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 8: Digital Ethnography

Ethnography, by the definition used within Pink et al (2016), is stated as “iterative-inductive research (that evolves in design through the study), drawing on a family of methods…that acknowledges the role of theory as well as the researcher’s own role and that views humans as part object/part subject”. Due to this definition, and others which multiple fields of academia use, Pink et al (2016) argue that those who use ethnography within their research do not always agree on the definition being used, therefore the types of research which is meant by ‘ethnography’ is not always agreement on. One of these research methods which is not always agreed on is that from digital ethnography. It has been argued that since digital element of digital ethnography does not centre around humans as individuals, but on data gathering instead, this does not fall into the category of ‘ethnography’. In counter to this argument, it could be suggested that as the data is gathered from humans, either in the singular or multiple, allows for this information to fall into the ‘ethnography’ category. Such a distinction seems both important and negligible at the same time: the question of the type of human impact and importance within a research method could depend on both the type of research being conducted and the context in which it works within. Therefore, could it not be argued that ethnography can, and should, be used within digital settings and platforms when the need arises instead of arguing for and against in the general sense of the term.



Pink, S. et al. (2016) Digital ethnography: principles and practice. SAGE

Week 7: Digital Media and Open Data

Quinton and Smallbone (2010)’s work on student reflection and learning, within the use of digital media and open data, could be explored in the terms of continued education. By allowing educational digital media to be open and accessible to everyone could allow for further education, understanding and learning from prior examples and mistakes. This would aid in helping future teaching as well as those who are hoping to up-skill and understand other areas for their own development. The idea of such open data does have its merits – allowing for support across educational facilities, counties and possibly even countries; however, that is not to say that there are not drawbacks of open data. By opening up so much data in such a way would, inevitably, break laws around personal information, consent of data, along with multiple others. There are many in the world who would not agree that the positivises of such open data would ever outweigh the breaches of such confidentiality. Yet, in argument to this, is it so different from the technology-saturated world which we currently live in? Said information and data is already currently online and assessable to certain people. Would it be such a change to allow more people this assess? I am sure some would think it would be. Yet I am sure there would be as many others who would be grateful for the support given in their time of need. This, as many topics when it comes to digital media, is a difficult conversation, one of which does not have an easy answer when trying to please and answer to many different arguments, laws and voices.



Leszczynski, A. et al. (2016) Speculative futures: Cities, data, and governance beyond smart urbanism. Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space. SAGEjournals. https://doi-org.ezproxy.brighton.ac.uk/10.1177/0308518X16651445

Quinton, S. and Smallbone, T. (2010) Feeding forward: using feedback to promote student reflections and learning – a teaching model. Innovations in Education and Teaching International. Volume 47, 2010 – Issue 1. https://doi-org.ezproxy.brighton.ac.uk/10.1080/14703290903525911

Week 6: Hashtag Activism

Bonilla and Rosa’s 2015 article on #Ferguson explores the magnitude of ways which social media hashtags have been used in America, particularly in retaliation towards un-just shootings of people of colour. Such explorations are profound and informative of the social response to such events, yet the article does little to critique or questions such actions, nor the impact of the response. It is important to note that hashtag activism is not of single use towards injustice against people of colour and Black people, but that these are only one example of a community which use such activism against injustice. While Bonilla and Rosa (2015) do make good points on the evidence found on how American legal action impacts people of colour, Black teenage boys in particular, they fail to explore how such hashtag activism works to trouble these behaviours. While an element of this is answered in the final paragraph of Bonilla and Rosa’s work by stating “…particularly social media, had posed ‘the most significant challenge’ to his investigation” suggesting that this activism does work to express their emotions to the world, in such troubling the mainstream portrayal of the event. However, such troubling does seem to do little in support of the action which the hashtag impresses on social media readers: there seems to be no understanding or expression of understanding towards the community who has been hurt. In fact, by the quote above, it seems to suggest that, in a legal sense, the activism actually did very little to help their case. In the sense of society there is no mention within this article of how this activism supported, or opposed, the call to action regarding shootings of unarmed Black and people of colour in America.



