shannon_mattern + smart_cities   207

What's Behind the Backlash Over Sidewalk Labs' Smart City? - CityLab
But there has been no guarantee about who would own the data at the core of its proposal—much of which would ostensibly be gathered in public space. Also unresolved is the question of whether this data could be sold. With little transparency about what that means from the company or its partner, some Torontonians are wondering what Waterfront Toronto—and by extension, the public—is giving away.

After all, Sidewalk Labs is a sister company of Google, the world’s largest search engine and digital advertising company. Monetizing the data that users hand over is the business model that has propelled Google to its status as an IT giant, capable of tracking and guiding society’s desires, decisions, and movements—highly valuable capabilities marketers want, too.

But in Quayside’s case, it’s not clear how, or who, would pay for Sidewalk Labs’ ambitious building plans. Some observers surmise that selling data is likely part of the financing mix.
google  sidewalk_labs  toronto  urban_planning  smart_cities 
9 weeks ago by shannon_mattern
Institutionalizing Analytic Excellence | Data-Smart City Solutions
This chapter explores the inception and operating model of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics (MODA)—a young government unit whose story is fraught with identity crisis, having been variously termed New York City’s “civic intelligence center” and City Hall’s “skunk works,” said to have been staffed by the “Mayor’s Geek Squad” or, alternatively, a team of “data therapists.”1 These varying epithets reflect changes in leadership, staff makeup, and institutional design in the eight years since its inception. What persists throughout these changes, however, is that MODA is foundationally an in-house consultancy helping city agencies use data and analytical techniques to improve how they deliver on their missions. By combining a shared service model for public-sector analytics with a broad data stewardship mandate, MODA represents a structural innovation in the way municipal government uses data analytics to produce public value.
big_data  smart_cities  methodology 
9 weeks ago by shannon_mattern
Are New York’s Free LinkNYC Internet Kiosks Tracking Your Movements?
According to Meyers, the “LinkNYC Mobile Observation” code collects the user’s longitude and latitude, as well as the user’s browser type, operating system, device type, device identifiers, and full URL clickstreams (including date and time) and aggregates this information into a database. In Meyers’s view, this code — along with the functions of the “RxLocation” codebase — suggests that the company is interested in tracking the locations of Wi-Fi users in real time. If such code were run on a mobile app or kiosk, he said, the company would be able to make advertisements available in real time based on where and who someone was, and that this would constitute a potential violation of the company’s privacy policy. In 2016, LinkNYC’s privacy policy made it clear that it did not collect information about users’ precise locations. “However,” it states, “we know where we provide WiFi services, so when you use the services we can determine your general location.”
smart_cities  linknyc  tracking  surveillance 
9 weeks ago by shannon_mattern
Unstable Control - e-flux Architecture - e-flux
Built in 2010 in reaction to a calamitous landslide, COR was planned to anticipate and respond to future disasters and infrastructure failures. Equally important, it was intended to demonstrate Rio’s commitment to improved urban administration and traffic management. To the International Olympic Committee and Rio’s citizens both, COR was heralded as an urban feedback system and control center that would combine disaster response, urban sensor monitoring, and a form of intelligent traffic administration that would speed circulation during the crush of the 2016 Summer Olympics and after.

The technical and conceptual armature for COR originated in IBM’s “Smarter Cities” initiative. A second, separate command and control center supports police and defense operations by conducting urban surveillance, face recognition sweeps, and crowd pattern evaluation. Segregating overt security and tracking tasks from COR’s operations left IBM and COR with a relatively narrow mandate. COR amasses data on traffic flows, urban health, and weather patterns and responds to interruptions by changing traffic routes and by directing emergency teams to sites of interruption. In short, COR’s primary tasks are to monitor, assess, and represent the metabolism of the city and to respond to actual or potential disruptions that drain, slow, or block it....

COR measures abnormality according to four escalating scales of intensity: incident, event, emergency, crisis. How this scale is registered and represented, and how it determines response, form the foundation of Rio’s computational urbanism.

At first glance, COR’s control syntax appears banal and managerial. Yet it is also charged with potential crisis. For example, if protest erupts, then traffic will have to be redirected to avoid paralysis. If buildings explode, routes will need to be cleared to usher response teams. Explosions, fires, protests, landslides, rallies, and sudden tropical storms combine with faulty traffic lights, accidents, spilled trucks, burning buses, and quotidian congestion as elements of the COR syntax....

Songdo’s master plan—which places towers adjacent to its “central park,” allocates space to global universities and charter schools, and inserts museums and cultural centers into the city grid—is designed to attract residents by generating a convincing image of city life. This is a spreadsheet urbanism, for which elements, buildings, programs, and amenities are determined by a serial logic of differentiation and are calculated to deliver an impression of programmatic and morphological diversity. Yet the fully regulated city is also intrinsically fearful of the diversity, disorder, and social tensions that are among the most visible signs of urbanity....

Songdo is a byproduct of disinvestment in conventional public welfare programs and the inverse investment in border security, immigration, and other global population circulation controls and restrictions. ...

If environmental monitoring and domestic monitoring merge through waste disposal, Songdo’s streets are the site of the most complete condensation. The habituation to monitoring on the inside extends notions of domestic security out onto the streets. In Songdo’s control room—and in its imagination—the street persists as the image of both threat and control, the image of smart city efficiency and optimization, as well as the image of social fears and transgressions. In Songdo, there is a plan to geotag children to better monitor their movement and for fear they will be hit by traffic. Incoming cars are monitored to track drivers, check records, and to alert the city of possible criminal intrusion. Within a narrative of smart city civic life gone awry, each accident is the consequence of a particular system failure. As in Rio de Janeiro, traffic engineering in Songdo is politics. Here, it is also biopolitics: a metonomy of sensing operations connect city, street, camera, license plate, and particulate sensor to environmental threat and to new forms of monitored life....

Smart city control rooms exhibit and conflate at least two primary characteristics. The first is the rational administration of the city. Faced with intensifying density, complexity, and the striation of populations through wealth disparities and access to services, the control room promises a corrective process of municipal management. The second is through their association with urban emergency response centers, from which smart cities cathect an urban imaginary of failures, crises, and vulnerabilities. A sense of threat attaches itself to the smart city at its origins. Looming political instability, environmental catastrophe, financial precarity, infrastructural entropy, and other signs of urban apocalypse fuel the desire for smart city experimentation.
smart_cities  dashboards 
august 2018 by shannon_mattern
Internet as a city
If the Internet were a city, what would be its roads, buildings, and parks? How do people, businesses and governing bodies produce insights into the qualitative characteristics of distribution beyond the tired triptych of centralized, decentralized, and distributed?

In this hands-on workshop, wel examine decentralized forms of networking through the lenses of cities, urbanism, and architecture. In small groups, participants are provided with “urban” elements to construct landscapes that tease out models of decentralization and governance for the “Internet as a city.” Warm up exercises help attendants image websites as a building, and mapping trails as browsing experiences.

We extend this exploration to modes of governance in decision making, and notions of “public space” or the commons.
networks  smart_cities  urban_form  infrastructure  games 
august 2018 by shannon_mattern
Searching for the Smart City's Democratic Future | Centre for International Governance Innovation
According to Amira Elghawaby, a journalist and human rights advocate, “data governance is a complex issue that is out of reach for many; public and private institutions need to create the opportunities for these necessary discussions.”

Well-funded and intensive public education and engagement programs present opportunities for government and technology firms alike to ensure human rights and economic development are considered alongside each other.

That said, how these programs are structured and scheduled matters. Both Brazil and Taiwan, for example, had deeply deliberative approaches that provided the support needed for the complexity of smart city issues. Brazil conducted an intensive public process to create the Brazilian Internet Bill of Rights, and Taiwan created new and expansive ways to consult on technology issues both online and in person. Engagement will always be influenced by local factors, but whatever process is selected must reflect a deep commitment to education alongside engagement. This commitment to public education is critical in the face of the heavily commercial public relations and marketing efforts that are part of the smart city industry’s agenda.... Arguably, a number of avenues already exist to help support education campaigns on smart cities — public libraries have long been considered the civic institutions best positioned to convene and lead the work. They’re already doing what they can, but with dedicated funding, they could do more and then feed their findings back into federal policy creation....

At a legislative level, the recently enacted European General Data Protection Regulation is instructive — among its other provisions, including harsh corporate penalties for abuse, it seeks to improve consent mechanisms and give individuals more power to define how their data is used. At the community level, Decode, a European data project, “provides tools that put individuals in control of whether they keep their personal information private or share it for the public good.”

In Canada, for the Sidewalk Toronto project, the idea of a data trust has been raised as a possible solution for the management of civic data. Data trusts might provide a short-term data management approach, but they also require new levels of civic participation, which are challenging to meet for residents already burdened with other realities of life.

According to Renee Sieber, associate professor in the Department of Geography at McGill University, data trusts aren’t likely to be a cure-all. “We grant government the right to collect very personal data about us to improve the public and personal good. This is a fundamental part of the social contract. We don’t have that relationship with the private sector. ...

There are, however, new approaches to technology management that stand as examples of improvement. They include the use of participatory models that engage residents in decision making and data stewardship. While most of these models are not set in the fully entrenched type of smart city real-estate development that Sidewalk Toronto represents, they make strides in defining best practices for smart cities. Francesca Bria, the chief technology officer for the city of Barcelona, is spearheading one such initiative....

Under her leadership, Barcelona is instituting policy to guarantee not only open technology systems as a procurement requirement, but also resident control of data and technology-driven civic participation. In another nod to civil society at the centre of the smart city, Barcelona’s public libraries are being brought in to support the open data program component, an approach that Canadian community technology leaders such as Mita Williams have wanted for years....

Anthony Townsend, author of Smart Cities: Big Data, Civic Hackers, and the Quest for a New Utopia, explains that the baseline operational models for cities — everything from how public records are organized to information-handling principles — haven’t been revisited in decades. He suggests that cities should create digital master plans to direct overarching technology policy that can support a city’s general strategic planning efforts.
smart_cities  data_governance  my_work  public_process 
august 2018 by shannon_mattern
Toronto’s Sidewalk Labs is facing accusations of an Orwellian takeover - The Washington Post
“The smart city industry is a Trojan horse for technology companies,” she told The WorldPost. “They come in under the guise of environmentalism and improving quality of life, but they’re here for money.”...

“This is a story about governance, not urban innovation,” Wylie said. “There is nothing innovative about partnering with a monopoly.”

TRC’s founders are not opposed to the concept of smart cities in principle. Their concerns revolve around the collection and commodification of urban data and whether that occurs through a democratic process or via corporate fiat....

As it is, technological innovation has far outpaced lawmakers’ ability to establish the rules of the road, whether in the context of Google and Facebook’s immensely profitable endeavor to commodify Internet browsing activity or Internet-connected assistants like Amazon’s Alexa...

It’s one thing to willingly install Alexa in your home. It’s another when publicly owned infrastructure — streets, bridges, parks and plazas — is Alexa, so to speak. There’s no opting out of public space, or government services, for which Sidewalk Labs appears eager to provide an IT platform...

Wylie doesn’t see it as a topic for debate. “Data produced by the public should be publicly owned and managed transparently,” she said. “A lot of the urban problems that smart-city projects propose to address don’t require a technological solution. Toronto’s affordable housing crisis isn’t going to be solved with more data — it’s political will that’s lacking.”...

When the Quayside project was announced last year, the terms of the contract between the company and Waterfront Toronto, a government-created agency that has partnered with Sidewalk to develop Quayside, were not made public. This was because they included “commercially sensitive provisions,” reporters were told at the time....

“I know enough about the agreement that I think you would like to know more about the agreement"...

“I was shocked and offended by the question as a Canadian … how blindly ambitious do you have to be as a private American company to even imply that our public voting systems are within your mandate?”...

In previous meetings, the presentation had focused on cutting-edge technology but now seemed more about convincing attendees that Toronto would not become a “dystopian technocapitalist hellscape,” as New York Times columnist Farhad Manjoo recently described big tech’s pivot to city-building.
smart_cities  sidewalk_labs 
august 2018 by shannon_mattern
Cracks appear in Sidewalk Labs’ Toronto waterfront plan after fanfare - The Globe and Mail
(In the meantime, Sidewalk, which insists that none of its ideas is set in stone, has launched a public relations campaign that includes citizen workshops, a "design jam" and free summer camp for kids.)...

"The ultimate management of it is something that we will figure out as we move forward," he said. "But I think any sense of the notion that this is government turning over the regulatory or supervisory or administrative functions of government to some private entity is just not accurate."

Still, Sidewalk's response to Waterfront Toronto's request for proposal does call for radical changes to zoning and the building code and warns that "opportunities for innovation in the areas of transportation and energy may require substantial forbearances from existing laws and regulations."
smart_cities  sidewalk_labs  public_process  public_design 
july 2018 by shannon_mattern
Sensor city: Sidewalk Labs’ Toronto project triggers debate over data - The Globe and Mail
Concerns have begun to emerge, however, that uncritically embracing the opportunity of Quayside could set precedents that stifle Canada's potential. And a growing number of Canadian tech leaders are beginning to ask: If data generated by Canadian cities creates value, shouldn't Canadians share in it?...

How Canada's next generation of infrastructure is built will determine who gets the most value and competitive advantage from it - not just now, but in 10, 20, even 50 years, as cities evolve, innovation blossoms and unanticipated revenue streams emerge. Many tech leaders are calling for a national data strategy, similar to those being discussed across Europe, to ensure that Canada doesn't unwittingly sign away the chance for economic spinoffs. And while Ottawa is promising such a strategy in the coming months, it may not come in time to address Alphabet's Toronto conquest....

Sidewalk has discussed creating a trust to own the data generated by the Quayside project, which Mr. Doctoroff said might be a more independent path than having it handled by governments. It has also promised not to commercialize the data, but Mr. Doctoroff said the company has not ruled out "ultimately licensing the technology" developed in Toronto as a way to monetize the project...

Without a cohesive national strategy, Canada's data risks being taken advantage of, says Ben Bergen, executive director of the Council of Canadian Innovators, which is chaired by former Research in Motion Ltd. co-CEO Jim Balsillie...

forthcoming strategy would address some of the issues Canada's tech community is raising: "Who owns the data? Who will benefit from data? Who monetizes the data? What are some of the ethical issues around that?" In Ontario, Economic Development Minister Steven Del Duca said in an interview that questions around Sidewalk's proposals for Toronto have "focused" the province's need to act, and multiple ministries are working together on a cohesive plan: "We can't afford to wait five or 10 years."
data_privacy  smart_cities  sidewalk_labs  privacy  big_data 
july 2018 by shannon_mattern
Policing Is an Information Business | Urban Omnibus
Policing and urban planning have a lot in common. Both cops and planners’ ostensible goal is to make the city a more livable place, though this goal is constantly haunted by a question: Livable for whom? Both transform a public’s experience of a city, generally by imposing and enforcing rules and systems that change how people move through space. In the United States, public understanding of both professions is to some extent influenced by romanticized media narratives which heavily emphasize cities like Los Angeles and New York. Both sectors have a particularly heavy fetish for maps and data as mechanisms for understanding and shaping cities, a fetish that has intensified in the past few decades thanks to advances in technology.

Where the two professions diverge starkly is in matters of time and violence. Where urban planning might be considered a slower, bureaucratic, deliberative process, policing is expected to engage with and respond to city conditions and events in real time — or, increasingly, ahead of time. And unlike urban planners, cops are permitted to respond with firearms and Tasers.

That being said, planning is fully capable of enacting slower, more systemic acts of violence onto a city, and like policing, such violence can be enabled and plausibly denied by sufficiently complex data and maps. Where the urban planner has eminent domain and urban renewal, the police officer has crime hotspots and risk terrain modeling. Where a planner might control a city through highway design and traffic flows, a police department’s automated license plate readers or mobile cell site simulators render public movement into potential patterns of criminal behavior...

Of course, as tremendous instruments of power and violence, maps have been used by police (agents of the former, authorized to hold a monopoly on the latter) for decades. But in the 1990s, the emergence of desktop GIS software for and in police departments dramatically increased the data collection and storage capacities of that “information business.” The technology’s adoption coincided with the era of NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton and his avuncular lieutenant Jack Maple. This is where many histories tend to pinpoint the transformational moment for crime mapping: Bratton and Maple tracking turnstile jumpers in the New York City subway system, Maple outlining a four-point theory of policing management on a napkin at Elaine’s restaurant (“Accurate, timely intelligence; rapid deployment, effective tactics; relentless follow-up and assessment”), New York’s crime rate precipitously falling thanks to the data-driven innovations of CompStat....

The first CompStat maps were made with pins, paper, and transparent acetate. The NYPD technically didn’t have the budget to support their cost, so the New York City Police Foundation provided a $10,000 donation. Although the department would eventually switch to computerized maps, displayed on eight foot-by-eight foot screens in One Police Plaza, the image of police officers fumbling with pushpins and acetate film they could barely afford suggests a surprisingly scrappy origin story for a management strategy so often associated with precision and technical expertise — even if its own name is both vague and technically meaningless....

With the suspension of traditional legal oversight over surveillance, the NYPD Intelligence Bureau expanded the geography of threats to public disorder beyond the broken window and inside the perfectly-maintained façades of mosques, restaurants, and internet cafés in predominantly Muslim communities.

That geography fell primarily to the purview of the Demographics Unit, which employed a mix of street-level surveillance and undercover work with mapping and analysis of publicly available data.
predictive_policing  smart_cities  governance  urban_planning  policing  mapping 
june 2018 by shannon_mattern
Facing Icy Divide, VCs Seek to Make Cities Smarter - WSJ
Palo Alto, Calif.-based Social Capital is the first venture firm to form a partnership with 100 Resilient Cities, a Rockefeller Foundation-backed initiative focused on helping cities anticipate and adapt to challenges ranging from inefficient transportation to chronic water shortages.

Social Capital will back up to 10 startups addressing problems identified in collaboration with 100 Resilient Cities. The partnership also seeks to improve the sometimes tense relations between the tech industry and public officials.

100 Resilient Cities President Michael Berkowitz said public and private-sector leaders connected last year at a summit of city officials and investors, where he saw a deep divide between the two groups.

Some city officials resented the flouting of local regulations by the likes of Airbnb Inc. and Uber Technologies Inc., Mr. Berkowitz said. One mayor asked investors why startups should even be allowed in their cities. At the same time, the venture capitalists said city leaders didn’t understand the direction innovation is headed.

“It was so stark,” he said.

But Mr. Berkowitz is hopeful venture capitalists can be a part of repairing the divide between startups and city leaders, starting with this partnership. He was impressed by the Social Capital investors’ understanding of the city perspective on technology.

Social Capital focuses on solving hard problems and is willing to wait longer on returns so that it can back companies that fit into the firm’s big-picture vision to advance humanity, said Chamath Palihapitiya, chief executive of the firm, which he has called the “for-profit Justice League.”
smart_cities  funding  venture_capital 
june 2018 by shannon_mattern
Developing a new Centre For Collective Intelligence Design: learning how to combine human and machine intelligence at scale | Nesta
The last 12 months have brought huge excitement around artificial intelligence, prompting a mix of responses that range from a feverish investment boom to deep anxieties. We see great potential in AI, if handled well. But we also believe that many of the biggest gains will come from better approaches to combining human and machine intelligence, and in particular harnessing the intelligence of groups.

