On discriminatory algorithmic policing

The Intercept has a lengthy feature on the various ways in which data-driven algorithmic policing reinforces racism in police work, esp. among the LAPD who have a mixed track records already… The article is based on the rich empirical insights from a new book, “Predict and Surveil: Data, Discretion, and the Future of Policing” (reviewed here and here) by sociologist Sarah Brayne. Brayne was given unique access to everyday police routines and was able to observe up closely the intricacies of what their actual work with data and algorithms looks like in practice. Braynesays this is “a manifestation of the […] Read More

Dutch students with a migration background targeted by fraud algorithm

Dutch National news outlet NOS reports that students who have a (non-western) migration background assist to be disproportionately targeted by a fraud detection algorithm. This algorithm is developed and deployed by Dienst Uitvoering Onderwijs (DUO) a national agency responsible for financing students. This is stated by 30 lawyers who represent accused students. Out of the 376 students they serve, 367 are students with a migration background. Apparently, the algorithm was developed, tested and deployed with built-in biases. Students for instance who are living at an aunt’s or brother’s place are seen as higher risk. Culturally, these tend to be students […] Read More

CfP: “Urban Civic AI: (Re)Imagining Public Values in Artificial Intelligence”

With colleagues Luke Hespanhol (University of Sydney) & Nanna Verhoeff (UU) I am co-editing a special issue on what we call “Urban Civic AI” >> Artificial intelligence (AI) has been increasingly embedded in urban infrastructure and services. From predictive policing to public health control, from autonomous vehicles to social profiling and credit systems, the spread of machine learning (ML) and algorithmic decision-making (ADM) is set to profoundly transform urban life, administration, and the relationships between government, industry and civil society. It also points to the emergence of a future where governance and planning of cities are potentially conducted by intelligent […] Read More

credit: Andrej Antonic, Bernice Ong, Wenqing Xia

Upcoming event: “Critical city-making: exploring design approaches for imagining smart urban futures” 4-5 July 2023, UU (Utrecht) & AUAS (Amsterdam)

Together with colleagues at Utrecht University and the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, I am organizing this event: Symposium & Workshop “Critical city-making: exploring design approaches for imagining smart urban futures” 4-5 July 2023, UU (Utrecht) & AUAS (Amsterdam) Organizers:  Michiel de Lange, Nanna Verhoeff, Sigrid Merx: [urban interfaces] research group, SIG “Inclusion in the Datafied City” focus area Governing the Digital Society, Open Cities Platform @UU Martijn de Waal: Civic Interaction Design lectorate @AUAS; This event is co-organized with the Centre of Expertise Creative Innovation and its SPRONG Network ‘Learning in Transitions’. About the event In recent years there has […] Read More

Wired: “The Out-of-Control Spread of Crowd-Control Tech”

Wired last month had an article that critically examines the use of what is euphemistically labeled ‘crowd control tech’ but in fact is an ongoing militarization of the urban realm all over globe fueled by the US weapons industry. The author speaks from personal experience about the harm that these supposedly benign arms can do: they were shot in the face while covering a protest outside the White House in 2020. “The theory behind all less-lethal crowd-control devices, from the simple billy club to the infrared laser dazzler, is that they allow security forces to suppress a riot without committing […] Read More

Public camera surveillance is biased (confirmed by empirical study)

The Conversation reports on a recent study about CCTV and bias in crime investigations, under the header “The camera never lies? Our research found CCTV isn’t always dependable when it comes to murder investigations” The authors of that study write: “…the evidence we gathered during our study of British murder investigations and trials reveals how, like other forms of evidence such as DNA and fingerprints, CCTV footage requires careful interpretation and evaluation and can be misleading.” “Instead of providing an absolute “truth”, different meanings can be obtained from the same footage. But understanding the challenges and risks associated with CCTV […] Read More

Dutch national urban sensor registry has to build public trust

According to a recent press release by the national government, a sensor registry is being worked on. Too bad they the actual register itself cannot be currently accessed. In any case, the stated purpose of this first attempt at a national registry for sensors used in urban public spaces is to enhance public transparency, and avoid doubles and promote reuse. This second wij to me sounds a bit tricky, as it may lead to ‘mission creep’ with additional usage scenarios being stacked onto a single initial purpose. Amsterdam municipality already has such a registry, albeit incomplete.

Publication: “Materials and modes of translation: Re-imagining inclusive “zero”-waste futures”

While I’m at it, this publication came out in 2022. It is co-authored with several colleagues, but to be honest, Tamalone & Corelia did by far most of the writing work, while Maartje de Goede has been key in setting up the participatory design process. It is available Open Access here >> van den Eijnden, Tamalone, Corelia Baibarac-Duignan, Michiel de Lange, and Maartje de Goede. 2022. “Materials and modes of translation: Re-imagining inclusive “zero”-waste futures.”  Frontiers in Sustainable Cities 4. doi: 10.3389/frsc.2022.958423.  