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 4: Vulnerability and Ethics of Digital Cities

The ethics and vulnerabilities of digital and smart cities are an important issue, now more so than ever before with the somewhat unintentional rise in technology. Rob Kitchin (2020) explored this very topic in his article “Hacking cities is very much a reality”. Due to the amount of data which can be, and to some extent is currently, being gathered by such cities it is important for those in charge of such technologies and cities to ask what type of information they want and need to gather, and how such data should be gathered and regulated. With how much information and technology is used in cities, the idea of any first world city being hacked is no longer only a thought for science fiction or futuristic shows. This could be done through disabling systems, such as traffic lights which would cause possible traffic accidents, injures, and deaths, or through the hacking of central databases to steal information. Should this happen, it could lead to many problems in society, both for individuals and for the local area in general. However, it would not just be central problems which this could cause: the technology systems which are used would need to be built by humans on a system which would only account for certain groups of people. As such it is very likely that smart cities would become much more inequal with the further rise of technology usage and reliance. Not only, but it would be the minority of the society and city who would fall into this category, yet these people would be the most vulnerable in society as well.




Kitchin, R. (2020) Hacking cities is very much a reality. Digital Future Society. https://digitalfuturesociety.com/qanda/rob-kitchin-and-the-vulnerabilities-of-smart-cities/


Week 4 – Exploring the Social Transformations of Digital and Smart Cities

In exploring how smart cities enhance and compromise community participation and sustainability, Mosco (2019) explains the technology-driven perspective as a collection of advanced technologies, such as sensors, big data analytics, and artificial intelligence, that are used to optimize the efficiency of urban systems and services.

This approach emphasizes the benefits of using technology to improve resource management, reduce traffic congestion, and enhance public safety. but it may also compromise community and participation by focusing on efficiency over social and cultural values (Sadowski, J, 2017), (Mosco, 2019).

In 2017 Google’s Sidewalk Labs proposed the Quayside project in Toronto, which aimed to create a smart city using a range of technologies such as autonomous vehicles, sensors, and energy-efficient buildings. The project claimed to enhance sustainability by reducing carbon emissions and waste while improving community participation by offering open data and public consultation. However, “it raises significant policy issues” (Mosco 2019, P.85), concerns were raised about data privacy and governance, as well as the potential for exclusion of marginalized communities (Cecco, 2019).

“Panelists felt that [the Sidewalk Labs master plan] did not appear to put the citizen at the centre of the design process for digital innovations, as was promised in the beginning and is necessary for legitimacy.” Digital Strategy Advisory Panel, Waterfront Toronto

Another perspective Mosco (2019) discussed is the citizen-centered perspective which views digital smart cities as platforms for citizen participation and engagement in urban governance. This approach highlights the importance of involving citizens in decision-making processes and providing them with access to information and resources to co-create their urban environment.

The current ‘smart city’ model is made up of a variety of advanced technologies such as sensors, data collection systems, real-time analytics, connected devices, algorithmic processes, and centralized command centers. These technologies work together to create a city that is capable of processing and analyzing large amounts of data in real-time to optimize its services and systems “They are fundamentally about infrastructural and civic applications. They are the kind of systems that constitute the techno-political ordering of society” (Sadowski, J 2017, P.7).

The readings and current ‘smart cities’ projects, serve as a strong reminder that technology alone is not the ultimate solution to the challenges of urban living. Such initiatives need to be well-defined, accessible, and transparent to the general public. They must be founded upon civic participation and align with sound planning principles. Additionally, policies targeting government inefficiencies and social inequalities should accompany these smart technologies. Otherwise, these technologies could end up magnifying urban problems as readily as they can solve them.