That is why Nesta is creating a new centre to focus on the practical skills needed to design intelligence well. We want to start with the problems and challenges rather than starting with particular technologies. How could a city better manage its labour markets or air quality? How could cancer or diabetes care make the most of both medical knowledge and patient experience? How could school systems mobilise the insights of teachers as well as data and algorithms to better teach young people?

Although great strides are being made in computer and data science we believe there is a glaring gap, an absence of institutions devoted to what we call ‘intelligence design’. There are pockets of deep skill — some within commercial firms like Amazon and Google — but very little of this has been codified or shared more widely. As a result, and despite the spread of smart technologies, many of the systems we depend on most are much less smart than they could be....

So far, however, the vast majority of practice, policy and research has focused on these areas separately, with little attention given to the potential for innovation when human and machine intelligence is combined, even though in practice much AI is far more human than most people realise, involving constant supervision and adjustment. There is an emerging academic discipline of collective intelligence and a field of promising practice. But it remains tiny by comparison with artificial intelligence. Working with others around the world we hope to achieve a better balance - and, in time, better outcomes as a result.
artificial_intelligence  smart_cities  urban_intelligence 
may 2018 by shannon_mattern
Hacking the Civic Architecture | Urban Omnibus
EG: BoardStat was conceived as a way to make 311 data understandable to community board members. Each community district has its own BoardStat, which streams in data that’s been filtered to the district boundaries. It shows the top ten complaint types, trend lines, and addresses that are getting the most complaints. You can delve into a particular address and see its whole history of 311 issues, you can look at spikes, you can look at seasonal analysis and see how 311 service requests vary over time.
NH: 311 is the activist’s tool inside city government. It’s the one thing that you can use to articulate your problems very clearly (as long as your problems fall within the government’s set of buckets). As a Safe Streets activist, you can take a photo of a taxi cab blocking a sidewalk, crosswalk, or bike lane, and then that starts this whole administrative process of that driver being fined for creating a dangerous situation. At the other end, BoardStat enables someone to see where those incidents are happening in aggregate, potentially because of bad street design.
UO: So anyone can use this to get a sense of what’s going on in their district: What are red flags, what are issues that might be visible through the 311 data that might not come out from someone calling the community board on the phone?
EG: Exactly.
NH: It includes a ton of different views on the data. Our address lookup page comes from one conversation with Community Board 4, where they said, “We want to look into that particular address, how do we do that?” Another view came from, I think it was CB 10, where they wanted to be able to select a particular complaint type and see everything on a map....

UO: It sounds like one thing is having the products and the tools, but even more important than that is how folks are trained and empowered to actually use them.
NH: Yeah, that’s our hack. What we learned is that you have to have some sort of product that has already been co-designed by the users. This is Technology Development 101: Work with somebody who’s already using a product to make it so desirable that everybody else wants it. Figuring out how to localize that narrative inside of community boards has been a slow process because it has required building relationships, building trust, as well as building expertise about the issues, the pain points, places they’ve been bruised before.
We went out to Brooklyn and started talking about BoardStat, and the board members said, “That’s cool, but we need a relationship management database. We used to use it in City Council, we need one for Brooklyn. It’s like Salesforce, you can do that.” Look, we’re two people. We would love to do that but do you realize what it takes to maintain a professional-level CRM? So then our role is to figure out the resources it would take and how to legitimize this request so that the city will understand it. It’s not super transparent how this process has happened in the past. Now we’re slowly carving out spaces in the formal process for community boards to articulate their issues and their needs around 21st-century tools.
smart_cities  open_data  dashboards  software  civic_tech 
may 2018 by shannon_mattern
Solutions Search | Data-Smart City Solutions
This searchable database indexes visual and geospatial solutions to critical urban problems. Examples span the city, county, state, and federal levels, and feature a wide variety of interventions and initiatives, including maps, data visualizations, and dashboards. Searchable by a project's end goal, issue area and type of intervention, the database is a resource hub for civic leaders seeking models for replication and inspiration about how visual tools can unlock data-driven insights.
smart_cities  visualization  dashboards 
may 2018 by shannon_mattern
Crisis and Contingency at the Dashboard - Journal #90 April 2018 - #90 April 2018 - Journal - e-flux
This urban dashboard heralds what Shannon Mattern calls “the age of Dashboard Governance.”2 Originating in the multiscreen Bloomberg terminals tracking real-time market activity against current events and historical trends, the urban dashboard is the state appropriation of the techno-political form produced at the intersection of the datafication of capital and the capitalization of data. The key image here is a centralized, seemingly all-seeing platform with the power to aggregate, analyze, and visualize the data gathered from across the city’s network of sensors, and from which “weak signals” pointing towards an emerging crisis or opportunity can be identified and acted upon....

As crisis frames the Smart Nation’s urban dashboard, the latter turns the former into a material-semiotic operation, pegging motion to vision as it drives down the road and clears the dirt, reinscribing the geo-body of the nation as it does. While in most parts of the world, the infrastructure of the city renders it a political exception to the rest of the country, in Singapore the Smart Nation recuperates the nation through an infrastructure of crisis.
smart_cities  singapore  big_data  urban_planning  dashboards  my_work  surveillance  crisis 
april 2018 by shannon_mattern
Zeitschrift GAIA im oekom verlag
Theresia Bauer: Research on Real-World Laboratories in Baden-Württemberg –
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Felix Wagner, Eric Miller: The Background and History of Real-World Laboratory Funding in Baden-Württemberg –
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Interview: 12 QUESTIONS TO … Helga Nowotny –
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Niko Schäpke, Matthias Bergmann, Franziska Stelzer, Daniel J. Lang (Guest Editors): Labs in the Real World: Advancing Transdisciplinary Research and Sustainability Transformation – Mapping the Field and Emerging Lines of Inquiry
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Uwe Schneidewind, Karoline Augenstein, Franziska Stelzer, Matthias Wanner: Structure Matters: Real-World Laboratories as a New Type of Large-Scale Research Infrastructure – A Framework Inspired by Giddens’ Structuration Theory
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Sebastian Rogga, Jana Zscheischler, Nadin Gaasch: How Much of the Real-World Laboratory Is Hidden in Current Transdisciplinary Research? –
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Mandy Singer-Brodowski, Richard Beecroft, Oliver Parodi: Learning in Real-World Laboratories – A Systematic Impulse for Discussion
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laboratories  labs  smart_cities  urban_design  participation 
march 2018 by shannon_mattern
From territorial to functional sovereignty: the case of Amazon | openDemocracy
When state authority contracts, private parties fill the gap. That power can feel just as oppressive, and have effects just as pervasive, as garden variety administrative agency enforcement of civil law. As Robert Lee Hale stated, “There is government whenever one person or group can tell others what they must do and when those others have to obey or suffer a penalty.”

We are familiar with that power in employer-employee relationships, or when a massive firm extracts concessions from suppliers. But what about when a firm presumes to exercise juridical power, not as a party to a conflict, but the authority deciding it? I worry that such scenarios will become all the more common as massive digital platforms exercise more power over our commercial lives....

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From territorial to functional sovereignty: the case of Amazon
FRANK PASQUALE 5 January 2018
As digital firms move to displace more government roles over time, from room-letting to transportation to commerce, citizens will be increasingly subject to corporate, rather than democratic, control.

Economists tend to characterize the scope of regulation as a simple matter of expanding or contracting state power. But a political economy perspective emphasizes that social relations abhor a power vacuum. When state authority contracts, private parties fill the gap. That power can feel just as oppressive, and have effects just as pervasive, as garden variety administrative agency enforcement of civil law. As Robert Lee Hale stated, “There is government whenever one person or group can tell others what they must do and when those others have to obey or suffer a penalty.”

We are familiar with that power in employer-employee relationships, or when a massive firm extracts concessions from suppliers. But what about when a firm presumes to exercise juridical power, not as a party to a conflict, but the authority deciding it? I worry that such scenarios will become all the more common as massive digital platforms exercise more power over our commercial lives.

A few weeks ago, the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (a think tank affiliated with the Social Democratic Party in Germany) invited me to speak at their Conference on Digital Capitalism. As European authorities develop long-term plans to address the rise of powerful platforms, they want to know: What is new, or particularly challenging, in digital capitalism?



My answer focused on the identity and aspirations of major digital firms. They are no longer market participants. Rather, in their fields, they are market makers, able to exert regulatory control over the terms on which others can sell goods and services. Moreover, they aspire to displace more government roles over time, replacing the logic of territorial sovereignty with functional sovereignty. In functional arenas from room-letting to transportation to commerce, persons will be increasingly subject to corporate, rather than democratic, control.

For example: Who needs city housing regulators when AirBnB can use data-driven methods to effectively regulate room-letting, then house-letting, and eventually urban planning generally? Why not let Amazon have its own jurisdiction or charter city, or establish special judicial procedures for Foxconn? Some vanguardists of functional sovereignty believe online rating systems could replace state occupational licensure—so rather than having government boards credential workers, a platform like LinkedIn could collect star ratings on them....

Amazon’s rise is instructive. As Lina Khan explains, “the company has positioned itself at the center of e-commerce and now serves as essential infrastructure for a host of other businesses that depend upon it.” The “everything store” may seem like just another service in the economy—a virtual mall. But when a firm combines tens of millions of customers with a “marketing platform, a delivery and logistics network, a payment service, a credit lender, an auction house…a hardware manufacturer, and a leading host of cloud server space,” as Khan observes, it’s not just another shopping option....

Note that these maneuvers–what Tracey Kaye calls “corporate seduction” via tax and other incentives–are not new. But as they accelerate, they mark a faster transfer of power from state to corporate actors. The mayors are in a weakened position because their tax revenues are not high enough to support high quality municipal services, and now they’re succoring a corporate actor with a long history of fighting to push taxation even lower. Similarly, the more online buyers and sellers are relying on Amazon to do their bidding or settle their disputes, the less power they have relative to Amazon itself.
smart_cities  corporatization  smartcityfables 
march 2018 by shannon_mattern
Palantir has secretly been using New Orleans to test its predictive policing technology - The Verge
As part of the discovery process in Lewis’ trial, the government turned over more than 60,000 pages of documents detailing evidence gathered against him from confidential informants, ballistics, and other sources — but they made no mention of the NOPD’s partnership with Palantir, according to a source familiar with the 39ers trial.

The program began in 2012 as a partnership between New Orleans Police and Palantir Technologies, a data-mining firm founded with seed money from the CIA’s venture capital firm. According to interviews and documents obtained by The Verge, the initiative was essentially a predictive policing program, similar to the “heat list” in Chicago that purports to predict which people are likely drivers or victims of violence.

The partnership has been extended three times, with the third extension scheduled to expire on February 21st, 2018. The city of New Orleans and Palantir have not responded to questions about the program’s current status.

Predictive policing technology has proven highly controversial wherever it is implemented, but in New Orleans, the program escaped public notice, partly because Palantir established it as a philanthropic relationship with the city through Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s signature NOLA For Life program. Thanks to its philanthropic status, as well as New Orleans’ “strong mayor” model of government, the agreement never passed through a public procurement process....

In fact, key city council members and attorneys contacted by The Verge had no idea that the city had any sort of relationship with Palantir, nor were they aware that Palantir used its program in New Orleans to market its services to another law enforcement agency for a multimillion-dollar contract....

Six years ago, one of the world’s most secretive and powerful tech firms developed a contentious intelligence product in a city that has served as a neoliberal laboratory for everything from charter schools to radical housing reform since Hurricane Katrina. Because the program was never public, important questions about its basic functioning, risk for bias, and overall propriety were never answered....

Prediction is not new territory for Palantir. Since at least 2009, Palantir was used by the Pentagon to predict the location of improvised explosive devices in Afghanistan and Iraq — a wartime risk-assessment program absent the civil liberties concerns that come with individualized predictive policing. Its commercial software platform, Metropolis, also reportedly uses predictive analytics to help businesses develop consumer markets and streamline investments. But before 2012 with the New Orleans program, there is no publicly available record that Palantir had ventured into predictive policing....

Interest and investment in predictive policing technology accelerated after 2009 when the National Institute of Justice began issuing grants for pilot projects in crime forecasting. Those grants underpin some of the best-known — and most scrutinized — predictive policing efforts in Chicago and Los Angeles. Programs vary, and the algorithms are often proprietary, but they all aim to ingest vast stores of data — geography, criminal records, the weather, social media histories — and make predictions about individuals or places likely to be involved in a crime. In the following years, many startup firms have struggled to monetize the crime-fighting method — most notably PredPol, a California startup whose contract awards have foundered after an initial blitz of publicity in the early 2010s....

“We’re kind of a prototype,” said Matalin. “Unless you’re the cousin of some drug dealer that went bad, you’re going to be okay.”...

The Palantir partnership would have likely received more scrutiny from the city council had it been itemized in a budget, but the council’s approval isn’t required for such a program. The structure of city government in New Orleans is predicated on a “strong mayor” model where the council does not have approval authority over contracts or policies for the city police department.

Cities around the country have recently begun to grapple with the question of if and how municipalities should regulate data sharing and privacy. Some cities like Seattle and Oakland have passed legislation establishing committees to craft guidelines and conduct oversight, while others like New York are discussing what role city councils should play regarding privacy in the digital age....

Palantir’s prediction model in New Orleans used an intelligence technique called social network analysis (or SNA) to draw connections between people, places, cars, weapons, addresses, social media posts, and other indicia in previously siloed databases. Think of the analysis as a practical version of a Mark Lombardi painting that highlights connections between people, places, and events. After entering a query term — like a partial license plate, nickname, address, phone number, or social media handle or post — NOPD’s analyst would review the information scraped by Palantir’s software and determine which individuals are at the greatest risk of either committing violence or becoming a victim, based on their connection to known victims or assailants.

The data on individuals came from information scraped from social media as well as NOPD criminal databases for ballistics, gangs, probation and parole information, jailhouse phone calls, calls for service, the central case management system (i.e., every case NOPD had on record), and the department’s repository of field interview cards. The latter database represents every documented encounter NOPD has with citizens, even those that don’t result in arrests. In 2010, The Times-Picayune revealed that Chief Serpas had mandated that the collection of field interview cards be used as a measure of officer and district performance, resulting in over 70,000 field interview cards filled out in 2011 and 2012. The practice resembled NYPD’s “stop and frisk” program and was instituted with the express purpose of gathering as much intelligence on New Orleanians as possible, regardless of whether or not they committed a crime....If someone had been shot, Serpas explained, Asher would use Palantir’s software to find people associated with them through field interviews or social media data. “This data analysis brings up names and connections between people on FIs [field interview cards], on traffic stops, on victims of reports, reporting victims of crimes together, whatever the case may be...

According to Palantir’s own documentation, Asher and his colleagues ran social network analyses of every victim of a fatal or non-fatal shooting in New Orleans from 2011 through 2013. Through this technique, which Asher dubbed “The NOLA Model,” the city devised a list of roughly 3,900 people who were at the highest risk of being involved in gun violence because of their connection to a previous shooter or victim. “We can identify 30-40% of shooting victims,” Asher claimed at Palantir’s 2014 internal conference. Asher declined repeated requests for an interview.

Theoretically, Asher’s approach is substantially influenced by the research of Andrew Papachristos, a Yale professor who tracked violence as if it were a communicable disease spreading through networks of association. However, since his work was cited as the academic underpinning for crime-forecasting models employed by PredPol and the Chicago Police Department, Papachristos has sought to distance his research from those methods.

Once NOPD generated its list of likely shooters and victims, the police department and social service providers — for the “carrot” side of NOLA For Life — would select people who were either incarcerated or on court supervision for a “call-in meeting.”...

Regardless of the sustainability of New Orleans’ murder reduction, Palantir used its work with the NOPD to solicit large contracts with other American cities. Later, the company won lucrative contracts for predictive programs with foreign governments....

Last year, the liberal Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Israel’s security services used analytics systems that scraped social media and other data to predict potential “lone-wolf” attackers from Palestinian communities in the West Bank, and that Palantir was one of only two technology companies to provide predictive intelligence systems to Israeli security organizations. The New Orleans project is the first reported instance of Palantir using social media data as a part of the company’s social network analysis....

If Palantir’s partnership with New Orleans had been public, the issues of legality, transparency, and propriety could have been hashed out in a public forum during an informed discussion with legislators, law enforcement, the company, and the public. For six years, that never happened.
smart_cities  palantir  prediction  policing  social_network_analysis  methodology 
march 2018 by shannon_mattern
Tech Envisions the Ultimate Start-Up: An Entire City - The New York Times
In the maddening gap between how this place functions and how inventors and engineers here think it should, many have become enamored with the same idea: What if the people who build circuits and social networks could build cities, too? Wholly new places, designed from scratch and freed from broken policies.

Mr. Huh leads a project begun by the start-up accelerator Y Combinator to explore the creation of new cities. Hundreds applied to work on what looked like “the ultimate full-stack start-up.” Last October, Sidewalk Labs, an Alphabet company, announced it would team up with a government agency in Toronto to redevelop a stretch of the city “from the internet up.”

For others in tech — intrigued by word of a proposed smart city in Arizona, a big Bitcoin land grab in Nevada, a special economic zone in Honduras — fantasizing about newly built cities has become a side gig. They dream of utopias with driverless cars, radical property-ownership models, 3-D-printed houses and skyscrapers assembled in days.

While some urban planners roll their eyes, it is true that America’s cities have always been built on someone’s hubris, whether the characters who plotted Manhattan’s street grid, or those who imagined the Golden Gate Bridge.

“Who were these guys who were thinking so big? Then the question is, where are those people now?” said Paul Romer, the former chief economist at the World Bank, whose ideas (and TED talks) on new “charter cities” have influenced some in tech. “Tech types — as much as people might talk about the parochial way they’re approaching it — deserve credit for thinking bigger than anybody in government right now.”

Their interest has an internal logic to it. The tech industry tries to produce better versions of familiar things — cheaper phones, smaller computers, faster chips. But cities like San Francisco don’t seem to be evolving into more efficient versions of themselves. And if you take literally the economist Ed Glaeser’s assertion in “Triumph of the City” that cities are our greatest invention, it ought to be possible to reinvent them....

To planners and architects, all of this sounds like the naïveté of newcomers who are mistaking political problems for engineering puzzles.

Utopian city-building schemes have seldom succeeded. What we really need, they say, is to fix the cities we already have, not to set off in search of new ones....

“It’s very easy to get a sense of déjà vu,” said Nicholas de Monchaux, a designer and Berkeley professor who describes this history in his book “Spacesuit.”

Technologically optimized cities, he says, failed then for the same reason they would be unsuccessful now. Technology can help reduce traffic, or connect you faster to a ride home. “But a city is not at its fundamental level optimizable,” he said. A city’s dynamism derives from its inefficiencies, from people and ideas colliding unpredictably.

