Week 7: Open Data

Throughout the last term various readings have explored the role of the smart cities in innovating more sophisticated systems that adapt to the public. Despite reservations surrounding the misuse and barriers created by technologies, evidence of systems successfully responding to the needs of individuals has been witnessed, especially as the publication of information gathered through these technologies is starting to become shared to the public. Information which is ‘more real-time in nature [is] generated through sensors and locative/social media’ (Kitchin, Lauriault & McArdle, 2015, p.6), enabling citizens and councils to manage locations based on the indicators provided. Complex data gathering is often accused of a lack of transparency, evidenced in social media algorithms and surveillance practices (public and private), therefore the use of these initiatives does address this problem through greater transparency. However, they ‘are open to manipulation’ and may not be as reflective as of real experience as initially imagined. Enlund et al. (2022) highlight this also, exploring the role of sensors and informational cities ‘measuring’ the interactions within a locale. One way in which manipulation or misuse may occur is through commercial or political activity, with specific stakeholders utilising datasets to function for their own benefit in how they target their demographics.


Kitchin, R., Lauriault, T.P. & McArdle, G., 2015. Knowing and governing cities through urban indicators, city benchmarking and realRegional Studies, Regional Science , 2(1), pp.6time dashboards. 28. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/ 10.1080/21681376.2014.9 Further Readings 83149

Enlund, D. et al. (2022) “The role of sensors in the production of Smart City Spaces,” Big Data & Society, 9(2), p. 205395172211102. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1177/20539517221110218.

Week 6: Power of the Hashtag

The role of digital protest has become increasingly popularised as users rely on mainstream platforms to respond to events, incidents and public figures. As platform, Twitter can be powerful in garnering support from audiences, as ‘Engaging in [tweets and live monitoring] is akin to participating in a protest in the sense that it offers an experience of “real time” engagement, community, and even collective effervescence’ (Bonilla and Rosa, 2015, p.7). These forms of protests can be both positive, used to highlight inequalities and injustices, but can also form from more malicious activity, evidenced in disinformation campaigns and increased forms of radical misogyny. However, in the cases examined, we explore examples of protest used for the benefit of wider society, including #Ferguson and #Repealthe8th. The role of the hashtag, as stated by Bonilla and Rosa (2015) has both semiotic significance in the way in which it frames perspectives, in addition to clerical significance through the indexing of information. In the case of #Ferguson, Bonilla and Rosa (2015) note how predominant usage of the hashtag was to democratise information in real time, with users feeling as if they were ‘participating in #Ferguson’ as they monitored incidents including ‘live streams where they could bear witness to the tear gassing and arrests of journalists and protestors’ (Bonilla and Rosa, 2015, p.7). While there is evidence that these digitalised forms of protest do heighten awareness significantly through the algorithmic formations of social media platforms, in the example highlighted, effects on the justice system are not seen. Whereas, Walsh (2020) refers to separate action under the name, #knickersforchoice, where in 2014, the direct action group Speaking of IMELDA targeted a diner with a ‘knicker-bombing’ of politicians to repeal the 8th Amendment. This sought to prioritise the rights of female autonomy over pregnancy. For those unable to participate directly and publicly, the hashtag provided ‘a means of unapologetically inserting bodily autonomy into debates concerning #RepealThe8th within multiple jurisdictions’ (Walsh, 2020, p.150) that demonstrated a refusal to remain silent in the run up to the referendum. In comparison, to #Ferguson, evidence of change was witnessed in the repealing of the 8th Amendment. While this referendum relied upon more than just once campaign, there is a clear form of influence generated, suggesting there is further scope for such protests to be utilised more broadly and with effect.

