MIT technology review: “we need smarter cities, not smart cities”

www.technologyreview.com/2022/06/27/1053896/we-need-smarter-cities/ Well put: A focus on building “smart cities” risks turning cities into technology projects. We talk about “users” rather than people. Monthly and “daily active” numbers instead of residents. Stakeholders and subscribers instead of citizens. This also risks a transactional—and limiting—approach to city improvement, focusing on immediate returns on investment or achievements that can be distilled into KPIs.  Truly smart cities recognize the ambiguity of lives and livelihoods, and they are driven by outcomes beyond the implementation of “solutions.” 

Tracking mobile phone data as anti-abortion instruments

Mother Jones reports: Meet Abortion Bans’ New Best Friend—Your Phone When it comes to reproductive rights, your digital trail matters more than you think. […] As the line between our digital and physical selves fades, surveillance researchers and reproductive rights advocates increasingly see our data as the next big front in the war on abortion. Law enforcement has new tricks to land convictions for miscarriages or post-ban abortions; anti-abortion activists are making sophisticated updates to tried-and-true methods of stalking, harassment, and disinformation. https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2022/02/meet-abortion-bans-new-best-friend-your-phone/

How front door cameras are jeopardizing the right to not be tracked

The Intercept writes: SEN. ED MARKEY CALLS ON RING TO MAKE ITSELF LESS COP-FRIENDLY In a new letter to Amazon, Markey pushed the company to implement pro-privacy reforms and limit its collaboration with police. …the company has gone to great lengths to foster this symbiotic relationship between camera owner and law enforcement, formally partnering with hundreds of departments, running promotional giveaways, and offering cops special product discounts. I like this part of that letter: “As Ring products capture significant amounts of audio on private and public property adjacent to dwellings with Ring doorbells — including recordings of conversations that people […] Read More

Amsterdam high in Economist smart city ranking

The Economist has published an updated smart city ranking, putting Amsterdam in 2nd place. https://impact.economist.com/projects/digital-cities/ Digital Cities Index 2022 The Digital Cities Index (DCI) 2022, developed by Economist Impact and supported by NEC, considers four key pillars of digital connectivity, services, culture and sustainability in order to assess the extent and impact of digitisation in a selection of 30 global cities. Read whitepaper?????????????? What are the top ranking cities in 2022? The first iteration of the DCI provides a global ranking of 30 cities based on 17 indicators and 48 sub-indicators.The top-performing cities are Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Beijing, London and Seoul, […] Read More

Facebook’s discriminatory housing ads: Platform urbanism and social exclusion

Vice reports that Facebook’s discriminatory housing ads are (finally) under attack. A $100.000 fine does not sound like a whole lot though… https://www.vice.com/en/article/jgpx4b/after-years-of-perpetuating-housing-discrimination-facebook-gets-dollar115055-fine After Years of Perpetuating Housing Discrimination, Facebook Gets $115,055 Fine Facebook is no longer allowed to use biased algorithms to target discriminatory housing ads under a settlement with the DOJ.

Nesta report on reclaiming urban public space

Here’s a recent report by UK (social) innovation org Nesta on how cities can responsibly deploy and govern digital sensors in urban spaces. Where [..] sensors are installed by commercial actors without making sure citizens can properly consent, we become unwitting objects of pervasive privacy infringements that we don’t have the chance to opt out of. To shed some light on this little-known problem, this report seeks to showcase examples of how commercial sensors are used in city spaces, what those cities affected have been able to do about it and what other cities could take away from such experiences. […] Read More

Platform urbanism and social exclusion: Nextdoor and social sorting

Interesting article in the light of digital platforms, social exclusion, and the right to the city. https://www.vice.com/en/article/wxnea4/los-angeles-nextdoor-election-homelessness The Nextdoor Election Los Angeles’s election was a bleak referendum on how much the rich hate looking at homeless encampments. There are only two things that people talk about on Venice Beach’s Nextdoor, the hyperlocal social network. Homelessness, and lost dogs. 

