Locating Digital Capital: The Urban Frontier

Authors: Anthony M Levenda, University of Calgary, Dillon Mahmoudi*, University of Maryland - Baltimore County
Topics: Urban Geography, Economic Geography, Cyberinfrastructure
Keywords: digital capitalism, urban, smart cities
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Studio 5, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

As smart cities and Internet of Things technologies position the city as an endless field for implementation and testing, the dominance of new political economic interests have overtaken the urban as a realm of exploitation and appropriation. Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple, Twitter—the “unicorns” that haunt affordable housing activists—offer up a vision of a radically changed urban future with new forms of social stratification and division. At the center of these transformations is the development of the city as a frontier for uneven capital accumulation, a platform. Scrniek’s (2016) text highlights the importance and logics at the heart of platform capitalism, but it fails to make the direct link to the city as the site of social life being subsumed by capital’s digitally-enhanced circuits (Harvey 1982). In this paper, we argue that the city is the key resource of the digital economy and that future investigation into smart cities and the Internet of Things should focus on the digital commodities created through the urban platform. The city provides the social, technical, material, and cultural “resources” that are central to capital accumulation in cognitive-cultural capitalism. We illustrate these dimensions through analyses of growing digital economies and smart city projects in Seattle, Austin, and San Francisco. We argue that future investigation into smart cities should focus on digital commodities production, circulation, and consumption as sites of exploitation and appropriation. The implications of this suggest a need for a political and social movement that entails claims to digital or informational rights to the city.

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