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It’s also unclear what you’d optimize an entire city for. Technologists describe noble aspirations like “human flourishing” or “quality of life.” But noble goals come into conflict within cities. You could optimize for affordable housing, but then you may create a more crowded city than many residents want. You could design a city so that every home receives sunlight (an idea the Chinese tried). But that might mean the city isn’t dense enough to support diverse restaurants and mass transit.

These trade-offs demand political choices. And so technologists hoping to avoid politics are bound to encounter them again.

Of the techno-urbanists, Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs seems to be closest to actually creating something. The company, run out of New York City by the former deputy mayor Dan Doctoroff, concluded after a year of study that it needed a not-quite-blank slate to truly innovate.
smart_cities  methodology  epistemology 
february 2018 by shannon_mattern
Algorithmic Impact Assessments: Toward Accountable Automation in Public Agencies
Automated decision systems are here, and are already being integrated across many core social institutions, reshaping how our criminal justice system works via risk assessment algorithms and predictive policing systems, optimizing energy use in critical infrastructure through AI-driven resource allocation, and changing our educational system through new teacher evaluation tools and student-school matching algorithms. And these are merely what journalists, researchers, and the public record expose — to date, no city in the US has explicitly mandated that its agencies disclose anything about the automated decision systems they have in place or are planning to use...

While these systems are already influencing important decisions, there is still no clear framework in the US to ensure that they are monitored and held accountable.¹ Indeed, even many simple systems operate as “black boxes,” as they are outside the scope of meaningful scrutiny and accountability. This is worrying. If governments continue on this path, they and the public they serve will increasingly lose touch with how decisions have been made, thus rendering them unable to know or respond to bias, errors, or other problems. The urgency of this concern is why AI Now has called for an end to the use of black box systems in core public agencies. Black boxes must not prevent agencies from fulfilling their responsibility to protect basic democratic values, such as fairness and due process, and to guard against threats like illegal discrimination or deprivation of rights.

With this in mind, and drawing on several ongoing research efforts, AI Now is proposing an early-stage framework centered on Algorithmic Impact Assessments (AIAs). This broad approach complements similar domain-specific proposals, like Andrew Selbst’s recent work on Algorithmic Impact Statements in the context of predictive policing systems.
algorithms  accountability  smart_cities  predictive_policing 
february 2018 by shannon_mattern
China's Dystopian Tech Could Be Contagious - The Atlantic
Known by the anodyne name “social credit,” this system is designed to reach into every corner of existence both online and off. It monitors each individual’s consumer behavior, conduct on social networks, and real-world infractions like speeding tickets or quarrels with neighbors. Then it integrates them into a single, algorithmically determined “sincerity” score. Every Chinese citizen receives a literal, numeric index of their trustworthiness and virtue, and this index unlocks, well, everything. In principle, anyway, this one number will determine the opportunities citizens are offered, the freedoms they enjoy, and the privileges they are granted.

This end-to-end grid of social control is still in its prototype stages, but three things are already becoming clear: First, where it has actually been deployed, it has teeth. Second, it has profound implications for the texture of urban life. And finally, there’s nothing so distinctly Chinese about it that it couldn’t be rolled out anywhere else the right conditions obtain. The advent of social credit portends changes both dramatic and consequential for life in cities everywhere—including the one you might call home....

A dominant current of urbanist thought in the West sees order in cities as uncontrived—an emergent outcome of lower-level processes. Canny observers like Georg Simmel, Jane Jacobs, and Richard Sennett hold that virtually everything that makes big-city life what it is—and big-city people who they are—arises from the necessity of negotiating with the millions of others with whom city dwellers share their daily environments. In cities that are set up to afford this kind of interaction, people learn to practice what the sociologist Erving Goffman called “civil inattention.” They acknowledge the presence of others without making any particular claim on them....

As far as the ruling elites of Zhongnanhai are concerned, though, “sincerity construction,” or the process that results in stability and public rectitude, is something far too important to be left to the unplanned interactions of millions of city dwellers. From their point of view, orderliness is paramount, because orderliness makes for stability, and stability makes for continued economic growth. In their 21st-century interpretation of the “mandate of heaven,” the 3,000-year-old doctrine of Chinese imperial rule, only continued economic growth underwrites continued legitimacy....

The social-credit system was based explicitly on a familiar, Western model: the credit score. As a de facto reputation index, your credit score strongly conditions where you can rent, what kind of jobs or educational opportunities you’ll be eligible for, even what mode of travel you use to get around. This one number—formulated by obscure means, by largely unaccountable organizations, then used as a gating mechanism by a profusion of third parties, mostly in secret—has become what it was never meant to be: a general proxy for trustworthiness..

Those who wear virtue on their sleeves further—perhaps by taking public transit consistently instead of driving to work, taking out the recycling regularly, or even denouncing a misbehaving neighbor—might enjoy new benefits, like being able to rent a flat with no deposit, or earning the right to send their children to exclusive schools. This hardly sounds like authoritarianism run amok, and to a certain degree, patriotic Chinese netizens are right to complain when Western critics conflate such nudges toward preferred behavior with actual tyranny....

But the system provides abundantly for sticks as well as carrots. Attend a “subversive” political meeting or religious service, for example, or frequent known haunts of vice, or do under-the-table business with an unregistered, informal enterprise, and the idea is that the network will know about it and respond by curtailing one’s privileges. The state wants its citizens to believe that there’s little point in trying to evade detection of such acts, especially when they are strongly correlated with suspicious sites, either by mobile-phone location data or by China’s extensive national network of facial-recognition-equipped surveillance cameras.
privacy  smart_cities  surveillance  china 
february 2018 by shannon_mattern
Sidewalk Labs: Google’s Guinea-Pig City in Toronto - The Atlantic
The framework agreement also calls for an “Urban Innovation Institute” at Quayside. Sidewalk’s vision document seems to see it as a quasi-­academic organization, “a place for collaboration and discussion, and an unprecedented opportunity for faculty and students to test their ideas in a real urban environment.” But it doesn’t talk about partnering with any of Toronto’s many universities and colleges. It’s unclear whether this would be an academic research unit subject to an academic ethics review board, or a private resource where researchers would work on Sidewalk’s technology portfolio. Sidewalk’s spokesperson told me the matter had not been settled....

To facilitate those interactions, a public-engagement plan offers many ways Torontonians can engage. They include live-streamed talks, public roundtables, Sidewalk Toronto “pop-up stations,” a “design jam” with architects and planners, and a two-day CivicLabs workshop on “issues like mobility, housing, and inclusion.” Interested citizens can also send their children to a free “Sidewalk Toronto Summer Kids Camp.”....

If the Sidewalk Toronto project were implemented as described in the vision document, the area would become some of the most heavily surveilled real estate on the planet. Sidewalk describes neighborhoods “over-provisioned” with “a broad range of sensors” to “enable parallel experimentation with multiple technology approaches.” Data from these sensors would be stored and processed to feed controls for everything from the ambient temperature of buildings to crosswalk signals to the assigned uses of adaptable private and public spaces. As the Eastern Waterfront is optimized to Sidewalk’s standards, whatever those are, the tech underlying also benefits, primed for redeployment in other locales.

When I asked about data gathering, Lasher responded, “We’re not going to gather up all Torontonians’ data and sell it, we’re not building Sensorville.” But in this case, the sale of resident data might be of less concern than its use. Residents and visitors to the Sidewalk site would provide valuable benefit to Sidewalk, allowing their daily lives to help optimize technology for Sidewalk’s broader commercial venture. Harvesting data from citizens, including children and those in need of affordable housing, is an aspect of the Sidewalk Toronto project that deserves careful thought....

If “ubiquitous sensing” (Sidewalk’s term) is a goal within the Sidewalk Toronto neighborhood, its effects are already being felt in the rest of Toronto. Doctoroff is talking about launching tech pilots “right now” in different locations around the city, beyond Quayside. These pilot projects would let Sidewalk show off its tech and drum up enthusiasm over a long planning cycle. They might also normalize the experience of being a free-range experimental population within the city....

Sidewalk has defined the terms of the conversation, placing government and critics in the position of responding to Sidewalk’s techno-utopian picture book, and casting themselves as enemies of innovation if they dispute it....

The power of storytelling is nothing new to Doctoroff. In Greater Than Ever, his new book on his time in the Bloomberg administration, Doctoroff talks at length about preparing detailed, emotionally affecting presentations to sell city officials and private funders on the idea of a New York Olympic bid in 1996. Doctoroff’s presentation invoked West Side Story, Lincoln Center, Central Park, and the Statue of Liberty to convince his audience that “hosting the Olympics could spur New York’s next big leap forward.” Sidewalk’s vision document plucks on similar urban heartstrings, anchoring itself with hand-drawn illustrations of hyper-local Torontonian landmarks and icons. ...

Perhaps it’s more useful to review the vision document less as a promise, and more as a statement of Sidewalk’s urbanist ideology. It offers a blueprint for Alphabet’s idea of a city, whether in Toronto or elsewhere.

Take real estate, for example. The document emphasizes affordable housing and a diversity of planned neighborhoods. But the reconfigurable buildings Sidewalk proposes are structured in a way that seems to preclude long-term, individual ownership of an apartment or a storefront. Residential and commercial spaces appear to be designed for brief, transitional tenancies, built for “ongoing and frequent interior changes around a strong skeletal structure.”...

Sidewalk’s emphasis on pop-up shops, fast-cycling start-ups, and next-gen bazaars doesn’t seem to balance innovation with the routine needs of a livable neighborhood. Sidewalk likes to invoke Jane Jacobs, for whom Toronto was an adopted home, when talking about the benefits of flexible zoning. But Jacobs also emphasized the need to avoid fast turnover in businesses and residences, so that stable neighborhoods could develop. ...

Sidewalk also seems to want to sidestep existing land-use policies to accomplish its goals. It says “outmoded regulations” hold cities back from achieving their full innovative potential. In order for Sidewalk’s “climate-positive,” “adaptable” buildings to be deployed at a large enough scale to be cost-efficient, “a new paradigm in the building code” will be required. Likewise, innovations in transport and energy production “may require substantial forbearances from existing laws and regulations.” Sidewalk advocates “outcome-based” building and zoning codes, a style of regulating construction and development that relies on modeling and real-time monitoring to allow “flexible buildings” to be used for a broad range of uses in real time.... Sidewalk’s “city of the future” might best be compared to a special economic zone, an area of regulatory exemption that allows it to innovate to its heart’s content, beyond the normal laws of its host municipality.
sidewalk_labs  sensors  surveillance  smart_cities  zoning  urban_planning 
february 2018 by shannon_mattern
There Is No Such Thing as a Smart City - The Atlantic
The digital techniques that smart-city fans adore are flimsy and flashy—and some are even actively pernicious—but they absolutely will be used in cities. They already have an urban heritage. When you bury fiber-optic under the curbs around the town, then you get internet. When you have towers and smartphones, then you get portable ubiquity. When you break up a smartphone into its separate sensors, switches, and little radios, then you get the internet of things.

These tedious yet important digital transformations have been creeping into town for a couple of generations. At this point, they’re pretty much all that urban populations can remember how to do. Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent—these are the true industrial titans of our era. That’s how people make money, that’s how they make war, so of course, it will be how they make cities.

However, the cities of the future won’t be “smart,” or well-engineered, cleverly designed, just, clean, fair, green, sustainable, safe, healthy, affordable, or resilient. They won’t have any particularly higher ethical values of liberty, equality, or fraternity, either. The future smart city will be the internet, the mobile cloud, and a lot of weird paste-on gadgetry, deployed by City Hall, mostly for the sake of making towns more attractive to capital...

That’s why smart cities, in this new digital era of Big Five and China-BAT industry consolidation, drift away from open public websites and popular comments. Instead, they’re adopting that new surveillance-marketing paradigm of “data extractivity.” Why trouble to ask the “citizens” what they want from urban life, when you can accurately surveil the real actions of city’s “users” and decode what they’re actually doing, as opposed to what they vaguely claim they might want to do? ....

The “bad part of town” will be full of algorithms that shuffle you straight from high-school detention into the prison system. The rich part of town will get mirror-glassed limos that breeze through the smart red lights to seamlessly deliver the aristocracy from curb into penthouse.

These aren’t the “best practices” beloved by software engineers; they’re just the standard urban practices, with software layered over. It’s urban design as the barbarian’s varnish on urbanism. People could have it otherwise, technically, if they really wanted it and had the political will, but they don’t. So they won’t get it.
smart_cities  internet_of_things 
february 2018 by shannon_mattern
Metrocalypse now: Do smart cities really live up to their names?
Smartness, transformation, and renewal have felt - to put it gently - elusive. In a way, it was instead a year to admire the resilience of our cities against the grand schemes of programmers, policymakers and the high priests of transformation. I say without cynicism that there is no small relief in this. The failure - or at least the postponement - of the grand is also the survival of the ordinary and the everyday; the survival of citizens over cities; of infrastructures of everyday dignity over big, signature, spectacular projects; of incremental change over instantaneous transformation; of the bazaar over the mall, the shared auto over the expressway, survival over smartness.

Yet watching smart cities become familiar, ordinary and blockaded rather than the dramatic disruptions they were meant to be is not a cause for celebration, not even with the darkest sense of humour or the deepest ideological difference. No one wins when public policy stutters. What this moment must become then is, at the very least, an opportunity. The 'we' who read this magazine have a chance, once again, for humility....

In all the time we talked about smartness, he might ask: what all did we not talk about? What is it that we could have been talking about?

We did not talk about the value, for example, of squatting. Slow, incrementally and self-built housing is the primary way in which most urban Indians find, build and occupy space in our cities. ...

We could remind ourselves of the centrality of repair and retrofit that could help us change our relationship to the small 'i' of infrastructure, allowing us to imagine more than just the digital drawings of brand-new, people-less landscapes with glittering bullet trains, expressways and glass buildings. ...

We could take the chance to think about how to consolidate rather than build anew. We could ask how our existing systems of service delivery-whether in health, education, transport, water or sanitation-could be connected with each other instead of ignoring existing (if informal) means of accessing services.
smart_cities  urban_intelligence 
january 2018 by shannon_mattern
How cities can use machine learning to track citizens - Curbed
Whyte’s Street Life Project was a revelation. Whyte offered nuggets not of gold, but of actionable data, which helped shape city policy: peak versus off-peak activity, average densities, walking patterns. Called “one of America’s most influential observers of the city,” Whyte’s insights and hard-earned wisdom informed New York’s 1969 city plan, helped revise its zoning code, and turned once-squalid Bryant Park into a prized public space.

What’s inspiring and a little mind-boggling about Whyte’s process is that until relatively recently, planners still practiced that type of time-consuming manual observation. Infrared cameras and other technologies have been around for years to make data-gathering easier. But often, going beyond surveys, personal observations, and educated guesses required hand counts and film study.

With smartphones in our pockets, and smart city technology increasingly embraced by local leaders, it may seem like we’re already awash in a flood of urban data. But that’s a drizzle next to the oncoming downpour that may radically transform our understanding of cities and how they function. Two rapidly rising technologies—computer vision and machine learning—offer the potential to revolutionize understanding of urban life....

Planners will use all that data to ask questions, and make decisions, about people, says Justin Hollander, a professor at Tufts University who runs the Urban Attitudes Lab and explores the intersection of design and technology. Human-centered design, as pioneered by urbanists such as Jan Gehl, will enter a new phase. It will threaten traditionally analog methods of design, turning planning into more of a science.

“When I worked as an urban planner, we did the best that we could to shape buildings, streets, and sidewalks to meet environmental and economic development goals,” says Hollander. “But we never got into the head of the people who used these spaces.”...

WeWork’s level of vertical integration—the same company designs, remodels, and operates the space—explains why they’ve embraced this technology in ways that standard architecture firms haven’t. As owners, they can react to the data and fix areas that are underperforming, a luxury available to few other designers. They can also anticipate user needs: By feeding data through machine-learning algorithms, they can predict how much a particular proposed meeting room will be used before it’s even built.

Capturing intent, and then creating a circular relationship between designing and building—analysis, design, evaluation, then redesign—suggests how this technology can lead to more human-focused design and urban planning....

As Aggarwala’s company begins outreach, planning, and eventually design for its smart city project in Toronto, the most high-profile effort to build a neighborhood “from the internet up,” he says one of the guiding factors is designing a natural space for pedestrians. Crossings should feel safe. Pavement with embedded LED lights could change color based on changing uses, offering subtle cues. Dynamic wayfinding and signage, which showed directions to coffee shops in the morning, will switch in the evening to highlight nearby restaurants and bars. Adaptive traffic signals will recognize pedestrians, cyclists, and transit vehicles at intersections to improve safety, and an autonomous shuttle might ferry residents across the neighborhood. He wants to design something so interactive and understanding that people will put down their phones....

if changes to the city’s physical landscape are made in parallel with changes in usage and demographics, it would represent a shift in urban planning, policy, and budgeting. A team of researchers from MIT, Harvard, and the National Bureau of Economic Research published a study that used years of Google Street View imagery and machine learning to identify the physical improvements that increased perceptions of neighborhood safety over time (including population density, a higher proportion of college-educated adults, and a higher proportion of Hispanic residents living in the neighborhood). Apply those findings in reverse, and cities could track neighborhoods and adjust to future safety issues before they become serious problems.

“Now, we’ll finally be able to adjust capital plans and budgets with actual data,” he says. “You can win arguments because you have the numbers. In the past, it was just about doing what’s been done in the past, because that’s safe. Nobody could attack you for that, until now.”

Scaling these technologies to the city level, and blanketing an entire neighborhood with cameras and sensors (what Aggarwala and others have described as a “digital layer”), requires extensive infrastructure spending and bandwidth costs. Toronto has the advantage of Sidewalk Labs funding development and data collection—and the privacy concerns that come with a private company gathering unprecedented amounts of information about the public. ...

The company recently designed its own monitor and camera—housed in a PVC pipe, it looks a bit like a cup dispenser—that can be affixed to any utility pole or street sign. A low-cost solution, which recently won an award as one of the top five most promising technologies at the international Smart City Expo World Congress, it’s already been installed in four U.S. cities, with three more regions in the planning stages....

In Numina’s short existence, it’s already helped cities start that data-design feedback loop. In Jacksonville, Florida, a city with one of the highest pedestrian fatality rates in the U.S., Numina sensors were set up at a dozen intersections. At one site, near a bus station, constant monitoring discovered that, amid the bustle of passengers arriving and boarding, there was one pathway pedestrians repeatedly took to jaywalk. The city thought it might need to redesign the entire intersection. Instead, data showed the most quick and effective fix was creating a mid-block crossing with $30 worth of paint....

Sussman has been focused on figuring out how humans react to architecture on a more unconscious level. By staging photo comparisons, and tracking minute facial reactions, she’s gained a better understanding of the kinds of design that make us happy: active and busy fenestration patterns, like the ones found in Paris and Boston, engage viewers. Symmetry, like the canals of Amsterdam, calms, while large, blank facades, like those found on some Brutalist buildings such as Boston’s City Hall, confuse, since they don’t offer more information when viewers get closer, an innate expectation of our reptile brains.