Chapter in new publication on “Controversing the smart city”

Corelia Baibarac-Duignan and I wrote a chapter for this great looking book called “Speculative Design Methods for Citizen Engagement in Smart Cities Research”, edited by Emiel Rijshouwer & Liesbet van Zoonen (both EUR and Centre for BOLD Cities). In our chapter, we position controversing as a way to open up democratic discussions about smart urban futures (as we do in our research collaboration, and in our academic paper on the subject>>). Download the book here >>

[urban interfaces] seminar 2021-2022: “The Magic City”

With my colleagues from the Utrecht University-based research group [urban interfaces], we’re organizing the 5th edition of our yearly graduate seminar series. This time the theme is The Magic City >>: THE MAGIC CITY: Of technorationality and spiritual futures – [urban interfaces] Graduate seminar 2021-2022 Dates: 5 April (15:00 – 17:00), 26 April (15:00 – 17:00) and 10 May (14:00 – 17:00 with drinks) Venue: MCW Lab, Kromme Nieuwegracht 20 (theater space downstairs), Utrecht. Credits: 3 ECTS (for RMa Students and PhD Candidates only, MA students are welcome to participate, but are not eligible for credits). The seminar series is […] Read More

Interview with Nanna Verhoeff and me about MAB20

A bit late to post here, but it’s such a nice interview that I wanted to archive it anyway… Femke Niehof – science communications writer at Utrecht University – wrote up a really good article about urban technologies and public values, based on a double interview with Nanna Verhoeff and me about the Media Architecture Biennale (mab20). I’m archiving it in its entirely below: ========== Media Architecture Biennale offers perspective: In the city of the future, people and their relationship to the surroundings are at the centre 22 June 2021 Tessa Peters, Rezone Art & Architecture, www.rezone.eu You throw a […] Read More

New publication “Controversing the datafied smart city”

Corelia Baibarac-Duignan and I wrote an Open Access article for Big Data & Society, on what we call ‘controversing’ . It was written as part of our NWO-funded project “Designing for Controversies in Responsible Smart Cities“. In this paper, we propose the concept of controversing as an approach for engaging citizens in debates around the datafied city and in shaping responsible smart cities that incorporate diverse public values. Controversing addresses the engagement of citizens in discussions about the datafication of urban life by productively deploying controversies around data. Attempts to engage citizens in the smart city frequently involve ‘neutral’ data […] Read More

Media Architecture Biennale 2020 final report available

The research group [urban interfaces] I am part of was one of the organizing partners of the Media Architecture Biennale 2020, which took place 28 June – 2 July 2021 (after being was postponed due to Corona). Read the final MAB20 report here (pdf 5 MB) >> The Media Architecture Biennale (MAB20) took place from June 24th – July 2nd 2021, and was organized by Utrecht University (UU) and the University of Applied Science in Amsterdam (AUAS). MAB20 was organized by the Special Interest Group The Playful City: towards playful urban futuring, with kind financial support from the Utrecht Center for […] Read More

Editorial in special issue of Volume Magazine for MAB20

With my fellow co-organizers of MAB20, I wrote an editorial article for Volume Magazine #59 – special issue “Futures Implied”. In this article, we depart from several recent controversies around smart cities to raise some urgent issues around media technologies in the city that center around (a clash in) public values. In this editorial, I framed today’s urban situation as follows: “…cities are caught up in a double whammy between technological and societal challenges.”: From a critical vantage point, by now, these new urban technologies have been criticized for spurring the dystopian logics of ‘three Cs’: Control by states and […] Read More

Presentation at the Data Justice Conference 2021

Corelia Baibarac-Duignan presented online at the Data Justice Conference 2021 on behalf of both of us. We submitted an abstract long time ago (mid Dec. 2019), before Corona, but of course then all events had to be cancelled or postponed, so this event took place online in May 2021. The presentation was a pre-recorded one, in the “Civic responses, activism and countercultures” track. Abstract “From controversies to controversing: infrastructuring civic participation in the datafied smart city” Corelia Baibarac-Duignan & Michiel de Lange | Utrecht University, Department of Media and Culture Studies  In this paper we propose the concept of controversing as […] Read More