#KnickersForChoice offered a means of unapologetically inserting bodily autonomy into debates concerning #RepealThe8th within multiple jurisdictions

Bonilla, Y. and Rosa, J. (2015) #Ferguson: Digital protest, hashtag ethnography, and the racial politics of social media in the United States. American ethnologist. Volume 42, Issue 1. https://doi-org.ezproxy.brighton.ac.uk/10.1111/amet.12112

Week 5: Organised Labour Challenges

There is striking similarity across many of the concerns surrounding organised labour processes that correlate not only with public sector strikes, but particularly within the gig economy as I reflect upon stories from companies such as Amazon, SportsDirect, and as Woodcock (2021) highlights in Chapter 1, Deliveroo. In the first two examples mentioned, I recall various news releases as issues surrounding health and safety, and more general exploitation of workers emerged, with a notable Guardian article comparing the sports clothing company to the ‘gulag’ (Goodley and Ashby, 2015). Within the article the simplicity of its manual force is compared against Amazon, whose technology demonstrates greater sophistication. The voice of Amazon’s workforce is arguably a more public example of attempts to address employee unrest, with analyst roles provided to rack reports of unionisation and threats to jobs. While Amazon’s fulfilment centres do utilise technologies such as robotics, similar concerns surrounding employee welfare mirror those within SportsDirect, as conditions are unethical and demand the impossible. In an era where technology is driving every minute of our lives, it is inconceivable that workers should exist within the juxtaposition of contemporary capitalism, whereby we see the benefits of ‘extraordinary high-technologies’ yet ignore ‘workers who live and die in brutal conditions often imagined to belong in some antediluvian past’ (Dyer-Witheford, 2015, p.2). Companies with technologies so sophisticated as Amazon, who pilot drone deliveries and boast billion dollar profits demonstrate that while workers are not as isolated as previously considered (Woodcock, 2021), threats of redundancy and automation, amongst others, have significant impacts. Yet, resistance is crucial. Therefore, while technological surveillance and the consequence of technology can further hinder organisational resistance, it may also be a gateway to facilitate communication and action from workers to affect social change.

Goodley, S. and Ashby, J. (2015) “A day at ‘the gulag’: what it’s like to work at Sports Direct’s warehouse,” The Guardian, 9 December. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/dec/09/sports-direct-warehouse-work-conditions (Accessed: March 20, 2023).

Woodcock, J (2021) “Introduction” and “Why struggles against platform capitalism matter” The Fight Against Platform Capitalism. London: University of Westminster Press

Streitfield, D. (2021) “How Amazon Crushes Unions,” The New York Times, 16 March. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/16/technology/amazon-unions-virginia.html.

Week 4: Barriers Within Smart Cities

n exploring the role of technology within human society, Mosco (2019) acknowledges that while ‘optimistic scholars stress the instrumental role of ICT in the process of social development… pessimistic scholars emphasise the emergence and constant expansion of the digital divide’. The scope of increasingly convergent technologies is allowing cities to generate sophisticated systems which are responsive to the lives of citizens (Glover, 2019), it is highly evident that the freedom of movement and space can also be limited within smart cities. Sadowski (2017) demonstrates this effectively through anecdotal evidence of his own, having been locked out of his apartment. While the notion of key cards and fobs can create a sense of safety and security in the limited access it grants those who do not inhabit the space, a tool of which can be applied in a variety of contexts, frustration and vulnerability is caused when systems fail. In referencing Deleuze (1992), he comments on the ‘barrier’ established due to the fact that the relevant systems were unable to operate as intended. Although seemingly insignificant within the larger scale smart city, this incident hints toward the imbalances that can begin to grow for a variety of reasons. Generally, these imbalances can be seen to be created through existing imbalances within social structures and the influence of hegemonic groups, whereby marginalised groups are not provided sufficient opportunities to engage or participate. In exploring the role of sensors within smart cities, Enlund et al. (2022) state that in order to overcome certain risks such as this, where technology ‘instil[s] feelings of command and control [by] turning citizens into ‘databodies in codespace’’ (Enlund et al., 2022), considerable thought must be taken to account for multiple variations. At the heart of this, primary consideration should factor in the way in which spaces are lived. With this in mind, they can ‘create opportunities for sensors to become mediators of needs and wants between different groups of citizens’ (Enlund et al., 2022), actively accounting for occasions where technology fails and seeking to prevent the rise of barriers.

Mosco, V. (2019) The Smart City in a Digital World. Emerald Publishing Limited. doi: 10.1108/9781787691353.

