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Platform Urbanism and Livable Cities?

Authors: Maros Krivy*, Estonian Academy of Arts
Topics: Urban Geography
Keywords: platforms, digital, urbanism, livability
Session Type: Paper
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Recent studies underlined urban dimensions to platform capitalism, and pointed out the role of Big Data in urban financialisation. There has been less research on particular built configurations associated with urban data extractivism (Morozov). Through examples ranging from much-studied Sidewalk Labs and Hudson Yards to less-known projects such as the Ülemiste City in Tallinn, this paper examines the convergence of platform urbanism (Rodgers and Moore 2018) and so-called livability, an urban planning approach that puts emphasis on pedestrianization, infrastructural greening and heritage preservation. The paper has two aims. First, it examines institutional and real estate dynamics that shape the convergence, best illustrated by the career of Bloomberg’s former Deputy Mayor for Economic Development and current CEO of Sidewalk Labs Dan Doctoroff. Second, it argues that neo-Jacobsian evocations of “sidewalk” that put center stage the ahistorical subject of urban pedestrian (walker, cyclist or user of electric scooter) are consistent with the transformation of her “sidewalk ballet” into a source of data extraction through (privatized) infrastructures. This argument is developed through discussing the dynamic curb technology, developed for Sidewalk Labs by Carlo Ratti Associates. Technological aspects and neo-urbanizing imaginaries of Ratti’s dynamic curb illuminate how the “affective micro-fabrics of the urban” (Moisio and Rossi 2019) are put to work in the “platform metropolis” (Rossi 2019).

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