New paper “Data with its boots on the ground: Datawalking as research method”

Together with my colleague Karin van Es, I wrote a paper about datawalking as a method for doing research on the datafication of urban life. The paper appears in the European Journal of Communication, in a special issue guest edited by Stine Lomborg, Lina Dencik, and Hallvard Moe. It’s Open Access, and can be found here >> Abstract This article explores datawalking as a novel method in media and communication research for studying datafication. Drawing from existing literature, datawalking is characterized as an embodied, situated and generative practice. These affordances of walking help to tackle existing research challenges and connect lived […] Read More

New contribution in “The Routledge Companion to Smart Cities”

Colleagues Katharine Willis and Alessandro Aurigi have just published the edited volume “The Routledge Companion to Smart Cities“. In this compendium, Martijn de Waal, Matthijs Bouw and me co-wrote a chapter about our experiences in The Hackable City project. Here’s the TOC, which looks like a great set of chapters: Table of Contents 1.      Introduction Alessandro Aurigi and Katharine S. Willis Part 1: Smart City Governance Section 1: Urban governance, data and participatory infrastructure 2. A City is Not Computer (with Editorial Introduction) Shannon Mattern 3. Bias in Urban Research: From Tools to Environments Mark Shepard 4. Urban Science: Prospect and […] Read More

Chairing two new special interest groups

In the last few months, two Utrecht University special interest groups were awarded, of which I am the lead: Special interest group “Inclusion in the Datafied City“, as part of the Utrecht University focus area “Governing the Digital Society“. Special interest group “Playful Cities“, as part of the Utrecht University focus area “Game Research“. More info about both below: 1) Inclusion in the datafied city Modern cities are datafied cities. The Special Interest Group Inclusion in the Datafied City researches how data can contribute in strengthening civic participation and public values in the smart city. THE KEY ROLE OF DATA Data, and […] Read More

[urban interfaces] graduate seminar series on Urban Ecologies

Together with colleagues Nanna Verhoef and Sigrid Merx, I am one of the organizers of the 3rd edition of the [urban interfaces] graduate seminar (2019-2020). This year’s theme is Urban Ecologies. URBAN ECOLOGIES: The [urban interfaces] graduate seminar 2019-2020 Dates: February 11 and 25, and March 10, 2020. Time and Venue: 13.15-17.00 @ Jankskerkhof 15, room 101, Utrecht (for session 1) & MCW Lab, Muntstraat 2A, Utrecht (for sessions 2 and 3). Credits: 3 ECTS (for RMa Studentes and PhD Candidates only, MA students who want to obtain ECTS can contact Dr Nanna Verhoeff for more information). The seminar series […] Read More

Final presentations MA students New Media & Digital Culture project “Cirque du Data”, 31 Oct 2019

How to involve citizens in discussion around the datafication of their city? That’s the main question of the cultural project Cirque du Data, initiated by Utrecht-based data design office CLEVER°FRANKE and city lab RAUM. As part of the methodology course Research Lab 1 that I’m teaching at Utrecht University, we are partaking in the project. On Thursday 31 October 2019 14:30 – 17:00 we will have the final presentations by our students. Venue: Pathe Leidsche Rijn / Cinemec, Berlijnplein 100, 3541 CM Utrecht.    

Special Issue Leonardo Electronic Almanac on “Urban Interfaces”

The [urban interfaces] research group, composed of Nanna Verhoeff, Sigrid Merx and Michiel de Lange, have co-edited a special issue in Leonardo Electronic Almanac, titled “Urban Interfaces: Media, Art and Performance in Public Spaces”. We are currently wrapping up the last tidbits. See the special issue on the LEA website >>. In this collection of essays, we advance the notion of urban interfaces to explore how situated media, art, and performances (co-)constitute and (co-)construct the public spaces of our mediatized cities. Central is the question how urban interfaces may act as privileged sites to negotiate contemporary frictions in and about these […] Read More