  • 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 city, pp 6-11.
  • Cecco, L. (2019). ‘Irrelevant: report pours scorn over Google’s ideas for Toronto smart city’, The Guardian, <https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2019/sep/11/irrelevant-panel-pours-scorn-over-googles-ideas-for-toronto-smart-city>, accessed 1 March 2023.
  • Mosco, V. (2019) The Smart City in a Digital World. Emerald Publishing Limited. doi: 10.1108/9781787691353. [chapter 3: City of technology: where the streets are paved with data]

Week 2 – ‘Surveillance Is About Power’

Ongoing debates about all the (dis)advantages of smart cities indicate the importance of the fourth industrial revolution and the path of the future we are going in as a society. As indicated in ‘Entrepreneurial Data Citizenships, Open Data Movements, and Audit Culture’ (2021: p80), data-based cities are imagined as places where citizens can easier gather information, hold the government accountable and have a better quality of life in general, thanks to better transparency. ‘Celebrations of openness and transparency appear in policy discourse and also shape the frames for civic organizations and model the ways data advocates are expected to act as good citizens’ (Powell, 2021: p 106). Moreover, Kitchin et al., in The Right to a Smart City, argue that the right to a (smart) city exceeds individual rights to the collective one or common rights (Kitchin et al. 2019: p18 -19).

However, it is questionable whether democracy is even possible without individual rights and freedoms. Without privacy, there is no freedom, and modern technologies can cause privacy harm by sharing and mining data with third parties (Kitchin et al. 2019: p9). One of the biggest concerns is not just the fact that many governments in neoliberal capitalist societies worldwide merged with private stakeholders (Powell, 2021: p106) but the technocracy agenda and ‘the spectrum of control’ (Sadowski, 2015: p8), i.e. constant surveillance. And surveillance, as Edward Snowden warned in an interview in 2017, is all about control. Snowden also pointed out that the UK has the most extreme surveillance act in the history of western democracy, the so-called Investigatory Powers Act 2016, which, as he emphasises, is even more authoritarian than in Russia or China.

According to L.IBERTY, the EU Court of Justice ruled against the controversial UK Act, finding that mass data collection and retention practices should comply with EU privacy safeguards.

Nonetheless, the 2016 Powers Act is still in force in the UK and will be heard by the Court of Appeal on 9-11. May 2023, as stated in L.IBERTY. Meanwhile, without exception, every citizen of the United Kingdom can constantly be under surveillance.


‘Legal Challenge: Investigatory Powers’, L.IBERTY  [Online]. Available at: https://www.libertyhumanrights.org.uk/issue/legal-challenge-investigatory-powers-act/  

Kitchin, R. Cardullo, P. and Di Feliciantonio, C. (eds.) (2019) ‘Citizenship, Justice, and the Right to the Smart City’. In The Right to The Smart City, pp.1-24. [Online]. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1108.978-1-78769-139-120191001

Powell, A.B. (2021). ‘Entrepreneurial Data Citizenships, Open Data Movements, and Audit Culture’. In Undoing Optimization: Civic Action in Smart Cities (pp. 80–107). Yale University Press. [Online]. Available at: https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctv1k03g9s.8

Sadowski J., Pasquale F., (2015) ‘The Spectrum of Control: A Social Theory of the Smart City’ First Monday, vol. 20, no. 7 (July 2015). Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.umaryland.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2545&context=fac_pubs


Learn Liberty (2017), Snowden: Surveillance Is about Power. 21.09. 2017, [Online]. Available at:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RSc_IlFBWkw

Week 3: From all sides, Smart Cities

For this blog I will exploring and critiquing the work of Anthony Townsend’s 2013 Smart Cities. Townsend’s introduction is quite an interested view on the history, the current state, and the future of so-called ‘Smart Cities’, from the viewpoint of the year 2013 that is. Townsend’s argument, for lack of a better word, is quite intricate: he explores both the positives and negatives of technological-enabled cities, but from multiple different perspectives. While multiple other studies in ‘Smart Cities’ have either argued for or against such ideas and the consequences of them, Townsend instead explores both sides of the arguments, not coming to a complete conclusion within this chapter. What I find most interesting from this chapter is the way in which Townsend went about exploring these topics: instead of focusing on a general aspect of how ‘Smart Cities’ could impact society, Townsend explores how technology has affected roles such as the policy, corporate and economic systems, as well as civilian lives. Not only does this reflect on the ways in which technology has changed the world, but it also highlights the fact that such changes did not begin in the 21st century with the internet.




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