Glover, F. (2019) ‘The Smart City: Seoul, South Korea, [The Compass], 10 April 2019. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/w3csz41r (Accessed: 21 February, 2023)

Sadowski, J (2017) ‘Access denied: Snapshots of exclusion and enforcement in the smart city’ in Shaw, J and Graham, M. ed. Our Digital rights to the citypp 6-11. Meatspace Press

Enlund, D. et al. (2022) “The role of sensors in the production of Smart City Spaces,” Big Data & Society, 9(2), p. 205395172211102. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1177/20539517221110218.

Week 3: Smart Cities and Digital Culture

In exploring how processes of digitalisation, global connectivity and urbanisation are coming together, Townsend (2013) comments on the ways in which ‘automatic electromechanical labourers toil at dumb and dirty jobs once done by people’ (p.xi). However, as part of the fourth industrial revolution, the information revolution, it is evident that ‘lately, these dumb contraptions are getting a lot smarter’ (Townsend, 2013, p.xi). Within the modern world we live in today, a synergistic relationship exists between our physical, tangible space and geographical location, and the realm of computational code represented by 1s and 0s. As smart cities are designed to ease problems within congested spaces and make daily processes more efficient (Glover, 2019), this is a relationship which relies on the participation of citizens. Technologies rely upon our information to respond in the ways it is designed to, and no matter how unwittingly, this is data we provide through our activity online and through technological products.

The ‘symbiosis of place and cyberspace’ (Townsend, 2013, p.6) is highly apparent in the case study of Seoul, South Korea, where the redevelopment in the post-war era of 1950s enabled them to modernise and adapt responsively (Glover, 2019). As part of the podcast, Dr. Ellie Cosgrave examines the importance of adaptive, democratic and accountable methods used in order to accommodate individuals within spaces, questioning also how inequality is increased or decreased as a result (Glover, 2019). An impressive 6,000 data sets are available within Seoul, one of which analyses 3 billion phone calls to inform public transport access. This is a prime example of where databases become ‘pervasive’ (Miller, 2011) in digital and physical cultures. While privacy is questioned, the analysis of this data enables city planners and the relevant algorithms to identify the amount of people gathered within certain locales, and to measure the traffic in specific areas. Through this, planners can ensure public transport is effectively placed to ensure greater accessibility to all, thereby promoting social mobility and greener methods of transport. In utilising data in this way, we see that arguably, databases may just be ‘the dominant cultural form of our times’ (Manovich, 2001: 128 in Miller, 2011).

Furthermore, data surrounding public transport benefits users as apps enable consumers to understand when the next bus will leave, its route, and how many seats are available (Glover, 2011). We therefore see a ‘move to media as process‘ as the previously ‘static role viewer [transforms] to a role as active’ based on user participation (Miller, 2011, p.31) that contributes to information on these apps. Consequentially, a more immersive experience transfigures. While this is a convenient and efficient, notably, there is a disparity in relation to how the elderly access such technologies. Miller (2011) explores notions of telepresence, whereby our presence is not merely where we are physically, but our presence in an environment as dictated by communication mediums. For those unable to access the technologies needed to understand bus routes, seating numbers, and other insights afforded by data collection, a sense of isolation can develop as citizens’ lack of presence online negatively impacts their security and sense of person within the real world. Glover (2019) questions this within the podcast, and identifies that even if such marginalisation was addressed, newer technologies will continue to develop. Therefore, there is arguably always going to be a problem of accessibility, though this does not mean that progress offered by smart cities should not be realised.



Glover, F. (2019) ‘The Smart City: Seoul, South Korea, [The Compass], 10 April 2019. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/w3csz41r (Accessed: 21 February, 2023)

Townsend, A.M., (2013). Smart Cities, New York: W. W. Norton & Company

Miller, V. (2011) Understanding Digital Culture. In: Miller, V. Key Elements of Digital Media. Sage: pp 12-21

Week 2: Governance and Resistance in The Digital City

Week 2

Reuploaded from discussion board.

According to Kitchen et al. (2019), ‘the smart city seeks to improve city life through the application of digital technologies to the management and delivery of city services and infrastructures’ (p.2). While they acknowledge the benefits that are brought about by the embedded technologies of day to day city life, they highlight the fact that cities are developed with the aim of enhancing the ‘profit-making capacities of capital’. Therefore, under capitalism, it is often only a small group of ‘elite actors’ who benefit (Kitchen et al. 2019, p.5). Consequentially, smart cities have significant potential to contribute to existing social disparities that will further disadvantage citizens.