Hollander, who collaborates with Sussman, has taken this line of experimentation and inquiry even further, with experiments that tested the health and well-being of people in certain areas and neighborhoods.... Using an array of biometrics, including electroencephalograms (EEGs), to measure brain activity and facial analysis, he tracked whether certain improvements and renovations made any difference in how people felt about the buildings....

Aggarwala argues that systems being developed now would actually have much more potential privacy protection than the video projects of William H. Whyte: All they need for analysis is a figure’s outline, which can provide information without compromising anybody’s individual identification. Planners and designers can still create cities and spaces that feel “like any other place, but better,” without violating privacy.

As the physical world becomes more digital, we will find ourselves facing the same issues exploring the sidewalks as we do using a web browser: What’s the right balance between privacy and convenience, or personalization and surveillance?
machine_learning  machine_vision  urban_data  smart_cities  urban_planning 
january 2018 by shannon_mattern
CEDUS - A 'City Enabler' for Digital Urban Services
CEDUS, the City Enabler, is a project led by Engineering Ingegneria, a leading Italian ICT company with more than 9,000 employees, for the European Institute of Innovation in which Geographica – together with Telefónica, Atos and the Bruno Kessler Foundation – has participated developing smart dashboard for the cities that allow to analyze and visualize the information collected in a simple way, thus contributing to better decision making.

It consists of a solution for cities that is responsible for searching, collecting and analyzing geolocated data using both public and private sources related to the different institutions and/or companies involved in the city management. Subsequently, it allows predicting future behaviors based on historical and even designing maps that reflect the information collected. It is a project based on FIWARE, with great integration easiness that is already being implemented in several European cities.
CEDUS has added value, eliminating the barrier that normally exists between information that reaches citizens and companies and providing value to citizens and different interest groups thanks to the use of open data. This contributes to the economic growth of the city.
smart_cities  dashboards 
january 2018 by shannon_mattern
Why does Alphabet want to build a city? To get more data, of course | WIRED UK
But let's not write this off as another example of Silicon Valley hype. After all, these companies aren't coming to this cold. Most of them now have vast property portfolios, which they are managing with their own software systems. Now they are taking the next steps. In July 2017, Facebook announced plans for a 1,500-unit social housing scheme at Menlo Park in Silicon Valley. Billionaire Xavier Niel's Paris startup hub Station F is set to launch a 100-apartment co-living space in 2018 to house 600 entrepreneurs.

On the office side, WeWork announced it had raised $760 million (£562m) to focus on designing and developing its own buildings. And with Norman Foster, the architect behind Apple's new $5 billion California HQ, saying he would prefer to work with entrepreneurs rather than developers – "as a rule developers just follow the market while entrepreneurs and enlightened individuals lead it" – it is clear we could be looking at a restructuring of the property industry value chain....

Brandon Weber, chief product officer of software-based leasing platform VTS, believes this could be just the start. "It is not far-fetched to imagine a Google or Facebook saying, 'The real-estate sector is a massive aggregation of data, let's commercialise it. Let's go and build ten million square feet of property and see what happens,'" he says.

"From there, they could easily become slick, efficient developers in their own right and they could dominate the market the way Apple did with cell phones. We could be looking back on where we are today saying, 'Remember when there were all these old-school companies developing buildings? How weird was that?'"

It is now up to the bricks-and-mortar developers to step up to the plate and reclaim their role by accepting technological advances and embracing change.
smart_cities  real_estate 
december 2017 by shannon_mattern
Desperately Seeking Cities | Online Only | n+1
The value of the Amazon contest is that it has laid bare a fundamental contradiction of contemporary urban life. Amazon appealed to cities—cannily, it must be said—to narrate themselves: what makes them unique, such that Amazon should locate there? The result was that all cities ended up putting forward the same, boring virtues and “legacy assets”: some parks, some universities, some available land, some tax breaks, some restaurants. Each city, it turned out, was indistinguishable from every other city: “thirty-six hours . . . in the same beer garden, museum, music venue, and ‘High Line’-type urban park.” By the same token, all cities were forced to realize their basic inadequacy: that ultimately, all their tireless work to cultivate their urbanity amounted to nothing if they did not have Amazon....

The most serious academic riposte to the urbanist ideology has been Michael Storper’s Keys to the City (2013), which demonstrates comprehensively what one might always have guessed, and what the Amazon contest has proven: the location of businesses, rather than the walkability, density, and diversity of a city, determines its economic health. A statistically insignificant portion of the country will up and move to Dallas because they are fiending for breakfast tacos that they can sort of walk to, near a private-public partnership-funded park that caps a freeway where they can sort of enjoy them. Most people, however, move to a place in search of jobs, not “urbanism.” ...

Among the calls most prominent—a takeover of the local party structure, an end to mass incarceration, a guarantee of healthcare, reinvestment in schools—there is still the unfinished work of planning. Left untouched, cities will rely on Amazon to do it for them.
media_city  amazon  placemaking  branding  urban_planning  smart_cities 
november 2017 by shannon_mattern
LORINC: In search of clarity on Sidewalk Labs (plus correction) - Spacing Toronto
“[O]ur Model Lab…is a very different approach than what is typically done with the regional models, which are very slow, unresponsive. Fundamentally, it involves the creation of synthetic populations. In the U.S., we’re beginning to work with our first metropolitan area with that approach.”
Doctoroff declined to name the city, except to note that it is in the mid-west. He added: “There’s incredible enthusiasm among transportation and planning agencies around North America about this approach, because it’s very different.”
sidewalk_labs  smart_cities 
november 2017 by shannon_mattern
Saudi Arabia Just Announced Plans to Build a Mega City That Will Cost $500 Billion - Bloomberg
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced plans to build a new city on the Red Sea coast, promising a lifestyle not available in today’s Saudi Arabia as he seeks to remake the kingdom in a time of dwindling resources....

The ambitious plan includes a bridge spanning the Red Sea, connecting the proposed city to Egypt and the rest of Africa. Some 10,000 square miles (25,900 square kilometers) have been allocated for the development of the urban area that will stretch into Jordan and Egypt.

The prince said the city project, to be called “NEOM,” will operate independently from the “existing governmental framework” with investors consulted at every step during development. The project will be backed by more than $500 billion from the Saudi government, its sovereign wealth fund and local and international investors, according to a statement released on Tuesday at an international business conference in Riyadh....

The project “seems to be broadly modeled on the ‘free zone’ concept pioneered in Dubai, where such zones are not only exempt from tariffs but also have their own regulations and laws, hence operating separately from the rest of government,” said Steffen Hertog, a professor at the London School of Economics and longtime Saudi-watcher. “In Dubai, this has worked well, but attempts to copy it have done less well in the region.”...

A promotional video released on Tuesday features a lifestyle so far unavailable in Saudi cities. It showed women free to jog in leotards in public spaces, working alongside men and playing instruments in a musical ensemble. The one woman wearing a hijab had her head covered with a patterned pink scarf.
SEZ  zones  smart_cities  middle_east 
november 2017 by shannon_mattern
Google’s plan to revolutionise cities is a takeover in all but name | Technology | The Guardian
Alphabet essentially wants to be the default platform for other municipal services. Cities, it says, have always been platforms; now they are simply going digital. “The world’s great cities are all hubs of growth and innovation because they leveraged platforms put in place by visionary leaders,” states the proposal. “Rome had aqueducts, London the Underground, Manhattan the street grid.”...

Alphabet’s long-term goal is to remove barriers to the accumulation and circulation of capital in urban settings – mostly by replacing formal rules and restrictions with softer, feedback-based floating targets. It claims that in the past “prescriptive measures were necessary to protect human health, ensure safe buildings, and manage negative externalities”. Today, however, everything has changed and “cities can achieve those same goals without the inefficiency that comes with inflexible zoning and static building codes”.... For Alphabet, these constraints are no more: ubiquitous and continuous data flows can finally replace government rules with market signals. Now, everything is permitted – unless somebody complains. The original spirit behind Uber was quite similar: away with the rules, tests and standards, let the sovereign consumer rank the drivers and low-scoring ones will soon disappear on their own. ...

Google Urbanism means the end of politics, as it assumes the impossibility of wider systemic transformations, such as limits on capital mobility and foreign ownership of land and housing. Instead it wants to mobilise the power of technology to help residents “adjust” to seemingly immutable global trends such as rising inequality and constantly rising housing costs (Alphabet wants us to believe that they are driven by costs of production, not by the seemingly endless supply of cheap credit)....

Here lies the populist promise of Google Urbanism: Alphabet can democratise space by customising it through data flows and cheap, prefabricated materials. The problem is that Alphabet’s democratisation of function will not be matched by the democratisation of control and ownership of urban resources. That’s why the main “input” into Alphabet’s algorithmic democracy is “market demand” rather than communal decision-making....

Instead of democratising ownership and control, Alphabet promises participation, consultation and new ways to track the vox populi – measured automatically via Alphabet’s extensive sensory network. The company even hails Jane Jacobs, everyone’s favourite urbanist, lending some credibility to the thesis that the kind of small-scale, highly flexible urbanism preached by Jacobs is quite compatible with Wall Street’s growing interest in real estate and infrastructure.
smart_cities  tech_historiography  historiography  google  sidewalk_labs 
october 2017 by shannon_mattern
Google wants to run your city. That's not a world we should live in | Jathan Sadowski | Opinion | The Guardian
Mayors and tech executives exalt urban labs as sites of disruptive innovation and economic growth. However, this model of creating our urban future is also an insidious way of handing more control – over people, places, policies – to profit-driven, power-hungry corporations.

As the Globe and Mail reports, Eric Schmidt said at the announcement: “The genesis of the thinking for Sidewalk Labs came from Google’s founders getting excited thinking of ‘all the things you could do if someone would just give us a city and put us in charge’.” Ambition alone is not a sin, yet desires like these should evoke suspicion, not celebration.

In an era of intense competition between cities for resources, many cities are focused on achieving constant growth, large returns, and public-private partnerships. This has translated into city leaders expending much energy courting the tech sector – that locus of investment and innovation.

They coax tech companies by offering benefits like looser regulation and lower taxes. They create “innovation ecosystems” made up of things like hackathons, incubators, and co-working spaces meant to attract programmers and venture capitalists....

But cities are not machines that can be optimized, nor are they labs for running experiments. Cities are not platforms with users, nor are they businesses with shareholders. Cities are real places with real people who have a right not to live with whatever “smart solutions” an engineer or executive decides to unleash.

These partnerships cannot be a way for city governments to abdicate responsibility and accountability to citizens by handing over (parts of) the city to corporations. Nobody elected Alphabet or Uber or any other company with its sights set on privatizing city governance.

When Sidewalk Labs was chosen to develop Quayside, Schmidt said his reaction was: “Now, it’s our turn.” While this was a joyous exclamation for him, it’s an ominous remark for the rest of us.
smart_cities  sidewalk_labs 
october 2017 by shannon_mattern
Alphabet, Google, and Sidewalk Labs Start Their City-Building Venture in Toronto | WIRED
GOOGLE HAS BUILT an online empire by measuring everything. Clicks. GPS coordinates. Visits. Traffic. The company's resource is bits of info on you, which it mines, packages, repackages, repackages again, and then uses to sell you stuff. Now it's taking that data-driven world-building power to the real world. Google is building a city.
Tuesday afternoon, public officials gathered in Toronto to announce that Sidewalk Labs, a subsidiary under the Alphabet umbrella that also houses Google, will pilot the redevelopment of 12 acres of southeastern waterfront. Today the area hosts a few industrial buildings and some parking lots. In just a few years, it will be a techified community going by the name of Quayside. Sidewalk Labs has already devoted $50 million to the project, and Google will move its Toronto headquarters to the neighborhood. Once the company has proven out its concept, it plans to expand its redevelopment to the entire 800-acre waterfront area....

This will be a fully Google-fied neighborhood, built from scratch, with a touch of Canadian flavor. (Maple-fried bacon? Poutine? Unfailing bilingual politeness?) Sidewalk Labs promises to embed all sorts of sensors everywhere possible, sucking up a constant stream of information about traffic flow, noise levels, air quality, energy usage, travel patterns, and waste output. Cameras will help the company nail down the more intangible: Are people enjoying this public furniture arrangement in that green space? Are residents using the popup clinic when flu season strikes?...

The waterfront redevelopment proposal outlines a community where everybody has their own account, “a highly secure, personalized portal through which each resident accesses public services and the public sector.” Use your account to tell everyone in the building to quiet down, to get into your gym, or to give the plumber access to your apartment while you're at work.

A mapping application will “record the location of all parts of the public realm in real time”—we’re talking roads, buildings, lawn furniture, and drones. ...

It will test a new housing concept called Loft, packed with flexible spaces to be used for whatever the community needs. It will experiment with building materials like plastic, prefabricated modules, and timber in the place of steel. And yes, Sidewalk Labs says it's working on a comprehensive privacy plan.
The company will then crunch the numbers. Sidewalk Labs' data scientists will analyze the firehose of data to figure out what’s working and what’s not....

It says it will use sophisticated modeling techniques to simulate “what-if scenarios” and determine better courses of action. No one's using that park bench, but what if we moved it to a sunnier corner of the park? “Sidewalk expects that many residents, in general, will be attracted by the idea of living in a place that will continuously improve,” the company writes in its project proposal....

Despite decades of the scholarly research into how cities work, scientists still struggle through gaps in data. Governments mostly collect info about how pedestrians use sidewalks and cyclists use bicycle infrastructure by hand, and then only periodically. Sidewalk Labs could help agencies everywhere crack a few codes.
smart_cities  sidewalk_labs 
october 2017 by shannon_mattern
The People's Roadmap to a Digital New York City | BetaNYC
Welcome to The People's Roadmap to a Digital New York City. In this document you will find values and recommendations formulated by people of New York, for the people of New York, for the 21st Century. Through our roadmap, we look at technology as a catalyst for empowerment and bridging municipal management inequalities.

Through the People's Roadmap to a Digital New York City, we want to move beyond transparency. We want a government that asks us about our needs and is responsive to our problems. Written for the people, by the people, this roadmap has traveled to all five boroughs lighting a pathway for New York City to stay the world's premier digital city.

"Technology is not a slice of the pie, but the pan." - Andrew Rasiej, Chairman of the New York Tech Meetup.

As of the November 2013 election, New York City is at a critical inflection point. A new cast of actors will assume powerful roles across government. This document will help guide this next administration and successive ones into community digital services. We see technology as a catalyst to develop smarter communities, deploy high speed accessible infrastructure, develop lifelong learning education initiatives, programs for employment and economic mobility, and effective and open government.

To accomplish this, we have established four universal digital freedoms:

Free
urban_data  smart_cities  infrastructure  access 
october 2017 by shannon_mattern
Sensory THiNK KiT – AHRC Sensory Cities Network
The Sensory Cities THiNK-KiT makes a case for the importance of interdisciplinary and cross-professional investigation of urban sensing. It brings together methods and resources for researching, designing, curating and representing the senses in the city, drawing on the reflections of an Arts and Humanities Research Council UK funded “Sensory Cities” international research network, which involved academics, artists and urban professionals across Europe to discuss and exchange methodological approaches.
smart_cities  sensation  mapping 
september 2017 by shannon_mattern
Italy’s New Rural - e-flux Architecture - e-flux
Ponticiello’s current project is a meditation on movement. He is building pace—or step—maps. These are navigational guides to the islands and metropolis of Naples and a number of other southern towns and municipalities, measured in paces, rather than miles or kilometers­. The project was inspired, as so many are, by frustration. Driven mad by neighbors and tourists electing to drive around his tiny, beautiful island home of Procida, Ponticiello wanted to empower them to rediscover space and time using our most natural form of locomotion. So he started producing bright, clear maps that bring the abstraction of distance into line with human time, aided by the robust and satisfying metric that, on a comfortable walk, we all average 100 paces a minute. Pace, he points out, is the perfect word. “We should live life on time, and in time, with our own pace.”...

He explains his motivation as “helping communities to self-determine their own identity using technology.” It is a simple mission, but it’s also radical, given the centralizing tendencies so inherent to this industry. “The real vision of the smart city or sharing economy,” he explains, “requires power, data, and infrastructure in the hands of the community.” Similarly, the way to burst the startup bubble, Giordano argues, is to encourage public participation in venture capital funds, to reflect a wider range of interests, and a truer representation of actual problems.
Two of the guest speakers in Caselle, hacker-artist duo Salvatore Iaconesi and Oriana Persico, elaborate why Giordano’s emphasis on individual and community empowerment is so necessary. “In a world of smart things,” says Iaconesi, “you don’t have a house, or property; you have a collection of licenses. You are managed and controlled by your services. You consume, but more importantly, you are consumed. We need to escape the logic of control and consumption.” Many of the pairs’ projects, assembled within their collective Art is Open Source, explore these themes within the context of small and micro data, with projects including Ubiquitous Commons, Persona Non Data, and Incautious Porn. “We can transgress the smart city by bringing new poetics, by affecting what people desire. That’s where we need to work—on imagination, not on labor,” says Persico. Iaconesi is in vigorous agreement, “the most exciting hook for transformations is at the micro level, where history is made.”
smart_cities  urban_intelligence  urban_data 
september 2017 by shannon_mattern
How South Korea is Building a Techno-Utopia in Seoul | WIRED
I got an advance look at what might turn out to be a powerful tool in his reelection: a visually beautiful data dashboard—its formal name is “The Digital Civic Mayor’s Office”—that is tied to the broad themes the mayor identified in 2014: How safe is the city, how welcoming is it to the very old and the young, how green is it, how open are its operations?...

So far, so simple—the dashboard is simply reporting yearly data in a colorful way, counting up outputs: how many sports facilities, how many senior care places, how much public data is being disclosed. The press loves this stuff, but it’s not very operational; it’s a postcard with bright colors.
The real benefit of this 11-foot-wide dashboard, both for management and disclosure, comes in other views—and you can move through it by gesture, touch, or remote mouse. (I was told the hardware cost $10​0,000​, the programming cost about $50​,000, and that getting reliable data out of agencies had been a huge challenge.)

As it happened, during our demo, the map of giant, congested Seoul showed an indication of an incident—a fire in the city! Web camera views popped trained on where the fire was.... From his dashboard, the mayor (or anyone else, but I refrained from pressing the button) can launch a video call to talk to public officials near the site. (The man with his back to me is the similarly talented Jeong Joon Ahn, to whom Ma reports; Ahn has a huge range of responsibilities that include getting real-time data from all of Seoul’s agencies into the dashboard. Which is not easy.) Another screen showed, in real time, how long it was taking the fire department to put the fire out. During my time with Ma and Ahn, the fire was resolved....

A real-time emergency dashboard isn’t new. What’s new is that Seoul is also measuring and reporting on—in real time—a wide range of other indicators of the city’s health and well-being. How expensive are common things people eat, like apples? How expensive are apartments?...

The traffic data is next to information about air quality, natural disasters, and crime. This whole setup is aimed at understanding and improving quality of life for all Seoul citizens: These are the categories of things that citizens care about.
smart_cities  dashboards 
september 2017 by shannon_mattern
Singapore has an idea to transform city life — but there may be a privacy cost - LA Times
A government initiative, known as Smart Nation, aims to use an untold number of sensors and cameras to track everything from someone smoking in a prohibited space to the number of vehicles on the road.