New chapter out in edited volume “Situating Data Inquiries in Algorithmic Culture”

My colleagues Karin van Es and Nanna Verhoeff edited this great collection of essays on datafication and algorithmization. With my colleagues in the Designing for Controversies in Responsible Smart Cities project, we contributed a chapter titled “Controversing Datafication through Media Architectures” (authors: Corelia Baibarac Duignan, Julieta Matos Castaño, Anouk Geenen, and Michiel de Lange). The book Situating Data: Inquiries in Algorithmic Culture can be downloaded in full as an Open Access pdf here >>. Taking up the challenges of the datafication of culture, as well as of the scholarship of cultural inquiry itself, this collection contributes to the critical debate about […] Read More

Neurotechnology as urban interfaces

Undark has an intriguing opinion article about the current trend of tech companies interested in neuroscience. Neuroscience research has produced various technologies capable of measuring human brain activity, e.g. magnetic resonance imaging, implanted electrode systems, and electroencephalograms (EEGs). Biohackers started experimenting with EEGs for meditation purposes. This has trickled through to the consumer tech market, with companies like Meta, Valve, Snap acquiring neuroscience startups. Of course, tech companies do this because “with enough information about individuals and their habits, developers can divine, with fine-tooth specificity, how a certain person will respond to certain advertisements.” What I find interesting about this, […] Read More

Report (part 3) of workshop “Data Commons for smart cities”

This is the third part of a 3-part report of a workshop held on 6 October 2022 about the data commons and the smart city, which I co-organized.  Links to part 1 >>, and to part 2 >>. Background of the workshop In our datafied smart cities, the creation of value out of data lies mostly in the hands of companies and governments. As data is considered to be a new type of resource, questions arise around for instance the governance of this resource but also its potential for citizen agency. These two approaches to the data commons  – as […] Read More

Report (part 2) of workshop “Data Commons for smart cities”

This is the second part of a 3-part report of a workshop held on 6 October 2022 about the data commons and the smart city, which I co-organized.  Links to part 1 >>, and to part 3 >>. Background of the workshop In our datafied smart cities, the creation of value out of data lies mostly in the hands of companies and governments. As data is considered to be a new type of resource, questions arise around for instance the governance of this resource but also its potential for citizen agency. These two approaches to the data commons  – as […] Read More

Report (part 1) of workshop “Data Commons for smart cities”

This is the first part of a 3-part report of a workshop held on 6 October 2022 about the data commons and the smart city, which I co-organized.  Links to part 2 >>, and to part 3 >>. Background of the workshop In our datafied smart cities, the creation of value out of data lies mostly in the hands of companies and governments. As data is considered to be a new type of resource, questions arise around for instance the governance of this resource but also its potential for citizen agency. These two approaches to the data commons  – as […] Read More

AI based facial recognition software in public space creates inequality

A black man was wrongfully jailed for a week after a face recognition error, Ars Technica writes. With an increasing number of cities and law enforcement deploying ‘smart tech’ such as AI based facial recognition software, the risk is that existing divisions and inequalities are exacerbated. Police in Louisiana reportedly relied on an incorrect facial recognition match to secure warrants to arrest a Black man for thefts he did not commit. Randal Reid, 28, was in jail for almost a week after the false match led to his arrest, according to a report published Monday on NOLA.com, the website of […] Read More

Digital nomads disrupting local life

Wired has a long-read on how a digital nomad initiative has wrecked havoc in the island of Madeira, Portugal. Rising housing prices, in some places forced evictions, and virtually no interactions with local culture are the painful consequences of an essentially predatory locust lifestyle that only the privileged with the right passports can afford to live, at expense of locals. This is a clash between what Manuel Castells has termed the ‘space of flows’ versus the ‘space of place’. The author draws a paralel to the naming of Madeira (‘lumber’), discovered in the 15th century as a green forested uninhabited […] Read More

How tracking devices aggravate gender violence

Vice reports on one of many cases in which a vindictive ex (almost always male) uses Apple’s AirTags or similar tech to keep stalking and harassing their former partners (almost always female). In addition to complaints that tech companies like Apple are not doing enough to prevent this, the article also notes that the problem is not merely due to tech but also is encoded into the law that suffers from gender bias: “…courts tend to view family disputes through a gendered lens, Godsoe [ a professor of law at Brooklyn Law School] said.” “There is lots of gender bias […] Read More

Troubles in Airbnb paradise

In Australia’s Byron Bay, various authorities are fighting among themselves about putting a cap on short term renting, The Guardian reports. On December 14, The Guardian wrote that the local town council would be voting the next day on lowering the maximum number of days per year for subletting apartments from 180 to 90. On December 15, The Guardian followed up with an article that says the state of New South Wales had stripped the local council from the right to hold a vote, even though NSW had explicitly appointed the council as the approval authority for the proposal. Real […] Read More

How small Greek islands become living labs for smart urban tech

Vice reports on the way big corporations forge deals with the Greek government to experiment with new tech. Volkswagen is testing and making claims about zero-emissions electric vehicle mobility. On the same island, there’s is a ride-sharing service called the “Astybus,” for both tourists and residents, which can be ordered through a smartphone app, “Astymove.” Amazon on another island is setting up a “smart hub” concept, that includes the use of drones, infrastructural works to upgrade the internet, and a variety of “smart” services One of the key problems with such initiatives set up via public-private deals is that it […] Read More

The Atlantic on “The Rise of ‘Luxury Surveillance’”

The Atlantic writes about ambient intelligence and smart home products as ‘Luxury Surveillance’: “This intense devotion to tracking and quantifying all aspects of our waking and non-waking hours is nothing new—see the Apple Watch, the Fitbit, social media writ large, and the smartphone in your pocket—but Amazon has been unusually explicit about its plans. The Everything Store is becoming an Everything Tracker, collecting and leveraging large amounts of personal data related to entertainment, fitness, health, and, it claims, security. It’s surveillance that millions of customers are opting in to.” But the downside, according to the author, is that the “externally […] Read More

Face-scanning ad billboards turn public spaces into spaces of commerce and control

Vice writes about how public advertisement billboards in the UK turn up the dial a notch or two towards a pervasive Deleuzian society of control (pdf). “Companies in the UK are collecting data from millions of phones to decide which advertisements to show on billboards in locations all around Britain, according to a new investigation by Big Brother Watch, a London-based civil liberties group known for confronting public surveillance issues.” So what’s the problem? This quote sums it ip nicely, when it comes to the erosion of publicness and collective ownership: “Arvind Narayanan, a professor of computer science at Princeton […] Read More