Accepted paper:

Datafied spaces: (re)figurating the city as laboratory


Sandra Balbierz (University Eichstätt-Ingolstadt)

Paper short abstract:

Re-reading Chicago School's metaphor of the city as laboratory from the background of emerging data-driven technologies it is asked as to how far attention and observance are modified and (re)figurate sociotechnological interactions in city spaces.

Paper long abstract:

How can we conceptualize the (re)figuration of (city) spaces in the age of Big Data? How might new technologies of data storage, analysis and prediction (DSAP) create city spaces and modify our 'being-in' the city? How will interactions between people, things and data be negotiated and organized? With the example of the smart city New Songdo this paper aims to re-thing the metaphor of a city as a 'social laboratory' (Small 1894; Park 1915; 1967) from the background of emerging technologies of DSAP. Experimenting with Chicago School's reading of the USA as a laboratory, 'where the combining possibilities of races will be tested' (Small 1894: 179), it is asked as to how far smart cities are being produced as socio-technological laboratories where attention and observance are modified for means of control and optimization. It is argued that data-driven technologies challenge classical approaches and concepts of Urban Sociology and the Sociology of Space. As Roger Burrows and David Beer posit, most social scientists are 'familiar with the notion of the urban'. What is new and less focussed upon is the notion of informatics as 'hardware and software that have merged telecommunications with computer technology [..].' (Hayles 1999: 313; in Burrows / Beer 2013: 61 f.) Starting from this background, this paper aims to rethink the metaphor of the city as laboratory by developing a theoretical framework of the (re)figuration of city spaces under the technological condition of digitization and datafication, beyond social and technical determinism.

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