(A28)
Socio-technical encounters in the city: urban spaces, data infrastructures and new modes of civic engagement
Location Cavendish Lecture Theatre (Faraday Complex)
Date and Start Time 27 Jul, 2018 at 16:00
Sessions 1

Convenors

  • Juliane Jarke (University of Bremen) email
  • Anna-Lisa Müller (University of Bremen) email

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Short abstract

With the increased availability of digital technologies that produce data on cities and city life, modes of moving and acting in cities change; new modes of civic engagement emerge. This panel explores the creative and at times disruptive appropriation of urban public spaces.

Long abstract

With the increased availability of digital technologies that produce data on cities and city life, modes of moving and acting in cities change. These digital data infrastructures produce certain forms of visibility (e.g. of particulate pollution, traffic density, preferred routes, e.g. through heatmaps.) and invisibility (e.g. of those people not using digital technologies and their modes of living in and using a city), and consequently (re-)produce certain power structures in cities. At the same time new modes of civic engagement (e.g. through citizen science, civic tech, co-creation) become possible through digital technologies, inexpensive sensors and pervasive data infrastructures.

In this panel, we are interested in exploring the creative and at times disruptive appropriation of urban public spaces in which encounters between people, architectures, practices, technologies (e.g. mobile, sensors etc.), digital data infrastructures, and many more take place. Papers are invited to this panel covering one or more of the following questions:

- In which ways do physical and digital spaces intersect, overlap, overlay and what kinds of (new) urban spaces emerge?

- How are power structures enhanced, modified, altered or contested through these processes?

- Who and what is made in-/visible through these processes?

- How do the bodies‛ movements in cities change through the digitalization of urban spaces?

- How does urban planning respond to these transformations?

- How do city dwellers (attempt to) regain agency in these developments?

We invite empirical case studies and theoretical contributions interested in advancing the understanding of cities as socio-material-digital assemblages

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Bias in, bias out: urban mobility in data science for social good

Author: Anissa Tanweer (University of Washington) email
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Short abstract

STS scholars and critics of big data know that data-intensive and algorithmically mediated systems can reify and reproduce inequities; sometimes, so do designers and analysts. I present two case studies of "data science for social good" teams confronting bias in their urban mobility projects.

Long abstract

Critiques of big data commonly highlight the potential for data-intensive decision-making and algorithmic mediation to reify and reproduce inequities. Interrogations of systems ranging from automatic ad placement to algorithmic recidivism prediction show that biased data collected about a biased world inevitably produce biased applications and models -- a high-stakes instantiation of the computer science aphorism, "garbage in, garbage out." Such critiques of data-intensive and algorithmic systems have most often highlighted the outputs of those systems rather than focusing on the practices and sense-making that inform their creation. Based on immersive participant observation of collaborations formed under the banner of "data science for social good," I present two cases of big data urbanism-in-the-making. The first involves efforts to make transactional data generated by a public transit payment system useful for the purposes of transportation planning. The second involves efforts to create a digital routing application designed specifically for the informational needs of people with mobility impairments. In both projects, analysts and designers acknowledge the biases baked into digital data infrastructures and place those biases at the center of their work, either by trying to mathematically correct for them, or by trying to subvert the very systems that produced them. I explore how each of the teams' implicit understandings of sociomateriality shaped ongoing deliberation about the ethical implications of their work, and how the decisions they made in designing and implementing their projects have material consequences for moving about and accessing the city.

Data infrastructures for all: the case of community networks and the DiY IoT Scene

Author: Andres Dominguez (University of Edinburgh) email
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Short abstract

New communication standards and open-source tools and building blocks are allowing more actors to engage in shaping the Internet of Things. This paper explores the formation of new milieus where citizens and expert users are able to appropriate data infrastructures and innovate on their own.

Long abstract

Communication infrastructures are largely dominated by capital-intensive network service providers, vendors and data aggregators, but it has been observed that users sometimes reject or displace such top-down and hegemonic organisations and innovate on their own. Community wireless networks, decentralised architectures and distributed ownership of infrastructure are examples of ways in which users have reclaimed control of technology. This paper discusses the case of "The Things Network", a global Internet of Things (IoT) network that crowdsources its physical infrastructure. With a model of openness and decentralisation, this organisation relies on voluntary contributions to provide an otherwise commoditised and industry-oriented service. I will present the preliminary findings from an ethnographic observation with the core team of developers of the network's backend and from interviews with voluntary "initiators" of communities. The aim of the study is twofold: first to present an account of the phenomenon from a sociotechnical perspective and second, to offer explanations for the occurrence and survival of such bottom-up initiatives. The case study serves as a basis to advance the notion of a "DIY IoT Scene" that strives in the context of a technological trend that has not yet reached mainstream adoption. In the last few years, communities have spawned in cities around the world with the goal of building a critical IoT infrastructure and offer inexpensive coverage in their local area. Such arrangements, largely led by developers or expert users, constitute new milieus for innovation in the city and bring about challenges in terms of governance and sustainability.

Geographies of light, affective atmospheres and digital sensory enhancements

Authors: Manuel Portela (Universitat Jaume I) email
Carlos Granell (Universitat Jaume I) email
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Short abstract

After deploying a digital lighting intervention, we analyze the effects of light atmospheres in a public place. We explore the potentials of creative digital applications to generate sensory and body encounters, memories and reactions with shared spaces and public infrastructure.

Long abstract

After deploying a digital lighting intervention, we analyze the effects of light atmospheres (Edensor, 2012) in a public place. We explore the potentials of creative digital applications to generate body encounters, memories and reactions with shared spaces and public infrastructure.

During the intervention, we explored opportunities for interactive and participative engagement with lighting and mobile devices, as well as sensors to drive system reactions enacted from ambient noise. For the analysis, we mixed digital data collection of interactions with an ethnographic study.

We conclude with a provocation on how an approach to mobilities and spatial assemblages can be an alternative to deploy digital and smart cities, and to engage critically the emotional consequences and imaginaries created around embodied encounters. The effect of such interaction between senses and atmospheres causes that the meaning of a place emerges from mundane and ordinary actions. In the interaction, places become diluted between body meaning, senses and memory, but lacks any social definition or cultural reputation.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.