'Reaching a Predictive State': Data and Control in the Smart City

Authors: Monica Brannon*, Park University
Topics: Urban Geography, Geographic Thought
Keywords: Smart City, Neoliberalism, Algorithmic Politics
Session Type: Interactive Short Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 1:20 PM / 3:00 PM
Room: Galerie 2, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Smart City Living Labs have been highlighted as innovative public-private-people partnerships in an experimental environment that fosters community co-creative relationships. Promoted as challenging the traditional models of designing and testing products, living labs make efficient diffusion of technology. Presenting a twist to these ‘utopian’ models, The Living Lab in Kansas City, Missouri is geared toward private entrepreneurs with the promise of sharing data gathered by public sensors. By relying on the utopian and progressive citizen and user centered models of the Living Lab label, this project garners legitimation and support despite is corporate governance model. As one example of the shift of Smart City development to the private sphere while relying on public funding, this indicates the ways in which data-driven initiatives operate as neoliberalizing mechanisms, moving from promises of environmentalism to corporate controlled ventures. Through data collection practices, ownership and access models, and ‘smartness’ directives, this case under examination explains how citizens ultimately become sites of capital production under the tantalizing rhetoric of futuristic urbanism. Relying on attracting investors and promising to solve urban problems, these projects operate as dividing mechanisms blanketing the foundation upon which social inequalities and urban difference exist. The controlling of social actions in sensored environments infused with standardizing algorithmic feedback systems, and the subsequent use of these outputs to control, govern, predict, and plan cities leaves marginalized residents and neighborhoods unaccounted for and the historical foundations of unequal spaces in cities further entrenched.

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