These sensors are the tentacles of an elaborate, integrated plan that could redefine how cities use technology to improve society — and offer the potential for government to monitor its citizens in a whole new way....

This affluent city-state of glass towers and manicured parks has always been one for rules, where security and efficiency usurp civil liberties like free speech. (Singapore famously restricts gum chewing in favor of clean streets.)

Its free-trade policies and lauded education system have helped make a city of 5 million — more than three times smaller than the Los Angeles metro area — one of the richest in the world. At the same time, Singapore faces the realities of limited resources, low birth rates, an aging population and rising protectionism....

Authorities are working on cashless payments and a single digital identification to streamline transactions. They’ve set aside more than 40 miles of road for the development of self-driving vehicles.

Thousands of sensors scattered across the city help determine how to reroute public transport based on passenger loads or detect when someone has tossed a soda can on the ground. One voluntary program tracks the movements of elderly people at home through wireless sensors, and can inform families when their parent uses the bathroom or stops moving.

Officials even plan to track the spread of an infectious disease or predict the reaction of a frantic crowd to a terrorist attack. The system is still unfolding, they say, so its full possibilities are still unknown....

Singapore’s system is far more centralized.

“What Singapore will provide is that sort of example and case study effectively for the world to say, ‘Those guys got value out of this, could we?’” said Raj Vaswani, co-founder of Silver Spring Networks, a San Jose company that provides smart grid products used in the initiative.

But the government’s digital utopia also looks like a hacker’s treasure chest filled with the gems of medical data and personal identification numbers. For privacy advocates, it instills panic....

But the initiative hits on a tension inherent in the development of digitally connected cities. How much personal privacy should citizens sacrifice for the sake of convenience and safety?

“Singaporeans are resigned to the large amount of data the government collects,” said Kirsten Han, an activist and journalist in Singapore. “Residents don’t see CCTV as scary. They see it as safe.”

This is a democracy with deep faith in government, a driving principle throughout its five decades of existence — all under one party. Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s founder, told the Straits Times in 1987 that society would not have prospered if “we had not intervened on very personal matters: who your neighbor is, how you live, the noise you make, how you spit, or what language you use.”

Documents that restrict what officials can do with personal data are classified.

“Singapore’s legislation is not as much about the right to privacy to protect someone from the public gaze as it is a set of tools to manage the flow of information,” said Simon Chesterman, dean of the National University of Singapore’s law school.
smart_cities  singapore  big_data  surveillance 
september 2017 by shannon_mattern
Showing the Algorithms Behind New York City Services - The New York Times
Yet on Thursday, Mr. Vacca, 62, a Democratic City Council member from the Bronx, introduced a bill that would require the city to make public the computer instructions that are used, invisibly, in all kinds of government decision-making. Experts say that few, if any, major cities in the United States require transparency for those computer instructions, or algorithms.

If the principles in Mr. Vacca’s bill become law, it could turn out be as important to public society in the city and around the country as the smoking ban signed into law by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg in 2002.

“I think I’m on to something that many people have spoken about, but have been unable to get their hands around,” Mr. Vacca, chairman of the council’s technology committee, said. “I’m trying to get my hands around something that affects millions of New Yorkers every day.”...

Governments also have access to oceans of data. Algorithms can decide where kids go to school, how often garbage is picked up, which police precincts get the most officers, where building code inspections should be targeted, and even what metrics are used to rate a teacher....

Naked algorithms are just bunches of code, and even experts can find it challenging to discern what values they express. So researchers are discussing ways to include public participation before they are written. “We can formalize certain notions of fairness and nondiscrimination, affirmatively, at the outset,” said Solon Barocas, a professor of information science at Cornell University.

At their most powerful, algorithms can decide an individual’s liberty, as when they are used by the criminal justice system to predict future criminality. ProPublica reporters examined the risk scores of 7,000 people assigned by a private company’s algorithm. The recidivism rankings were wrong about 40 percent of the time, with blacks more likely to be falsely rated as future criminals at almost twice the rate of whites, according to Julia Angwin, who led the investigation....

Because some algorithms used by the city are leased from private companies, Mr. Vacca’s bill would require them to be available for “algorithmic audits.” These would allow the public to submit test data to see how the algorithm handles it. One analysis of the city’s teacher rating algorithm in 2009 and 2010 found a pattern of bizarre results, like an individual teacher who scored 97 in teaching sixth-grade math but only a 6 for seventh graders.
smart_cities  algorithms  transparency  algorithmic_audit 
august 2017 by shannon_mattern
Bits & Atoms - an urban planning studio for the 21st century city
We've only just begun. There are 570,000 local governments around the world. But only 2,500 are pursuing smart city projects. And a mere 145 in the United States are committed to building gigabit broadband. Just a handful are doing it strategically. Most are flying by the seat of their pants. Everywhere we look, we find cities that are just starting to grapple with the challenges of digital technology. A pioneering vanguard of cities are leading the way. But what can they teach the rest of us?

We work with clients in industry, government, and the non-profit sector to create the conditions for smart cities to flourish organically, by design. Our approach emphasizes foresight, unconventional approaches to economic development, social capital analytics, and digital inclusion as keys to enabling urban innovation....

We measure our success by the appeal of our ideas, the actions they inspire and shape, and the measurable impact on how cities thrive day to day. Explore some of our most impactful work over the last 15 years.
smart_cities  consulting 
august 2017 by shannon_mattern
How Palantir, Peter Thiel's Secretive Data Company, Pushed Its Way Into Policing | WIRED
Palantir had been selling its data storage, analysis, and collaboration software to police departments nationwide on the basis of rock-solid security. “Palantir Law Enforcement provides robust, built-in privacy and civil liberties protections, including granular access controls and advanced data retention capabilities,” its website reads....

Law enforcement accounts for just a small part of Palantir’s business, which mostly consists of military clients, intelligence outfits like the CIA or Homeland Security, and large financial institutions. In police departments, Palantir’s tools are now being used to flag traffic scofflaws, parole violators, and other everyday infractions. But the police departments that deploy Palantir are also dependent upon it for some of their most sensitive work. Palantir’s software can ingest and sift through millions of digital records across multiple jurisdictions, spotting links and sharing data to make or break cases.

The scale of Palantir’s implementation, the type, quantity and persistence of the data it processes, and the unprecedented access that many thousands of people have to that data all raise significant concerns about privacy, equity, racial justice, and civil rights. But until now, we haven’t known very much about how the system works, who is using it, and what their problems are. And neither Palantir nor many of the police departments that use it are willing to talk about it.

In one of the largest systematic investigations of the company to date, Backchannel filed dozens of public records requests with police forces across America. When Palantir started selling its products to law enforcement, it also laid a paper trail. All 50 states have public records laws providing access to contracts, documents, and emails of local and government bodies. That makes it possible to peer inside the company’s police-related operations in ways that simply aren’t possible with its national security work....

What’s clear is that law enforcement agencies deploying Palantir have run into a host of problems. Exposing data is just the start. In the documents our requests produced, police departments have also accused the company, backed by tech investor and Trump supporter Peter Thiel, of spiraling prices, hard-to-use software, opaque terms of service, and “failure to deliver products”...,

These documents show how Palantir applies Silicon Valley’s playbook to domestic law enforcement. New users are welcomed with discounted hardware and federal grants, sharing their own data in return for access to others’. When enough jurisdictions join Palantir’s interconnected web of police departments, government agencies, and databases, the resulting data trove resembles a pay-to-access social network—a Facebook of crime that’s both invisible and largely unaccountable to the citizens whose behavior it tracks....

No one outside Palantir seems to know for sure how many police departments in America use its technology. (Despite multiple requests, Palantir declined to make anyone available for an interview, or to comment on any of Backchannel’s findings.) The New York Police Department has certainly used it, as have Cook County sheriffs in Chicago, the Virginia State Police, the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C., and a dozen law enforcement agencies in Utah.... one state, California, accounts for many of the deployments—and perhaps close to 90 percent of the sales—of Palantir’s systems to domestic law enforcement to date....

The first city in California to get involved was Los Angeles. In 2009, LAPD’s then chief of police, Bill Bratton, wanted to test the real-time analysis and visualization of data. “We were looking for [a] tool to do a better job of visualizing our radio calls as they were coming out,” remembers Sean Malinowski, then a captain but now a deputy chief at the LAPD. “Palantir partnered with us on [an] experiment to come up with [a] situational awareness tool.”

That pilot soon evolved into an investigative analysis platform that could access databases of crime reports and license plate information. Bratton even thought that Palantir might be just the tool for a far more ambitious program of predictive policing (the idea that historical data could provide clues to where crimes might occur in the future). He asked Craig Uchida, a consultant and researcher in data-driven policing, to draw up a plan.... “In LA, we started looking at what could be done with violent crime using data, to see where crime was emerging and what was causing it,” says Uchida. ...

Uchida was a big believer in hotspot policing: deploying officers on bike or foot to troubled areas in order to defuse tension and nip possible crimes in the bud. He proposed a project called Laser that would crunch six years of crime data to identify areas of the city with high levels of gun crime. ... Each time officers stopped someone, they would fill out cards about the stop. These “field interview” cards would capture as much information as possible, from the person’s name and address to the bike or car they were driving—even the tattoos they had. “Most of the time it didn’t lead to anything, but it was…data that went into the system, and that’s what I wanted: more data about what was happening, who they were stopping and why,” says Uchida....

Back at base, analysts and officers would use that information to create so-called Chronic Offender Bulletins, identifying key individuals deemed “potential” or “probable” repeat offenders. These people then received extra attention from special units and patrols employing enhanced surveillance techniques, including license plate readers. Before Palantir, building each profile was a time-consuming job, taking about an hour for an analyst to tie together information from disparate sources. With officers in Newton stopping around 100 people each day, according to Uchida, the analysts could never keep up.

“This is where Palantir came into play,” he says. Because Palantir could automatically integrate everything from citizen tips and crime incidents to field interviews and partial license plates, it dramatically accelerated the production of Chronic Offender Bulletins. What used to take an hour could be generated in three to five minutes. The analysts could now profile every single person stopped by police in Newton...,

Fusion centers are “focal points” for collecting and sharing intelligence on domestic terrorism; there are 77 of them in the continental US, with six in California. One of the largest is the Joint Regional Intelligence Center (JRIC), a high-tech command center run by and sharing an office building with a bureau of the LA Sheriff’s Department (LASD). The JRIC would quickly become the nucleus of Palantir’s largest network of local law enforcement agencies in the country, covering Los Angeles and six other counties—nearly 40,000 square miles and 18.5 million people. Its databases would ultimately stretch far beyond terrorism, including everything from parking tickets to maps of schools.

Palantir Technologies was founded in 2004 by a group of investors and technologists including its current CEO, Alex Karp, and Peter Thiel, a billionaire who co-founded PayPal and subsequently set up a hedge fund and venture capital firm. The CIA was an early investor in the company through its In-Q-Tel venture fund, and Palantir’s advisors have included Condoleezza Rice and former CIA director George Tenet. Many of Palantir’s early customers were intelligence agencies and information-gathering units of the military...

That history means the company’s operations have always been the opposite of transparent. But as Palantir began to work with Los Angeles and other taxpayer-funded police departments, it had to expose a little more of its inner workings to politicians, oversight boards, and the public.

Palantir’s law enforcement technology is based on its Gotham platform, a system it also sells to businesses and governments to organize and analyze unstructured data like spreadsheets, reports, and emails. (Palantir’s other major platform, Metropolis, is aimed at the financial and investment industries.) A promotional video supplied by the company shows LAPD officers conducting geographical searches of a neighborhood to find crimes reported there, linking those crimes to suspects, seeing mugshots, visualizing networks of gangs, and even using augmented reality of a location during an arrest....

But that is only the tip of the iceberg. Palantir offers access to a universe of digital databases that are typically inaccessible to the general public. Precisely what kinds of information its tools grant access to has been largely unknown until now. ... list of applications and software—most previously unreported—built by Palantir for the JRIC fusion center between 2010 and 2015.

The system launched with the ability for the fusion center “to intake suspicious activity reports from across the many law enforcement agencies in the region, compare them against each other and all sources of intel…and identify links or patterns of suspicious behavior.” The initial build also included instant access to millions of 911 call records, and a list of every officer on duty during every single police shift of every day.
The next year, Palantir added databases of regional crime data, field interviews, explosive-related incidents, and jail visitation records. ...A much bigger change was the integration in 2011 of data from the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (CLETS).

CLETS used to be the primary digital tool for many officers in California. It contains criminal records and restraining orders, but also details of cars and drivers from the Department of Motor Vehicles in California and neighboring Oregon. That means that it includes millions of people outside the criminal justice system.

Once the Palantir system had incorporated … [more]
big_data  predictive_policing  smart_cities  urban_data  Palantir 
august 2017 by shannon_mattern
Centre for Urban Design and Mental Health - Home
The Centre for Urban Design and Mental Health (UD/MH) is the only think tank dedicated to answering one question: how can we design better mental health into our cities?
Mission

To help inform, motivate and empower policymakers, designers, planners, and public health professionals to build better mental health into their cities through smarter urban design.
Vision

To be a central repository and global go-to resource and platform for policymakers, architects, transport planners, urban planners, developers, designers, engineers, geographers, and others who want to design better mental health into cities, and drive integration of mental health into urban design as standard.
urban_design  smart_cities  mental_health  affect 
august 2017 by shannon_mattern
Drowning in Data, Cities Turn to 'Citizen Scientists'
governments are still collecting vast amounts of data and, well, doing nothing with it. “A lot of time is spent and wasted trying to find the right data,” says Adnan Mahmud, founder and CEO of LiveStories, a firm that creates digital tools for visualizing data. “Very little time is spent exploring it.”

Mahmud estimates that government workers spend about 80 percent of their time trying to find data and only about 20 percent of their time analyzing it. ...

That’s where “citizen data scientists” come in. These people aren’t statisticians or analysts by training, nor are they coders -- the people who build apps using government data and programming software during hackathons. Rather, these are skilled workers who can generate predictive models or pursue data analysis using new software tools or apps....

Marin County has begun using report cards that present data in what Willis calls a “storytelling” format so that everyone from county workers and government partners to policymakers can better understand the correlations between certain sets of data. He’s hoping it’s a first step toward encouraging citizen volunteers to begin to do their own analysis using the county’s open data and tools....

But some in governments are wary about letting volunteers and nonexperts interpret data using dashboards and other analytical tools. These officials are worried citizen data scientists will see things that government doesn’t want them to see. For instance, will a map reveal awkward disparities in how rich and poor neighborhoods receive public funding? They also worry that the correlations and predictions could end up being spurious or distracting. Already there’s a cottage industry of unusual and ridiculous correlations. One online meme jokingly notes a correlation between the release of Nicolas Cage movies and the number of swimming pool drownings in the U.S.
citizen_data  data_science  smart_cities  big_data  methodology 
august 2017 by shannon_mattern
FCJ-217 Socio-Technical Imaginaries of a Data-Driven City: Ethnographic Vignettes from Delhi | The Fibreculture Journal : 29
Drawing longer and thicker connections between the postcolonial city and the smart city will remain a work in progress; however, it is worth noting that the dynamic interactivity between social imaginaries and their materialisations is a part of urban (and not just digital) ontology.

- 24 -
It is also important to note that 'splintering' in the Indian context happened without our cities ever achieving the 'modern infrastructure ideal' of universal, uniform grids and networks that covered services like water, electricity, roads, etc. Informal circuits, contested spaces and complex interactivity in co-existing systems of governance and infrastructure have long rendered the built environment in Indian cities some peculiarities which are hard to grasp and account for in urban masterplans and policies ...

emerging modes of data-driven knowledge production are reconfiguring ways of knowing, experiencing and governing a city. The diverse field sites and actors introduced through the ethnographic material, portray some of the on-going reconfigurations which are getting materialised differently in different sites. Given the infancy of these emergences, there has been no explicit attempt to draw connections between the five ethnographic vignettes – namely, the new image of the city, the changing nature of expertise, civic data activism, apps as microcosmic smart cities, and political communication and analytics....

Especially in a postcolonial and global south context like India where technologies and infrastructures materialise very different kinds of sociality and vice versa – than the ones which dominate the technology studies discourse – a conversation on socio-technical imaginaries is highly improbable without substantial emic insights. The methodological recalibration required for engaging with nuances of data-driven systems can perhaps be initiated with a change in epistemological stance....

calls for us to seek a meta-analytics of data; to help frame the conceptual and material ontologies of data analytics without reducing its known and unknown life-worlds – which now includes cities – to either that of pure objects or culturally constructed networks.
smart_cities  postcolonialism  India 
august 2017 by shannon_mattern
FCJ-219 The Sensed Smog: Smart Ubiquitous Cities and the Sensorial Body | The Fibreculture Journal : 29
Dust and air pollution in general are silent, violent aggressors that demonstrate the political urgency of the atmospheric condition: the age of modernity is one of bubbles and spheres, as Peter Sloterdijk (2011) argues referring to the constitution of subjectivity as an air conditioning operation. Modernity opens up as air conditioning and as airborne terror: of denying possibilities of breathing the air of the streets and the public spaces. Terror begins in and with the air (Sloterdijk, 2009). This claim connects political contexts of cleaning and dusting to the issues of chemical warfare ... tear gas...

what are the conditions of visibility of air pollution? What are the conditions of chemical composition and the political-economic distribution of smog? Smog is then, besides a reference to a specific form of air pollution, also a conceptual bridge between the industrial and the post-industrial computerised city, a bridge between the production of the molecular pollution and its registration as part of the digital city, the smart city sensors and data. ...

what does it mean to look at smog as a medium itself, and to approach it as an index of the technological city that is haunted by the industrial veil. What conditions this ‘looking’ and even ‘seeing the city’ through eyes that are often data, and often statistical, such as art projects like Seeing the Air (Gates and Sampath, 2015)? I am interested in photochemical smog as a screen media of the city and pollution’s relation to smog sensors, and the creation of breathable zones. Many of the problems we identify as ‘environmental’, like air pollution, are already discussed and operated as data (both analytic data and as financial data, traded in the offset markets). Hence I choose to discuss the two in parallel: the environmental as part of a media ecology of observing, measuring and processing of data. ...

Dominique Laporte (2000) in the History of Shit argues that the emergence of the modern infrastructural city is also a site for the production of modern subjectivity. The production of cleanliness became part of city planning as a way to install order; the emergence of bourgeois subjectivity of segregated spaces is partly visible in the measures taken to install sewage and other systems of waste. Furthermore, this was not merely an issue of closing off the unwanteds, but of designing certain ways in which this circulation can be managed productively....

The chemical reality and the data about it are interlocked. In other words, accounting for the layered infrastructures as well as historical legacies of the city reminds us of the old problems new technologies are supposed to solve: smog from industry, transport that is the existing legacy of the 20th century, and the old energy forms still firing up technological society, based on coal etc. This is the particle world of technological cities we inhale: the dirty dust and smaller molecular elements that ensure that air is never just air ...