Under the ideas of governance and resistance within the digital city, the question surrounding the ethics of surveillance was brought to mind. One of my first considerations, prompted by fictional media series ‘Captured’ (2019, 2020), which follows narratives surrounding conspiracies of false evidence and the use of deepfakes within surveillance footage, was to question potential for the corruption of footage. However, I thought it more important to explore real world experiences and attitudes surrounding the way in which CCTV and facial recognition softwares are being used to monitor city streets. While CCTV can be vital to ensuring the safety of our streets and an important tool in ensuring criminals are held accountable, the ambiguity surrounding ownership of these cameras and the collection of data is cause for concern. Heh and Wainwright (2022) define surveillance as a ‘tactic of control deployed by the state to monitor, quell, and, in some cases, punish dissent’. Given the scope for increasingly sophisticated cameras and tracking tools, we must recognise the ways in which certain social groups may be disproportionately disadvantaged by surveillance.

The Face, 2020

‘Democracy requires safe spaces, or commons, for people to organically and spontaneously convene regardless of their background or position to campaign for their causes, discuss politics, and protest’ (Williams, 2021, p.1), yet the opportunity for protest is diminishing as various policy makers in the UK and elsewhere seek to change rules. ‘Those attending protests around the world have – wittingly or unwittingly – put themselves squarely within the lens of a surveillance state’ (Stokel-Walker, 2020), one which is largely unregulated despite sophisticated use of facial recognition and artificial intelligence. The misuse of camera footage further contributes to this as Williams (2021) explores the way in which the San Diego Police Department used footage from smart streetlights to target Black Lives Matter protesters. ‘When you think about the locations where facial recognition is being deployed, it is disproportionately targeting people of colour’ in addition to ‘most-often poorer, working-class neighbourhoods’(Stokel-Walker, 2020) – historically, marginalised groups in society have been unfairly targeted by authorities and through this, there is an increased likelihood of inequalities being perpetuated even more so. Without clear regulation of surveillance softwares and technologies in relation to their use and the use of data, authorities and private companies may ‘codify and hose those structural societal problems behind the lens of false scientific technological neutrality in a way that legitimises them’ (Johansson, 2021).



Johansson, E. Face-off: Activists protest AI surveillance – verdict magazine: Issue 9: May 2021 (2021) Verdict Magazine | Issue 9 | May 2021. Available at: https://magazine.verdict.co.uk/verdict_magazine_may21/ai_surveillance (Accessed: February 14, 2023).

Heh, E. and Wainwright, J. (2022) “No privacy, no peace: Urban surveillance and the Movement for Black Lives,” Journal of Race, Ethnicity and the City, 3(2), pp. 121–141. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/26884674.2022.2061392.

Kitchin, R. Cardullo, P. and Di Feliciantonio, C. (2019) “Citizenship, justice, and the right to the smart ity’, The Right to The Smart City, pp.1-24. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1108.978-1-78769-139-120191001

Liberatore, S. (2020) “San Diego police accessed smart streetlights’ camera footage over 35 times to search for evidence of looting and vandalism during Black Lives Matter protests,” Daily Mail, 1 July. Available at: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-8479863/San-Diego-police-accessed-smart-streetlights-camera-footage-spy-Black-Lives-Matter-protests.html (Accessed: February 14, 2023).

Morning report: After protests, SDPD turned to streetlight cameras (2022) Voice of San Diego. Available at: https://voiceofsandiego.org/2020/06/30/morning-report-after-protests-sdpd-turned-to-streetlight-cameras/ (Accessed: February 14, 2023).

Stokel-Walker, C. (2020) The lasting effect of digital surveillance at black lives matter protestsThe Face. The Face. Available at: https://theface.com/society/black-lives-matter-facial-recognition-digital-surveillance-george-floyd (Accessed: February 14, 2023).

Williams, R. (2021) Whose Streets? Our Streets (Tech Edition). rep. Harvard Kennedy School. Available at: https://www.belfercenter.org/sites/default/files/2021-08/WhoseStreets.pdf (Accessed: January 14, 2023)