Accepted Paper:

Transformative visions of IoT: whose visions, whose rights, whose responsibilities?  


Naomi Jacobs (Lancaster University)
Karen Salt (University of Nottingham)

Paper short abstract:

Through fieldwork examining community responses to IoT, we explore experiences of multiple social actors and the structural dynamics of digital transformations. We consider whether narratives of empowerment are upheld or whether inequalities may be reinforced, and impacts on privacy and democracy.

Paper long abstract:

The UK, like many parts of the world, is currently experiencing a massive boom in smart city digital led transformations. These range in size from large transformation projects to small scale community led implementations. A common theme among many of these initiatives is empowerment. Laced with articulations of enhanced democracy and openness, many of these same digital projects include rhetoric about increased efficiencies for overworked (often urban) infrastructure, economic benefits for citizens and users, the stimulation and vitalisation of new markets and the positive social impact of digital-led innovations on the community. However it is important to consider how this vision of digital opportunity and enrichment might be experienced by all social actors; not just those involved in leading these initiatives but those impacted, directly and indirectly, within the community. A key question is whether inequalities may be reinforced rather than minimised by these transformative visions. Additional questions remain about whose rights are being enhanced, exploited or empowered and who is responsible when something goes wrong. This talk takes these questions as a starting point and works through them as they emerge within in the Tillydrone community of Aberdeen, where the TrustLens team has been engaged in extensive fieldwork examining community responses to IoT. In listening to and working with the community, we have begun to disentangle the rhetoric of digital transformation in order to highlight the structural dynamics that sit at the heart of these initiatives and the ways that privacy and democracy may be at risk.

Panel C13
Assembling the smart city: exploring the contours of social difference