Not all air pollution is visible, a twist that should not be ignored in the discussion of this visual media that is another entry point to the sensor and data-registered ways in which we understand the chemical atmosphere of the technological city....

think of smog as a chemical screen, even, chemical screen media. The sun enlivens it with light, which is the most fundamental thing in visual culture. The screen is not a background but an environment that wraps you inside its toxic cloud. We register this sort of visual screen with our bodies with every breath but also with different sorts of sensors that have developed as an essential part of the observation of industrial culture....

The effect of the ozone depletion as we have grown to know it, is the increase in penetration of UV-light/radiation through the stratosphere, resulting in a different light balance from the 1970s to approximately to the year 2070...

Pratt engages with the human sensorial through the ‘taste of smog’: cultural practices of domesticating the urban problems of smog are made into a synaesthetic experience with a palette to match the air-born pollutants (Pratt, 2014). Smog imposes itself as a bodily experienced phenomenon, where its molecular status becomes also registered in and on the body. ... This leads to an evaluation of the city in visual, tactile, and even gustatory senses, as Pratt demonstrates in the speculative but highly effective way of framing citizen sensing through art methods....

In a similar vein, a much earlier project by Amy Balkin staged the conceptual and atmospheric site of Public Smog (2004-). An art project that addressed emissions trade, the legal constitution of breathability, and engagement with the wider public in relation to various governmental and intergovernmental organisations, it functioned also to demonstrate the sites and non-sites where pollution takes place geographically and atmospherically....

Amy Balkin's Public Smog: The project attempted to buy emission offsets in order to be able to withdraw these from the financial trading market. As a way of buying back air, it created sites in the atmosphere that were public parks....

Issues of seeing are increasingly dealt with in terms of visibility of data even if the infrastructure of how data is being collected and with what effects is more interesting than merely visual perception. [7] For example, the visualisation project Seeing the Air engages with air quality data from selected cities including Boston, Bangalore, Rio de Janeiro and Shanghai and provides a variety of graphs that enable comparison over time, between cities and categories of the AQI (Air Quality Index). Seeing the Air makes pollution understandable through expected representations of sensor data....

In several ways it is the existence of environmental problems that spurs the mobilisation of technological solutions such as massive level smog sensoring coupled with big data analysis. Here, the connections between remote sensing, smog sensing and environmental sensing are forming a crucial node in terms of producing the feedback-looped citizen/ smart environment. ...

Any environment includes also the data about itself, the wider media ecology. This refers to the informational ecology able to store, handle, query and process the data that also changes our understanding and relationship with the environment. It is on this level of the computational infrastructure where the old technological urban pollution such as smog from transport meets the new infrastructures that are built in relation to it: monitors, computational processes, data storage and more....

As Gabrys (2014) outlines, the participatory citizen is nicely fitted in as part of the environmental management in a way that corresponds well with Michel Foucault’s (2007) analysis of territories and security: instead of controlling individuals, environmental management creates environmental conditions in which certain sorts of behaviour and end results are produced. ...

But the data milieu is also conditioned by the historical levels of the layers of the city: its transportation system, infrastructures, the seemingly residual industrial that features as smog. The archaic persists. ...

Hence questions about sensing emerge as a way to negotiate the techno-bodies of sensation (Gabrys, 2012, referring to Rosi Braidotti) as multiple scales of mediated registering: the human-sensorially and remote-sensorially experienced pollution levels are one such sort of entangled mixed ecology of sensing and sensation. This point actually comes back to the conceptual development I offered in the previous section through art projects and the relations of the experiential body to the realities of pollution that are not always easily available to the human senses. Hence, Gabrys and Braidotti provide exciting ways to consider this extended understanding of sensors (the technological, the embodied) and the media realities of air pollution as data, as visual screens, as even as taste in Pratt’s work...

a crucial question as to where the city is sensed, where it is mapped, and what is being seen as valuable of a tactical or strategic location. Barreneche (2012) demonstrates how geo-services produce a specific geographical ontology that is prescribed by way of the software and the corporate platforms through tagging, and the circuiting of user data and so forth.
air  pollution  smart_cities  sensors  sanitation  sensation  environment  visibility  big_data 
august 2017 by shannon_mattern
NYC Civic Service Design Tools + Tactics
Making public services more effective, accessible and simple for all New Yorkers.

Governments are embracing design — not as a trend, but as a way to transform how we deliver services and information to the public.
Civic Service Design Tools + Tactics is an introduction to service design for public servants, and a set of practical ways to include design methods in your work.

Use this collection of tools and tactics to see your service in context, talk with people who use it, and try out ideas in low-risk ways.
smart_cities  service  design_thinking  civic_tech 
august 2017 by shannon_mattern
Verso : Adam Greenfield
Data is the decision to acquire and measure bone-length dimensions from faces moving through the field of vision of a municipal CCTV camera. Code is the sorting of people into gendered buckets based on the results of those measurements. Policy is treating people differently depending on which bucket the system has placed them in. There is a politics and a system of values operating at every level.

Perhaps such sorting is defensible in some contexts, and less so in others. But the point is that such decisions should always be made consciously, and in the fullest possible awareness of the values they reproduce. And in my experience, anyway, it so very rarely is....

Now, finally, we’re in a position to understand the questioner who – with an expression on his face that was something between surprise and open horror – took issue with my assertion that one of the aims of municipal technology ought to be “preventing capture of the commons for private advantage.” Isn’t that the whole point of capitalist enterprise, he wondered? Yes, I agreed, it was. Then why on Earth would you ever want to design software that might prevent that from happening? It had evidently never occurred to him that capitalism itself might be a value, or a system of values, shared neither by the designers of civic software nor by the people whose lifechances were shaped by its operation....

And it matters profoundly. If we are to have any hope whatsoever of establishing the conditions of justice in the cities of the twenty-first century, we will need to raise the values embedded in software to the surface and force them to speak themselves. We will need to demand that the engineers who will craft the code that determines all the million material ways in which the networked city interacts with the people who live in it, and give it shape and meaning, are able to consciously articulate the things they believe (even, at the very most basic level, whether or not they conceive of the distribution of civic goods as a zero-sum game). We will have to stop treating the various networked technologies around us as givens, let alone uncomplicated gifts, and learn to see them anew as bearers of ideology. And we’ll need to understand the design of software as the level at which that ideology operates.
algorithms  smart_cities  software  code 
august 2017 by shannon_mattern
About - The HUMAN Project
The HUMAN Project is an interdisciplinary research platform that serves as a public resource for learning everything possible about the connections between our minds, bodies, and environment to enable the development of new theories, therapeutics, and policy recommendations to solve the toughest societal challenges facing us today. These goals are achieved through a partnership between the Project’s participants, the Project’s staff, and their company: Data Cubed Inc.
big_data  behaviorism  smart_cities  environment  methodology 
august 2017 by shannon_mattern
About BUILT – BUILT @ NYU
The Behavioral Urban Informatics, Logistics, and Transport (BUILT) Laboratory conducts research in the area of transportation systems design and modeling. Typical products of this lab may include dynamic operating policies for flexible transport services, a parking pricing and information system for travelers, a decision support tool for evaluating multimodal infrastructure investment strategies, or a fleet routing algorithm for autonomous vehicles or other cyber-physical transportation systems. The lab is a part of the Center for Urban ITS within Tandon, and is headed by Professor Joseph Chow.
big_data  smart_cities  transportation  behaviorism 
august 2017 by shannon_mattern
Kontokosta: Urban Intelligence Lab
We use data to solve problems facing cities and society. Through an inter-disciplinary approach centered around computational methods, we apply analytics to the study of systems dynamics at the building, district, and city scales to advance the well-being, sustainability, and resilience of urban environments. Our research confronts the social, economic, and political realities facing cities, and seeks to understand how bias and inequality influence data-driven models and their application to urban operations, policy, and planning.
urban_intelligence  big_data  smart_cities  behaviorism 
august 2017 by shannon_mattern
The New Urban Science - The Chronicle of Higher Education
The infusion of big data and big dollars into urban studies has led to a significant shift in the field. But scholars who have long focused on cities say the new urban science has yet to develop enough workable theories or overarching models to predict how any city around the world will change or grow. What’s more, with researchers coming from disciplines as different as anthropology, data science, economics, and urban policy, a common language has yet to emerge.

"We have a lot of new info, but we’re not developing new insight," says Karen C. Seto, a professor of geography and urbanization sciences at Yale University. "This tsunami of data has not necessarily helped us understand what makes a city vibrant and sustainable."...

a new and well-supported science would help researchers understand how urbanization unfolds, "and how this process interacts with local and global environments."...

Some earth scientists who have studied cities say that researchers need to widen their lens. Instead of looking at cities purely as a collection of self-contained ecological entities, scientists should factor in all of the "inputs" that cities gobble up — coal from rural Wyoming, fracked oil from western North Dakota, steel from smoke-belching Chinese mills — and the pollution and warming that come from it. ..

"There are so many problems that you just have to pick one. Then you follow where the data takes you."
smart_cities  urban_science  big_data 
august 2017 by shannon_mattern
Seattle names first smart city coordinator
The City of Seattle has finished searching for its first smart city coordinator, choosing former Kansas City, Missouri, Innovation Policy Advisor Kate Garman.

The city announced the hire on Thursday after a months-long search for a leader who could bring diligence and community-focus to an emerging technology space fraught with both potential and pitfalls. Garman’s duties as the city's first smart city coordinator will involve leading a smart city program dedicated to establishing “policies, partnerships, systems, platforms, and networks” that serve the needs of Seattle's residents through the innovative use of technology, according to a press release.

“Seattle strives to become a smarter city, responsibly use new technologies and data to improve our community’s quality of life. This means bringing together stakeholders from across the city to understand when these technologies can provide value, and to facilitate deployment in a manner trusted by our community,” said city Chief Technology Officer Michael Mattmiller in a statement. “We are excited to have a proven leader like Kate help us advance our efforts in this space.”
smart_cities  open_data 
august 2017 by shannon_mattern
A Catalog of Civic Data Use Cases | Data-Smart City Solutions
What kinds of operations-enhancing questions have cities asked and answered with data and analytics? The catalog below is an ongoing, regularly-updated resource for those interested in knowing what specific use cases can be addressed using more advanced data and analysis techniques.

For examples that are currently being implemented in cities across the country, you can click to expand the question to see additional information about the solution.  All other examples represent potential questions that cities could work to address with data and analytics.    
smart_cities  data_science 
july 2017 by shannon_mattern
Hudson Yards Tunnels | Hudson Yards Tubes
The towers that make up Hudson Yards on Manhattan’s far west side are rising fast. But underground, things are quieter. Two key pieces of infrastructure — tubes that would link a new tunnel under the Hudson River to Pennsylvania Station — have run out of funding.
“We can’t afford to punt any longer,” Representative Josh Gottheimer, a Democrat from New Jersey, told the New York Times. “That’s frankly why I’m here. You see what’s going on in the ‘summer of hell.’ People are experiencing what’s going to go on when you have 100-year-old tunnels and equipment breaking.”
Work on the project came to a stop after the federal Department of Transportation pulled out of the development in the latest sign that the Trump administration is losing interest in a $23.9 billion infrastructure project considered vital to New York City and New Jersey.
hudson_yards  smart_cities  infrastructure 
july 2017 by shannon_mattern
Chicago's WindyGrid Puts Open Data to Work - The New Stack
With its WindyGrid project, the city of Chicago is using open data from multiple sources, both internal and external, to offer an unprecedented view of everything happening within the city, as Tom Schenk, Chicago’s chief data officer demonstrated at the recent MongoDB World 2017.

WindyGrid combines data collected in more than three dozen of systems within city departments — such as 911 calls, non-emergency 311 calls, building permits, health inspections — and combines it with data from other sources, such as weather data and tweets, to produce a comprehensive view of the city. It can show where police, fire and ambulance vehicles are in real time. It can plot reported potholes and the status of each complaint.
smart_cities  dashboards 
july 2017 by shannon_mattern
Thingclash
Thingclash is a framework for considering cross-impacts and implications of colliding technologies, systems, cultures and values around the Internet of Things. 
internet_of_things  tech_critique  smart_cities 
july 2017 by shannon_mattern
IASC: The Hedgehog Review - Volume 19, No. 2 (Summer 2017) - Saving the Soul of the Smart City -
But the smart city as it is actually coming into being raises a darker question: What would we be willing to trade for a cleaner, safer, more efficient, more sustainable, and even more pleasurable urban existence? For cities across the world, this is the overwhelming challenge of daily governance. Closer to home, we confront this question in our worries over the loss of autonomy and privacy amid the technological web of surveillance and interconnectedness we are spinning for ourselves. We confront it in the ways such smart technologies are already optimizing the quality of life for some while only intensifying inequality for others. At the deepest cultural level, we confront the question of autonomy versus convenience in the ways such technologies generate new forms of social control that are accepted because they appear to be backed by the authority of science and have been proven effective at improving our aggregate well-being. Taking a hard look at the smart city requires that we ask not only where it might fail to live up to the promises of its boosters, but also where it is successful and how it might nonetheless still fail us as citizens and as human beings....

But Bloomberg is not alone in his obsession with bringing data and measurement into the study and management of cities. Once again, long-standing intellectual aspirations are finding renewed vigor in the new science of cities. Quantitative urbanism, as it has come to be known, is focused on discovering the deep, universal laws of urban life and reducing what once seemed irreducible—the buzzing chaos of cities—to mathematical formulas by which to better manage its key functions....

“The ballet of the good city sidewalk,” Jacobs famously wrote, “never repeats itself from place to place, and in any one place is always replete with new improvisations.”28 Such emergence, as Hannah Arendt reminds us, can come only “against the overwhelming odds of statistical laws and their probability, which for all practical, everyday purposes amounts to certainty; the new therefore always appears in the guise of a miracle.”29

Some, Jacobs and Arendt would agree, can come only through the civic friction that physical proximity and cultural particularity generate, and which can lead to genuine dialogue with our neighbors. But some, the philosopher Charles Taylor would remind us, come ultimately through the cultivation of the skills and virtues that power our commitments to working for the good of one another, even possibly at the expense of our own convenience and comforts. If the smart city is to contribute to a thriving human ecology oriented toward truth, justice, and goodness as well as prosperity, beauty, and sustainability, we stand in urgent need of a deep ethical and political turn that will help us cultivate the unoptimizable things for the purposes of making the city not just smart, but wise.
smart_cities  my_work  urban_planning  big_data  urban_intelligence 
july 2017 by shannon_mattern
City Planning Launches New Civic Tech Project
NYC Planning Labs, a new unit in the Department of City Planning introduced on Monday, is a next step in both civic technology and city planning. Planning Labs will use open platforms that will engage people outside of city government, but largely work to provide tools to others at City Planning, so they can find solutions to the city’s planning challenges as New York continues to grow and the de Blasio administration moves ahead with its affordable housing, community development, and other initiatives.

The new effort intends to “bring civic data to life through interactive maps and visualizations, create tools to help New Yorkers better understand the built environment, and build simple web-based tools to streamline internal workflows,” according to the NYC Planning Labs website....

One of the systems created during this time was the NYC Facilities Explorer, which can show exactly how many education centers, libraries, parks, public safety facilities, and health and human services are available in any given area of the five boroughs.

Equipped with a color-coded legend, this interactive map makes massive amounts of data  far easier to digest than a spreadsheet and can clearly show which communities have more or fewer resources....

to implement and promote the use of agile methods, human-centered design, and open technology to support the above, maximizing the benefits of community-driven product development.”...

Web map explorers can have flaws. Missing records or inaccurate data can sometimes skew the visual information, and while this is not the only type of technology NYC Planning Labs will be working with, it is an example of how even modern systems have weaknesses....

Whong also said, “We will be taking on small builds to maximize reach around the agency. These projects must have a well-defined problem and may include new interfaces for the agency's map and data products, or lightweight web tools...We are not limited just to web-based projects, and may also have hardware, IoT [Internet of Things], or design-oriented engagements with our customers.”
urban_planning  urban_tech  smart_cities  civic_tech  civic_engagement 
july 2017 by shannon_mattern
A Neighborhood Plan Created Through Text Messages - CityLab
This isn’t necessarily a radical or new platform—community board meetings, for instance, have been around a long time, serving as spaces for residents to come out and get involved in their own neighborhoods. But the crowdsourcing efforts behind the Brownsville Plan carved out a new kind of space for neighborhood engagement.
In a collaboration with the online platform coUrbanize, the department put up signs all over the neighborhood—in vacant lots and subway stations, in front of storefronts and restaurants—that asked residents to text thoughts about what they would like to see more of, or what needed improvement. The prompts were open-ended: “This space could use some love. What would you put here?” or “It’s kinda dark down here… How can we make Livonia a safer, friendlier street?”

Community input began last July and included dozens of advocacy organizations, the collaboration with coUrbanize, and the help of around 500 residents. Once a resident texted a response, they received a reply that would allow them to get updates on the planning process and keep them in the loop with details on future activities and meetings. The call for texts was kept open for six months, and the comments submitted (either via text or online) were mapped and categorized in a manner that made clear what residents thought Brownsville needed more of, and what the neighborhood should hold on to (the community garden, for example, needs to remain, according to one resident)....

Engaging the neighborhood in city planning isn’t a new concept, but it’s not always easy to do. “It’s a great idea to have an option of gathering information via text—it makes it accessible, especially for those who might not be able to attend community events because they’re homebound or working overtime,” says Giovania Tiarachristine, neighborhood planner at HPD. However, this platform is only complementary to the more personal crowdsourcing happening on the ground—“we can’t build a plan solely on online engagement,” Tiarachristine says. ...

How did the idea of using text messages to create a plan for one of New York’s poorest neighborhoods come about? According to Kawitzky, there has been a growing collaboration between municipalities and online platforms. Neighborland, mySidewalk, and Textizen were a few platforms they considered before landing on coUrbanize.“It’s becoming more routine for cities to integrate tech and data in their planning process,” he says. This has led to more and more startups getting involved in urban planning and design, points out Karin Brandt, cofounder and CEO of coUrbanize. “Cities and towns have a lot of interest in handling data now,” she says. “Technology can strongly support new kinds of crowdsourcing.”...

coUrbanize’s texting and mapping strategy has been used in similar capacities by the city of Boston as well as in suburban New Jersey. Brandt has noticed that, in any neighborhood, the first step is asking residents questions they can answer without industry jargon. “In planning meetings, they might talk about something like zoning, which requires a degree of specific knowledge,” she says. But by simply asking residents to share ideas about their neighborhood, the barrier to participation is lowered—and it takes about five seconds. “If you make the first step easy, you’ve increased your odds,” she adds.
smart_cities  urban_planning  civic_engagement  public_process  texting 
july 2017 by shannon_mattern
Model Lab
When cities tackle transportation problems, they create simulation models in which travelers move about cities: going to work, dropping children off at school, running errands. Typically these simulations are based on survey data that is expensive, coarse, and infrequently collected. As the pace of transportation innovation accelerates, cities need more accurate, real-time data to effectively inform planning decisions.

