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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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
The Intercept reports about Cubic Corporation, a private company that is in part a military contractor for the U.S. and foreign military. The report unravels Cubics current role in supplying smart city technology – notably the OMNY smart card that is slated to become the new public transportation method. It also describes Cubic’s data-hungry future visions on smart cities. Privacy concerns, blurred boundaries between different operations by the company (military and civic), and mission creep when it comes to storage and reuse of data are among the key concerns. Moreover, developements like these fit in a broader tendency of militarizing […] Read More
Vice argues that “Right-wing pundits, landlords, and tech executives all believe they can prove we are amid a crime wave with just one more video.” Why? To sell cities more smart tech, of course! This gives more context to the last news item I wrote about…
The Intercept reports that the city of Detroit is on the brink of deciding whether to divert some $7 million of federal money on ShotSpotter, a controversial surveillance technology that uses publicly installed microphones to detect gunshots in cities. This seems to be yet another case of public money reserved for helping the needy is actually ending up in the pockets of private companies that sell ‘smart city’ promises: “ShotSpotter explicitly urges cities to tap funds from the American Rescue Plan Act, intended to salve financial hardship caused by the pandemic, to buy new surveillance microphones.” “Billions in Covid aid […] Read More
Another case of promoting certain types of mobility through tech: Arts Technica writes that an update to the Google Maps interface now allows for choosing the most efficient route for electric vehicles. Google Maps can now pick the most efficient route for EVs Previously, Google Maps’ “efficient” routes were only for gas vehicles.