Month March 2014

Configuring a ‘Right to the City’ with a ‘Right to Research’: Towards a Participatory Smart Urbanism

I’ll be participating in the “Thinking the ‘smart city’: power, politics and networked urbanism” sessions (see Session I and Session II) at this year’s Association of American Geographers. Info and abstract below:

Title: Configuring a ‘Right to the City’ with a ‘Right to Research’: Towards a Participatory Smart Urbanism
Author: Gregory T. Donovan
Time: 04/10/14, 10:00AM
Place: Tampa

Abstract:
In this paper I draw on participatory research and design work with NYC youth to consider a ‘right to the city’ and a ‘right to research’ as deeply intertwined ontological and epistemological movements that can reconfigure the production of space and knowledge in the Smart City. Much of urban informatics has been defined by large-scale ecosystems of data that are privately owned and operated by corporations and/or governments. I historically situate these “proprietary ecologies” in a neoliberal logic of privatization operating in cities to spatially orient urban life towards capital accumulation via tactics such as zoning, policing, and enclosure. In studying the unevenness of such development, some scholars have argued for the right of everyday people to be represented in the social material configuration of our cities, while others have argued for a right of these same people to be represented in the aims and methods of contemporary research. Urban youth, in particular, populate proprietary ecologies with troves of data through their daily habits. Yet, they are among the least engaged in shaping how, where, and for what purposes, this research is conducted. I review two youth-based projects intended to shift this dynamic: one that developed an open-source social network, and one that maintains a local mesh network. These projects help consider how broader calls for rights to the city and research play out in the practical yet powerful ways youth are remaking the social material (and thus entailed, digital) configuration of smart urbanism.



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