Smart Cities, Urban idiots, and the Future of Public Life

Authors: Kafui Attoh*, CUNY Murphy Institute
Topics: Urban Geography, Transportation Geography, Cyberinfrastructure
Keywords: Uber, Smart Cities,
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

In early 2017 the ride-hailing company Uber released a batch of city specific aggregated trip data as part of the launch of its new Uber Movement web service. In releasing such data, Uber has sought to market itself to urban planner and others seeking to build smarter cities. While the data Uber has collected on its customer’s travel patterns may potentially allow cities to better allocate transportation resources – from where to place bus routes, to where to fix potholes-- the costs of both producing such data -- and the conditions under which such data is produced-- are worthy of exploration. Drawing on qualitative research conducted with Uber drivers in Washington DC, this paper argues that to the degree Uber’s partnerships with cities represents a movement toward “smarter cities” it also marks a movement toward, what Marx and Engels, might have deemed more “idiotic cities”—that is cities defined by privatized isolation, alienation, and political apathy. Nowhere is this clearer than to look at the work lives of Uber drivers and the data -- as fetishized commodity -- they produce.

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