Entrepreneurial Citizens, Open Data Advocacy and the Conflicts over “Smart City” Discourses

Authors: Alison Powell*, London School of Economics
Topics: Urban Geography, Communication, Social Geography
Keywords: smart cities, discourse, participation, platforms, communication
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Napoleon C1, Sheraton 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Industrial visions of ‘smart cities’ propose pervasive data collection as a necessary precondition to the streamlining or ‘optimization’ of city services. This depends on reformulating cities as platforms, extracting valuable data from citizens, and outsourcing its analysis and the resulting operational decisions. As these platform-based dynamics transform the relationship between the citizen and the state, data-based advocacy plays multiple roles. On one hand, open data advocacy enacts ‘good’ data citizenship, in the model of the entrepreneurial citizen - by providing audit of governments in ways that follow the discursive patterns celebrating the values of ‘openness’ and ‘transparency.’ These values are often defined in ways that echo some of the core values of open-source technical cultures, but in the age of the platformed data-extractive smart city, they also support a weakening of government and a strengthening of data based intermediaries. So on the other hand, open data advocacy is now beginning to offer another position for open data advocates has emerged that critiques the power frameworks of platform-based data-extractive urban governance. These critiques often employ the material frameworks and information infrastructure of the platformed smart city, but begin to call into question the truth and value of open data, sometimes by intervening in the function of the platforms that mediate it. This talk is an excerpt of a forthcoming book on the transforming ‘smart city’, and draws on interviews with open data advocates and civic data standards advocates.

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