A bit of brighter news, in The Guardian, a “Swedish tech startup helping cities go green”:
Company pitch: ClimateView is a Swedish company that accelerates city transitions through a science-based framework, process and platform.
According to the CEO of ClimateView, Tomer Shalit, “Cities account for more than 70% of global CO2 emissions. They are clearly critical to climate action, but they are also complex and highly interconnected systems – and they really lacked the tools to plan and manage their transition.”
This dashboard allows cities to do exactly that: to break down the complexity of the climate challenge into smaller and easier to achieve indicators, and to keep track of their individual progress.
Cool and hopeful idea and useful application of smart & sustainable technologies and ‘green media‘, apparently. A particular boon could be that tools like these actually make a powerful argument for undertaking actions, instead of relinquishing all hope.
Nonetheless, two key concerns come to mind, in fact these are issues that always pop up in discussions about datafication and quantification:
- onto-epistemology: can a hugely complex issue like climate truly be broken down into these smaller chunks and be reduced to a sum of smaller parts, while omitting the most complex question of how these smaller parts are interrelated? What kind of knowledge is generated and visualized through such dashboards? What also remains unclear are questions of scale: what policies and actions are needed and on which political level? Can indeed the joint actions of cities taken together be sufficient to tackle this crisis (as exemplified by the fact that the most comprehensive case study is for Sweden as a nation and not at the city level)? Much enthusiasm has gone out to the idea that wicked problems might best be addressed at the city level instead of national politics but I have my doubts…
- politics: the second concern that I have is that this tool turns a difficult and painful transition that will inevitably hurt many people (and some more than others…) into a depoliticized, rationalized, managerial issue of frictionless bureaucracy. To what extent are dashboards like these ritualistic consolations that we have everything under control as long as we have the realtime numbers, a Modernist human hubris perpetuated? Smart tech perhaps serves more as legitimizing tool for government (in)actions. Hence, technologies like these in the end might end up being a band-aid to avoid making more painful decisions with bigger political ramifications, with the actual involvement of civic participation in making those choices.