By relying on high fidelity data, new approaches to modeling can lead to faster policies and greater consensus. Location-based data can be anonymized to protect consumer privacy and then made useful to urban planners, leading to models that are informed with fresher, cheaper, and more precise data than ever before. If cities can improve data quality, reduce planning time, and extract good ideas from the community, we can create a future in which governments are more nimble, responsive, and effective.
sidewalk_labs  modeling  urban_planning  smart_cities  urban_data 
june 2017 by shannon_mattern
GoogleUrbanism: Working With the System — Volume
GoogleUrbanism (GU) is a city management strategy making use of Google’s insatiable hunger for capitalization of ‘attention’ and quality data. Proposed by strategic urban designers/architects Nicolay Boyadjiev, Harshavardhan Bhat, Kirill Rostovsky and Andréa Savard-Beaudoin, GU intends to create a mutually beneficial relation between the commercial interests of tech companies and the city as political and social entity. Cities more often than not have serious trouble to provide and maintain the public services they’re supposed to deliver and companies like Google are developing new business models in exploiting the overlap between physical and digital space. But those tech platforms are already profiting from the digital data and attention of users in the physical world. The GU team proposes to set new terms to this currently one-sided relationship by adding ‘public space’ in the equation between Google, users and data, framing it as the formal physical ‘site of extraction’ of this digital value.

Next to the analogue adspace (think of the screens and billboards in Times Square, NYC) and more recent digital ads, popping up on your phone while moving through shopping streets, GU explores and captures digital activity of people in a (public) space, in order to redirect it to the space itself. By introducing a digital license for value extraction from public space, the city benefits from it economically. Google Urbanism argues for taking reality as point of departure for further architectonic interventions rather than starting from an idealized scenario of what public spaces and cities should be.
smart_cities  big_data  data_privacy  data_ownership 
june 2017 by shannon_mattern
President Trump wants a ‘sweeping transformation’ of government tech, he says at a White House meeting with execs - Recode
After a day of meetings at the White House with those and other tech leaders -- some of whom have been his fiercest corporate critics in the past— Trump admitted that the feds had to “catch up” with the private sector. He said federal agencies had to deliver “dramatically better services to citizens,” for example, while buying cheaper, more efficient technology and adopting “stronger protections from cyber attacks.”

The comments officially concluded the inaugural meeting of the White House’s American Technology Council, a new effort chartered by Trump in May to bring the lumbering federal bureaucracy into the digital age. The group has a broad mandate — converting paper-based forms into easy-to-use websites, for example, while helping the government buy better technology and take advantage of new tools like artificial intelligence.

As the council begins its task, though, Trump sought the tech industry’s help, convening a day of private brainstorming sessions with top executives on Monday afternoon — and several of those leaders, flanking Trump at a table later in the evening, responded with a few asks of their own.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos called on the U.S. government to take advantage of commercial technology — the sort of tools his own company sells. Palantir CEO Alex Karp said he had offered his support in private sessions, earlier in the day, about ways to tap big data in order to spot fraudulent federal spending. And Apple CEO Tim Cook — who also acknowledged that the U.S. had much work to do to modernize — said Washington should make coding a requirement in schools....

The executives in attendance then broke up into smaller groups, some focused on areas like big data and others on workforce development, as the White House explores new ways to convince tech employees to serve tours of duty in the U.S. government. Still a third group focused on high-skilled immigration, a major flashpoint for Trump and the tech sector.

...

Following the meeting Monday, the White House plans to continue its so-called “tech week” push. For one thing, it will convene another round of companies and investors to discuss “emerging” technologies on Thursday.

At that session, top officials at the FAA will huddle with drone companies about the regulatory and safety challenges facing their industry, according to a source familiar with the White House’s plans. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai also will be on hand, as the Trump administration looks to solicit the tech industry's thoughts about 5G wireless technologies and the "internet of things," the source told Recode. And other senior White House aides will discuss how to finance those devices and services alongside Silicon Valley's top investors.
big_data  smart_cities  e_government 
june 2017 by shannon_mattern
What Will Google’s Smart City Look Like? | StateTech Magazine
StateScoop reports that the goal of the smart city will be to address five intensifying issues plaguing urban living and development, including:

The rising cost of housing — Pre-made modular housing units could cut down construction costs by 30 percent.
Long commutes — A system that enables all modes of transit — ridesharing, public transit, driverless cars, walking and cycling — could reduce congestion.
Environmental sustainability — Implementing thermal transfer technologies could reduce costs and cut back on wasted energy.
Ubiquitous connectivity — A solid, high-speed connectivity infrastructure that provides online access to residents is necessary to enable the city’s technology aims and provide data-driven services.
Creating a new “public realm” — Introducing self-driving cars can help open up space for pedestrians and public parks, the types of spaces that define cities.
“The future of cities lies in the way these urban experiences fit together and improve quality of life for everyone living, working and growing up in cities across the world,” Doctoroff said at the conference. “Yet there is not a single city today that can stand as a model — or even close — for our urban future.”

Chasing Cheaper Urban Living Through an Idyllic Smart City

Sidewalk Labs has been pursuing the idea of a smart city built from the ground up for some time now, recently engaging in a “thought experiment” around introducing technologies in every aspect of city life.

Doctoroff is pursuing the idea that “a combination of digital technologies — ubiquitous connectivity, social networks, sensing, machine learning and artificial intelligence, and new design and fabrication technologies — would help bring about a revolution in urban life,” he writes in a November blog post.

The idea is to revolutionize urban experiences, but the issue is also that existing buildings and city infrastructure are not built to be connected. Starting from scratch could help to infuse these technologies throughout the new infrastructure.

“We recognized that you can never truly plan a city. Instead you can lay the foundations and let people create on top of it,” Doctoroff wrote.
The new 12-acre strip in the downtown district in Toronto, built on smart city values and internet backbone, will look to test the models Sidewalk Labs has been theorizing: how connected tech can improve city life at every level.

“We’ve found that applying urban innovations at scale could reduce cost of living by 14 percent compared to surrounding metro areas for an average family in America,” Doctoroff told StateScoop.
sidewalk_labs  smart_cities  toronto  urban_planning 
june 2017 by shannon_mattern
Smart Cities: What Do We Need to Know to Plan and Design Them Better?
For most of the last decade, the smart city has been a corporate project. That is to say, it has not challenged existing power structures in either its formulation of the essential problems facing cities, nor the solutions. It has focused on modest, mostly invisible fixes to existing systems and solutions through better management enabled by digital technology. Its limited set of ambitions has ignored the broader of contemporary urban policy concerns to focus on efficient operation.
As a result, the smart city has overwhelmingly been envisioned and sold as an upgrade to existing cities. This stands in stark contrast to earlier movements in urban planning such as the Garden Cities movement, the City Beautiful, and postwar renewal, which all sought to radically rework the underlying material basis of cities and the forms and structures that would make it possible. The smart city instead has had modest ambitions. It could best be seen as a campaign for incremental, iterative improvements to 20th century urban infrastructure designs that have failed to meet the burdens placed on them by the scale and speed of 21st century urbanization.

This version of the smart city, cementing private sector operators in key positions over an indefinite period, have not surprisingly led to ominously though not often overly, corporatist views of the future city. These visions have typically overlooked structural inconsistencies in global capitalism, and its exclusions that it has created in cities — income inequality, inadequate housing supply and the corresponding problems in affordability, inequitable environmental risks, and so on....

The smart city, in computer metaphor terms, is a mainframe. Not only is this not seen as undesirable — its a vision and design strategy actively pushed by the corporations — but it is largely not seen or understood by urban policymakers....

And so, in the final chapter of Smart Cities I laid out 13 tenets of ‘a new civics for smart cities’. My inspiration was the work of Sir Patrick Geddes, one of the fathers of the Garden Cities movement. Geddes, unlike most of his Victorian-era urban reformers, was a biologist rather than an architect or civil engineer, an avid gardener rather than an inventor of things mechanical. He believed deeply in bottom-up change, and had an uncanny grasp of urban systems thinking that presaged Jane Jacobs’ writing a half-century later, which popularized many of the same ideas and convictions.

My new civics sought to lay the seed for a Geddesian approach to smart cities, by laying a set of principles that might guide choices for a broad array of actors building smart cities in a more vernacular style, rather than master planning them — or worse, packaging them as products and services to be installed off the shelf. These tenets covered a range of strategic recommendations — I urged cities to: be skeptical of easy digital solutions when analog answers were already at hand; build and keep control their own digital infrastructure; avoid excessive integration and the excessive control points it creates; take on the challenge of data governance; craft bespoke solutions but with a mind to sharing with other cities; train professionals who can work in both digital and physical realms; inform long-term planning with rich data; be careful about technology-enabled crowdsourcing and devolution of power; ensure that everyone is well-connected and well-informed; harness data-driven urban science but in small measures; and be very careful about automating human decisions in ways that hide the impacts of our choices about consumption....

By 2012, a new planning practice was emerging in global cities. Cities were starting to take over the role of thought leader in the smart cities movement, through the development of far-reaching smart city plans, or what I have come to call ‘digital master plans’. ... what kind of research would make these plans better? What do cities need to know to chart their future?...

The disturbing fact is that no one really knows what is going on in cities because of these technologies. That is to say, there is scant and poorly integrated evidence about how people’s decisions, and the ways those decisions add up to change, are being impacted by the spread of digital technology....

So we need to study the dynamics of smart cities much more than we do now. We need to know how markets are driving change, as much as we need to understand the effectiveness of public investment and use in smart city technologies. This is before we even get to thinking about desired directions, or about how policy and planning can turn the dial in a desired direction....

And so the challenge then becomes establishing a new approach to how we study cities in the era of smart cities, and I suspect the responses may hold in them the seeds of a new compact around urban governance (e.g. and a new civics that dictates what is expected of individuals and groups) — every bit as much as the massive instrumentation of urban bureaucracies about 150 years ago did. City charters today say very little about how municipalities and their partners can and should collect, analyze and use data. In fifty years, they may cover little else, data will be such an important linchpin in what they do, how they create value — why they exist at all. To put it another way, the generation, use and handling of data about people and their activities needs to be baked into how city government works at the most basic levels.
smart_cities  digital_equity  infrastructure 
june 2017 by shannon_mattern
The 'Smart City' Kit That Anyone Can Use - CityLab
But what if citizens themselves could harness the smart city’s sensors and gather their own data, using it to reshape the urban environment in a way that better meets their needs? That’s the intriguing question behind Sensors in a Shoebox, a project to put compact kits of sensors in the hands of Detroit teenagers. Funded by grants from the Knight Cities Challenge and National Science Foundation, it’s a bottom-up approach to urban technology that aims to empower the community, rather than the technocrats. The aim: Help citizens ask questions about their neighborhoods and come up with their own solutions....

The solution Flanigan came up with was a cellular modem, which allows the node to send data directly to the cloud. The modem also has the advantage of requiring less power—a solar panel the size of an LP record sleeve is plenty. Flanigan designed each node to accommodate four sensors, and users can choose from an assortment that includes a thermometer, a humidity sensor, an accelerometer, sensors for particulate matter or ozone to indicate air pollution, or an infrared sensor that can spot humans or animals....

As Flanigan hustles to finish building sensor kits in time for a planned deployment in early June, Jocylen Fox, development services coordinator at the non-profit Detroit RiverFront Conservancy, is looking forward to seeing the students’ data. The conservancy is trying to figure out how people are using three-and-a-half miles of parkland and trails along the Detroit River, much of which was until recently surface parking, abandoned piers, and vacant lots. But currently available sensor technology was prohibitively expensive for such a large area; without this project, the conservancy wouldn’t have been able to capture enough data....

“The real goal of this project is to engage young people in identifying problems in their community and learning to do scientific research to work on solutions,” says Elizabeth Moje, dean of Michigan’s School of Education and a lead researcher for Sensors in a Shoebox. “But it’s absolutely something we can imagine going to a much larger scale. Imagine what could have happened in Flint if the average citizen had a water pollution sensor. It’s really important that we develop citizens who are capable of doing this kind of work.”
smart_cities  public_process  public_design  DIY  community  citizen_science 
june 2017 by shannon_mattern
A first step toward creating a digital planning laboratory is populating it
At Model Lab, we believe robust simulation tools can help illuminate and inform the benefits and costs of transport-related service, policy, and infrastructure decisions. To understand how transportation interventions impact communities, the models we build need to adequately represent every person living in a community today and every person expected to be living there tomorrow. Our first step in creating a model system that achieves this goal is a toolkit we call Doppelgänger. What’s unique about Doppelgänger is that it pairs two cutting-edge technical capabilities — convex optimization and Bayesian Networks — into the same open source modeling tool, enabling the urban planning community to take a significant step forward with population analysis...

To protect the privacy of respondents, Census data is delivered at different geographies and across different periods of time. For example, the best estimate of the number of households in a community may be available for each Census block from the Decennial Census (last conducted in 2010), and the best estimate of household income may be the five-year rolling data product from the American Community Survey for each Census tract. Combining these disparate data sets to create a coherent and complete representation of what is happening in a community at any point in time is difficult. It’s a bit like trying to completely understand a subject from photos that are taken from different angles, at different points in time, from different distances. Further complicating the problem, urban planners like to use non-Census data sets, such as school quality, that may introduce yet another set of geographies (e.g., school districts)....

Doppelgänger is here to help. It belongs to a class of tools that urban modelers refer to as “population synthesizers.” As their name implies, population synthesizers create synthetic populations — virtual communities with detailed descriptions of the households and people that live in them. These tools attempt to consume all of the data sets created by the Census Bureau (as well as other sources) to create a complete and internally consistent virtual representation of a given community. More broadly, Doppelgänger enables planners to create a set of virtual households that accurately reflects real neighborhoods, cities, regions, or states, along any dimension relevant to the problem at hand. ...

Bayes Nets act as a means of extracting useful relationships from one data set that can then be applied to other data sets. For example, consider a data set that, for a relatively small sample of households, contains information on each household’s number of people, income, and number of vehicles. We can train a Bayes Net on this data to understand the relationship between these three variables. ... The relationships labeled in the graph as A, B, and C are, in a Bayes Net, probability vectors relating outcomes in the destination box conditional on the outcomes of the origin box. Now consider a much larger data set of households that describes only the number people in each household and their household income — this data set is silent on household vehicles. If we believe that the Bayes Net trained on the smaller data set is relevant to the larger data set, we can use the Bayes Net to estimate household vehicle levels in the larger data set. In other words, we can use the Bayes Net to infer the number of vehicles each household owns.
urban_planning  urban_data  smart_cities  modeling  prediction  mapping  methodology  population 
may 2017 by shannon_mattern
Oil won't last forever, so Dubai is betting big on science and tech | Popular Science
For more than a decade, this city-state’s story has been all about superlatives: the world’s tallest building, the biggest fireworks display, the busiest international airport. But a new ethos has taken hold, a broad and purposeful strategy to swap profligacy for ingenuity. Unlike some countries, Dubai believes the planet is warming—and is determined to use science and technology not only to adapt to a new era of extremes, but also to make that adaptation the basis of its economy. Dubai wants to be known more as a laboratory for world-saving technology than for the man-made beaches, indoor ski slopes, and vast air-conditioned malls that defined its recent past....

researchers are working to improve the performance of photovoltaic modules in the parched, dusty environment. “You can easily lose 30 to 70 percent of the power from dust,” explains Jim Joseph John, an Indian engineer who recently relocated here from Phoenix, Arizona, where he’d finished up some research for his Ph.D. On an adjacent patch of sand, three visiting technicians fiddle with a sophisticated weather station, their tools spilling out of their rental car’s trunk. Behind another fence is a photovoltaic reverse-osmosis system, which transforms brackish groundwater into drinking water. Across a construction laneway, two steel towers a couple of stories tall poke at the sky like half-erected cranes. Technicians are preparing to install 3-D printers on them, which will extrude—in a matter of weeks—a whole building intended to house (naturally) a drone lab. The laneway itself will then be ripped up, its brick pavers replaced with solar panels and a system to wirelessly recharge electric cars as they drive along. ...

Cities are machines, the largest things we build. Their airports and seaports digest and expel people and goods, while their roads and rails siphon both through the urban landscape. Their tunnels carry data, power, water, and sewage. Their governing authorities work (one hopes) with deliberateness, imposing coherence on what otherwise could be chaos. It can all hum efficiently—or fail spectacularly. Typically, all of this is constructed over centuries. ...The lesson of city building is that infrastructure takes forever—the tortoise to technology’s hare.
But Dubai has done it differently. Dubai has built in 50 years what has taken most cities 100....

For the next generation, Dubai’s advantages are more fraught, tied as they are to impending climate catastrophe. Many cities are about to face new extremes of temperature and drought. Dubai already does. Many cities will struggle to find fresh water and clean power. Dubai already does. Viewed in this light, Dubai is a place where the future has arrived early...

Rather than be intimidated by its ­potentially catastrophic challenges, withdrawing from the world and doubling down on outdated technologies, Dubai is accelerating toward it. The plan is simple: Turn the traditional mechanisms of urban life into a platform for confronting the hazards of contemporary society. Then export those innovations. If a city is a machine, Dubai wants to be the most advanced city-­machine the world has ever seen—and it wants to sell its blueprints to everyone. “Dubai is recognizing that climate change is an existential threat to its ability to be a prosperous part of the world,” says David Pomerantz, executive director of the Energy and Policy Institute, a watchdog group....

In this imagined Dubai of the future, the electricity and water authority has blown past today’s supersize desalination plant and opened a bio-desalination plant, grown from the genes of a jellyfish (the “most absorptive natural material”) and a mangrove tree (“one of nature’s best desalinators”). And it sold them too: “We also export jellyfish bio-desalination plants to cities across the world,” the stentorian voice continues. Robots construct buildings from sand. An artificial intelligence selects and grows food in indoor farms. And flying cars pulse through traffic-free streets. It’s all presented with enough science-fiction flair to maintain a sense of humor. But the punchline is serious: “We solved our own problems, and now climate solutions are our greatest export.” ...

Dubai’s middle class appears to be far broader and more diverse than it was a decade ago, when the dominant media narrative was about a fantasy city built on the backs of slave labor. The extent to which working conditions have improved is hard to judge, but the reality of the city as a business and commercial hub is plainly apparent. If Dubai’s future is as a knowledge hub, it will have to fulfill the dreams of more than just the Emiratis. With rare exceptions, only they are allowed to be citizens, and since visas are based on employment, deportation isn’t so much an extreme consequence as an everyday worry. That may have mattered less to the Emiratis when labor was expendable. But to compete for global talent, Dubai needs to transform from a transitory polyglot society to a permanently cosmopolitan one—an ambition that has become a talking point of Sheikh Mohammed. “The uniqueness of Dubai is the fact that it is a melting pot of the world’s cultures, ethnicities, and minds in one city,” he said in a statement.
smart_cities  middle_east  dubai  electricity  sustainability  urban_design  urban_history  labor 
may 2017 by shannon_mattern
Sidewalk Labs May Build a High-Tech City District From Scratch in Toronto – Next City
Downtown Toronto could be getting a “smart city” development from Sidewalk Labs, a subsidiary of Google’s parent company Alphabet, Bloomberg Technology reports. Sidewalk Labs responded to the city’s request for proposals to develop a 12-acre strip, and may seize the opportunity to fulfill its ambition of creating a smart city hub from scratch. Details of the proposal are private — and Bloomberg’s article has few specifics — but two people familiar with the plans told the news outlet that the bid fits with the company’s ambitions....

