic machines, and as consumers of data concerned primarily with their own efficient navigation and consumption of the city.

In this talk, I’ll consider how we might we design urban interfaces for urban citizens, who have a right to know what’s going on inside “’black boxed’ [urban] control systems” – and even engage with the operating system as more than mere data-generators or reporters-of-potholes-and-power-outages. In considering what constitutes an ideal urban interface, we need to examine those platforms that are already in existence, and those that are proposed for future cities. Even the purely hypothetical, the speculative – the “design fiction” – can illuminate what’s possible, technologically, aesthetically, and ideologically; and can allow us to ask ourselves what kind of a “public face” we want to front our cities, and, even more important, what kinds of intelligence and agency – technological and human – we want our cities to embody.

Do come back next Friday! The next session awaits!

Session 4: Programmable City Project Team

Session 4: Programmable City Project Team, included project introductions from Postdoctoral Researchers and PhD students. Here are links to the slides the complete program.

  • Robert Bradshaw, Smart Bikeshare
  • Dr Sophia Maalsen, How are discourses and practices of city governance translated into code?
  • Jim Merricks White, Towards a Digital Urban Commons:Developing a situated computing praxis for a more direct democracy
  • Alan Moore, The Role of Dublin in the Global Innovation Network of Cloud Computing
  • Dr Leighton Evans, How does software alter the forms and nature of work?
  • Darach Mac Donncha, ‘How software is discursively produced and legitimised by vested interests’
  • Dr Sung-Yueh Perng, Programming Urban Lives
  • Dr Gavin McArdle, NCG, NIRSA, NUIM, Dublin Dashboard Performance Indicators & Metrics

Workshop: Code and the City, 3-4 September

In early September the Programmable City project at NUI Maynooth will be hosting a number of the foremost thinkers on the intersection of software, ubiquitous computing and the city for a two day workshop entitled ‘Code and the City’.

We’re really excited to be gathering together these scholars to discuss their ideas and research.  We’ve structured the programme so that each session lasts for two hours, with c. an hour for presentations, followed by an hour of discussion and debate.  Full draft written papers will be circulated in advance to attendees.

To try and make sure the event operates as a workshop we are limiting the numbers attending to the speakers, plus our team, plus a handful of open slots.  If you are interested in attending then please email Sung-Yueh.Perng@nuim.ie with your request by June 6th, setting out why you would like to attend.  We will then allocate the additional places by June 13th.


Code and the City
Rob Kitchin, NIRSA, National University of Ireland Maynooth

Session 1: Automation/algorithms

Cities in code: how software repositories express urban life
Adrian Mackenzie, Sociology, Lancaster University

Autonomy and automation in the coded city
Sam Kinsley, Geography, University of Exeter

Interfacing Urban Intelligence
Shannon Mattern, Media Studies, New School NY

Session 2: Abstraction and urbanisation

Encountering the city at hackathons
Sophia Maalsen and Sung-Yueh Perng, National University of Ireland, Maynooth

Disclosing Disaster? A Study of Ethics, Praxeology and Phenomenology in a Mobile World
Monika Büscher, With Michael Liegl, Katrina Petersen, Mobilities.Lab, Lancaster University, UK

Riot’s Ratio, on the genealogy of agent-based modeling and the cities of civil war
Matthew Fuller and Graham Harwood, Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths

Session 3: Social/locative media

Digital social interactions in the city: Reflecting on location-based social media
Luigina Ciolfi, Human-Centred Computing, Sheffield Hallam University

A Window, a Message, or a Medium? Learning about cities from Instagram
Lev Manovich, Computer Science, The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Feeling place in the city: strange ontologies, Foursquare and location-based social media
Leighton Evans, National University of Ireland Maynooth

Mobility in the actually existing smart city: Developing a multilayered model for the mobile computing dispositif
Jim Merricks White, National University of Ireland, Maynooth

Session 4: Knowledge classification and ontology

Cities and Context: The Codification of Small Areas through Geodemographic Classification
Alex Singleton, Geography, University of Liverpool

The city and the Feudal Internet: Examining Institutional Materialities
Paul Dourish, Informatics, UC Irvine

From Jerusalem to Kansas City: New geopolitics and the Semantic Web
Heather Ford and Mark Graham, Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford

Session 5: Governance

From community access to community calculation: exploring alternative urban governance through code
Alison Powell, Media & Communications, LSE

Code and the socio-spatial stratification of the city
Agnieszka Leszczynski, Geography, University of Birmingham

The Cryptographic City
David M. Berry, Media & Communication, University of Sussex