In a speech last week at the Smart Cities NYC conference, Sidewalk Labs​ CEO Dan Doctoroff said the firm is exploring development of a “large-scale district,” but that plans were still in the “feasibility” phase. Sidewalk Labs has also eyed Denver and Detroit, according to Bloomberg.
smart_cities  sidewalk_labs 
may 2017 by shannon_mattern
Is Estonia a Preview of Our Tech Future? | Fortune.com
One generation on, Estonia is a time warp of another kind: a fast-f orward example of extreme digital living. For the rest of us, Estonia ­offers a glimpse into what happens when a country abandons old analog systems and opts to run completely online instead. ...

At birth, every person is assigned a unique string of 11 digits, a digital identifier that from then on is key to operating almost every aspect of that person’s life—the 21st-century version of a Social Security number. The all-digital habits begin young: Estonian children learn computer programming at school, many beginning in kindergarten.
In 2000, Estonia became the first country in the world to declare Internet access a basic human right—much like food and shelter. That same year it passed a law giving digital signatures equal weight to handwritten ones. That single move created an entire paperless system. ...

Estonians might take all this tech wizardry for granted now, but the country was on its knees economically after the Soviet collapse. It had one huge advantage: It was starting from scratch. “People were paid in cash,” says Martin Ruubel, 41, president of Guardtime, a 10-year-old software security company that developed the country’s blockchain system (more on that in a moment), sitting in his Tallinn office on the grounds of a converted former military barrack. Since no Estonian had ever had a checkbook, once the Soviets were gone the country simply skipped past pen and paper and issued bank cards. It was a money saver, but had another benefit: It pushed Estonians to get online fast...

Scrambling to piece together a country, the new leaders, young and inexperienced, also rapidly privatized the telecom industry. “It was highly successful,” says Mart Laar, 57, who became the first post-Soviet Prime Minister, at age 32, and is now chairman of the board of supervisors for the Bank of Estonia. Since so few people had even landline phones, many simply bought mobile handsets instead. Laar, a historian, says he knew nothing about computers but believed they needed to start with the latest technology. When Finland offered to donate its analog telephone exchange to its poorer neighbor for free, Estonia turned it down....

Russia’s payback finally came in 2007—and it would markedly change Estonia. It happened when Estonia’s government decided to move a World War II memorial statue of a Soviet soldier from central Tallinn to a nearby war cemetery. Pro-Russian demonstrators burned barricades and looted stores in days of ri oting. Then Estonia’s banks, its Parliament, and several public services suddenly went off-line, in one of the biggest-ever distributed denial-of-service attacks to hit a country. The 2007 cyberattack still haunts Estonia. “We were already really, really dependent on online. We had no paper originals for a lot of things,” says Guardtime’s Ruubel. Estonia believes Russia was behind the attack....

Shortly after, the only NATO-accredited cyberdefense center opened in Tallinn. And this year Estonia will open the world’s first “data embassy” in Luxembourg—a storage building to house an entire backup of Estonia’s data that will enjoy the same sovereign rights as a regular embassy but be able to reboot the country remotely, in case of another attack. “It was quite clear after 2007 that we knew how to fight against external attacks,” Ruubel says. “The worry was, What if there was an ­attack from inside the system, with someone tampering with the data?”...

The answer to that concern came in the form of the technology that now underpins crucial parts of Estonia’s system, as well as some of its most successful startups, and that, in the years ahead, could help power the country’s future growth: the blockchain....

The technology allows Estonia’s engineers to strengthen its encrypted data and lets Estonians verify at any time that their information has not been tampered with. Estonians are also required to use two-step verification for many online tasks. These and other security measures, say Estonians, make their system as close to unbreakable as possible...

Those who created Estonia’s system say they believe the arguments raging in the U.S. over data privacy are largely misplaced. The focus should instead be to give people control over who accesses their data, by using blockchain technology. “The real issue is data integrity,” ...

Since Estonia had little means for attracting masses of immigrants to its icy Northern European landscape, it came up with a quirky idea—another of its firsts in the world: offering people virtual residency. ... Estonia’s first e-residency cards rolled out in December 2014. The micro­chips inside them are identical to Estonians’ digital ID cards but come without citizens’ rights, like voting or public pensions, and there is no obligation to pay taxes in Estonia. This is no tax haven: Estonia requires that e-residents pay their taxes to whatever country they owe them. But for a fee of 145 euros (about $154) e-residents can register companies in Estonia, no matter where they live, gaining automatic access to the EU’s giant common market—about 440 million once Britain leaves the union.

...Estonia is working on developing “precision medicine” that would tap into the genome data of its 1.3 million citizens in order to better diagnose illnesses, treat people, and design personalized drugs. “We can use blockchain to make sure that the data exchanged is able to be traced,” he says.
smart_cities  infrastructure  historiography  media_history  hacking  big_data  privacy  citizenship 
april 2017 by shannon_mattern
Dubai Aims to Be a City Built on Blockchain - WSJ
“We want to make Dubai the first blockchain-powered government in the world by 2020,” says Aisha Bin Bishr, director general of Smart Dubai, a government office tasked with facilitating innovation in the emirate. “It is disruptive for existing systems, but will help us prepare for the future,” she says....

In March, Smart Dubai kicked off a citywide effort to implement blockchain. Over the coming months, it will conduct workshops with key government, semigovernment and private organizations to identify and prioritize the services that can be most enhanced by blockchain. It also will educate the public and private sectors about the technology’s potential.

Following these workshops, Smart Dubai expects the public and private sectors to collaborate and start rolling out blockchain pilot projects this year. It also plans to build a shared platform—Blockchain as a Service—for Dubai government entities to use for implementing their projects.

Wesam Lootah, the chief executive of Smart Dubai, says a collaborative effort is crucial to ensure that the emirate as a whole is moving in the same direction to take advantage of synergies and avoid duplication of efforts and costs.

Smart Dubai has appointed International Business Machines Corp. IBM -0.02% as its blockchain lead strategic partner and Consensys, a custom-software development consultancy, as its blockchain adviser.

Dubai is adopting this technology as “government agencies and businesses realize the need to have a shared, secured ledger that establishes accountability and transparency while streamlining business processes,” says Takreem El Tohamy, IBM’s general manager for the Middle East and Africa. “The key is to always keep business value at the forefront.”
smart_cities  middle_east  blockchain 
april 2017 by shannon_mattern
Mayor de Blasio Brings NYC's First Neighborhood Innovation Lab for Smart City Technologies to Browns | City of New York
Mayor Bill de Blasio, Chief Technology Officer Miguel Gamiño, and New York City Economic Development Corporation President James Patchett today announced that Brownsville, Brooklyn will be home to the City’s first Neighborhood Innovation Lab. The tech equity initiative brings together community members, government, educators, and tech companies to help address neighborhood concerns with cutting-edge technologies.

Brownsville’s Neighborhood Innovation Lab will kick off this week with a series of strategic planning sessions for community leaders. Over the next four months, these community advisors will work with the City to define neighborhood needs and explore how smart city technologies can help improve quality of life and support local economic development. The first community forum, with activities for all ages, is scheduled for May 2017. Also, beginning this summer, the first set of new technologies – including trash cans that alert sanitation workers when they are full, solar-powered benches that offer free cell phone charging, and interactive digital kiosks – will be rolled out in Brownsville. Community residents will be invited to test out these devices and share feedback that City agencies will use to evaluate the impact and value of these technologies. ..

“Neighborhood Innovation Labs provide a unique opportunity to strengthen our collaboration with community, and also open new doors for local residents to learn about careers in technology, a fast-growing sector of our economy.”

The model for Neighborhood Innovation Labs was first announced at the White House in conjunction with President Obama’s Smart Cities Initiative in September 2015, and fine-tuned as part of the Envision America program in 2016. Neighborhood Innovation Labs are a public-private partnership led by the Mayor’s Office of Technology and Innovation, New York City Economic Development Corporation, and NYU’s Center for Urban Science and Progress. Brownsville Community Justice Center will serve as the lead community partner for the City’s first Neighborhood Innovation Lab, and Osborn Plaza will serve as the anchor site for public programs and initial technology demonstrations. ...

“We have identified the smart cities and civic tech industry as having major potential for job growth in New York City," said NYCEDC President and CEO James Patchett. "By connecting this industry with neighborhoods across the city, we can both increase the impact of smart cities solutions and teach communities about an entirely new segment in our economy. This is all part of the de Blasio Administration’s strategy to invest in high-growth industries and connect New Yorkers to better opportunities by creating 100,000 jobs over the next ten years. We are proud to partner with the Mayor’s Office of Technology and Innovation and NYU's Center for Urban Science and Progress on this important initiative and look forward to seeing its impact across our city.”
smart_cities  civic_engagement  public_process  brownsville 
april 2017 by shannon_mattern
The Future Agency - The Verge
The urban AI, hologram genie, and smart bathroom were part of the Museum of Future Government Services, a series of seamless interactive installations that demonstrated to attendees — Emirati politicians and civil servants, as well as foreign dignitaries and business leaders — how the UAE would serve its citizens several decades hence...

Of course, none of the products demonstrated at the 2014 summit actually existed. Rather, Tellart’s job is to create believable, immersive visions of the future based on the needs of its clients, which range from the UAE to Google, Purina, and the California Academy of Sciences — anyone who needs a little bit of tomorrow today. As the company’s co-founder Nick Scappaticci says, “We are the industrial designers of the 21st century.”...

Design fiction is created by a loose confederation of agencies, artists, engineers, and designers who are shaping our expectations of technology and society in decades to come by showing us what that incipient world might look like, down to its cliche brand logos. It’s science fiction made real in the form of interactive exhibitions, product demonstrations, and behind-the-scenes consulting work. And it tends to pop up at any event Davos-ish enough to include the word “influencers.”...

Data-driven future prediction emerged around 1948 with the launch of RAND Corporation. The nonprofit think tank’s “scenario analysis” practice connected military planning with private technology development. RAND’s tactics were adopted by Shell in the 1970s, creating a precedent for the corporate future-consulting we see today....

1991 saw the launch of IDEO, known for helping companies develop new products; the Dutch conceptual design group Droog was founded in 1993; digital-savvy ad makers Blast Radius and Mother in 1996; Tellart in 2000; and Barbarian Group in 2001. Younger competitors like Superflux, Red Paper Heart, Midnight Commercial, and Marshmallow Laser Feast arose in the 2010s....

UAE’s self-conscious utopianism has been labeled “Gulf Futurism.” It can be seen as the deployment of technology in “the proto-fascism of a society that privileges success and speed over human life,” as the Dubai and Brooklyn-based writer Rahel Aima put it in a 2013 interview. ...

The idealized narrative that Tellart created is meant to comfort one of the wealthiest and yet most ecologically imperiled regions in the world. In this future, the money from oil has solved all the problems that oil dependency creates — thanks to technology, the desert becomes a permanent oasis. Tellart’s work reassures its viewers that the environment is an issue that will simply be fixed one day, through no effort on their part, save perhaps cultivating a taste for bugs.
futurism  futuring  speculative_design  government  smart_cities 
march 2017 by shannon_mattern
"Smart Cities" Are Too Smart for Your Privacy | Center for Internet and Society
all providers of broadband Internet access are required to build in wiretap capabilities under the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), 47 U.S.C. §§ 1001 et seq.  There is no exception for municipalities providing such services.  That being the case, one wonders exactly how federal, state and local authorities will use the back door in a municipal network. How will municipalities execute wiretaps or obtain customer information from their own municipal provider?  Will the municipal provider be transparent with its customers and provide notice of such requests where lawful much as other commercial providers do today?  A smart city would work that out in advance of deploying services.

For another thing, cities are not subject to suit under the federal wiretap law for wrongfully intercepting and disclosing communications between citizens according to the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. See Seitz v. City of Elgin, 719 F.3d 654 (7th Cir. 2013). To explain, even though the relief section of the Wiretap Act says that a claim may be brought against a “person or entity” that violates the Act, the substantive prohibitions in section 2511 of Title 18 apply only to a “person.”  According to Seitz, Congress did not include cities in the definition of “person.”  The Sixth Circuit reached a different conclusion a decade earlier, so at best, there is an apparent split in the circuits, but the Seventh Circuit probably has it right. See Adams v. City of Battle Creek, 250 F.3d 980 (6th Cir. 2001). Legislative arcania aside, it is a serious issue for municipal providers, raising concerns ranging from E&O insurance to qualified privileges and immunity to employee misconduct to contingent liability and litigation risks.

The answers for smart cities may be to provide a dumb pipe, but don’t bet on that future, especially because providing such services will raise revenue for cities from subscription fees to advertising and analytics dollars.  Some cities may choose to outsource all of the platform or network operations of a smart city, and that also will raise a host of privacy questions about ownership and use of data.  
smart_cities  surveillance  privacy 
march 2017 by shannon_mattern
The open source city as the transnational democratic future | Transnational Institute
In City of fears, City of hope 7 (2003), Zygmunt Bauman talks about two important concepts related to the modern city: mixophobia (the fear used by institutions to discourage the use of the public space) and mixophilia (human and cultural mixing in cities). His main conclusion, however, is that nation-states are in decline and cities are our era’s principal political space....

The mutation of the global city into the global street is a desirable political agenda for the planet. The global street (a space both physical and semantic) and the rebel cities (as a combative remixing of the right to the city) have become narrative expressions of the global “outside”. Indeed, some of the most important social uprisings in recent times, such as the Gezi Park revolt in Turkey, the Movimento Passe Livre (MPL) in Brazil and the Gamonal protest in Burgos (Spain), have had the urban space as their initial cause. The city is also the setting for the continuation of many revolts: in Augusta Park in São Paulo, Can Batlló in Barcelona or the community-managed Embros Theatre in Athens, among many others....

These revolts have also allowed for constructing new models of participation and governance. During the Acampada Sol camp-out by Spain’s 15M in Madrid, which lasted for several weeks in May and June 2011, an online tool called Propongo 15 was developed to allow anyone to make policy proposals. Although these policy proposals did not necessarily translate into policy changes, the online tool, whose source code was later used by the government of Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil, revealed society’s longing for participatory democracy. ...

A society’s operating system would therefore be a series of common practices and human relationships, not just a set of online platforms. ...

to a large extent about promoting voluntary work by citizens in order justify the disappearance of the welfare state. To avoid reinforcing this, city autonomies and citizen self-management and collaboration have a crucial role to act as an incentive for mutual complementarity between public administration and citizens....

As well as using free technology, any city council that wishes to build an open source city will therefore have to recognise and protect existing citizen practices (as well as foster new ones) that reproduce the commons and strengthen that new, post-capitalist mode of “production” whether they are community centres, self-managed spaces, gardening networks or peer-to-peer file sharing networks....

The participatory repertoire of the Barcelona en Comú political confluence, which is currently governing the city of Barcelona, is seen as one of the models to be replicated. “Its radical democracy draws on a set of tools, techniques, mechanisms and structures to develop municipal policies from the bottom up. These include assemblies at various levels (neighbourhood, thematic, coordination, logistics, media, communication etc) and online platforms (for communicating, voting, working).”...

The fact that different cities are sharing the code for their digital platforms breaks with the smart city’s logic of proprietary technology and the paradigm of branded cities competing with each other. What has now been baptised as Spanish “intermunicipalism” seeks to create a network of “rebel cities for the common good” which share repositories, tools, digital platforms and methodologies.
cities  protest  public_sphere  public_space  smart_cities 
march 2017 by shannon_mattern
Will Democracy Survive Big Data and Artificial Intelligence? - Scientific American
Today, Singapore is seen as a perfect example of a data-controlled society. What started as a program to protect its citizens from terrorism has ended up influencing economic and immigration policy, the property market and school curricula. China is taking a similar route. Recently, Baidu, the Chinese equivalent of Google, invited the military to take part in the China Brain Project. It involves running so-called deep learning algorithms over the search engine data collected about its users. Beyond this, a kind of social control is also planned. According to recent reports, every Chinese citizen will receive a so-called ”Citizen Score”, which will determine under what conditions they may get loans, jobs, or travel visa to other countries....

The new, caring government is not only interested in what we do, but also wants to make sure that we do the things that it considers to be right. The magic phrase is "big nudging", which is the combination of big data with nudging. To many, this appears to be a sort of digital scepter that allows one to govern the masses efficiently, without having to involve citizens in democratic processes. Could this overcome vested interests and optimize the course of the world?..

In a rapidly changing world a super-intelligence can never make perfect decisions (see Fig. 1): systemic complexity is increasing faster than data volumes, which are growing faster than the ability to process them, and data transfer rates are limited. This results in disregarding local knowledge and facts, which are important to reach good solutions. Distributed, local control methods are often superior to centralized approaches, especially in complex systems whose behaviors are highly variable, hardly predictable and not capable of real-time optimization. This is already true for traffic control in cities, but even more so for the social and economic systems of our highly networked, globalized world.

Furthermore, there is a danger that the manipulation of decisions by powerful algorithms undermines the basis of "collective intelligence," which can flexibly adapt to the challenges of our complex world....

By allowing the pursuit of various different goals, a pluralistic society is better able to cope with the range of unexpected challenges to come.
Centralized, top-down control is a solution of the past, which is only suitable for systems of low complexity. Therefore, federal systems and majority decisions are the solutions of the present. With economic and cultural evolution, social complexity will continue to rise. Therefore, the solution for the future is collective intelligence. This means that citizen science, crowdsourcing and online discussion platforms are eminently important new approaches to making more knowledge, ideas and resources available....

We are at the historic moment, where we have to decide on the right path—a path that allows us all to benefit from the digital revolution. Therefore, we urge to adhere to the following fundamental principles:
1. to increasingly decentralize the function of information systems;
2. to support informational self-determination and participation;
3. to improve transparency in order to achieve greater trust;
4. to reduce the distortion and pollution of information;
5. to enable user-controlled information filters;
6. to support social and economic diversity;
7. to improve interoperability and collaborative opportunities;
8. to create digital assistants and coordination tools;
9. to support collective intelligence, and
10. to promote responsible behavior of citizens in the digital world through digital literacy and enlightenment....

Several types of institutions should be considered. Most importantly, society must be decentralized, following the principle of subsidiarity. Three dimensions matter.
Spatial decentralization consists in vibrant federalism. The provinces, regions and communes must be given sufficient autonomy. To a large extent, they must be able to set their own tax rates and govern their own public expenditure.
Functional decentralization according to area of public expenditure (for example education, health, environment, water provision, traffic, culture etc) is also desirable. This concept has been developed through the proposal of FOCJ, or “Functional, Overlapping and Competing Jurisdictions”.
Political decentralization relating to the division of power between the executive (government), legislative (parliament) and the courts. Public media and academia should be additional pillars.
smart_cities  surveillance  big_data  china  democracy  governance  nudge  digital_literacy 
march 2017 by shannon_mattern
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