Pulling Back the Curtain on the Smart City
"The 'smart city' is not a coherent concept, let alone an actually existing entity. It’s better understood as a misleading euphemism for a corporately controlled urban future," argues Jathan Sadowski. The grand visions of the connected city are part of a narrative created by corporate interests to convince planners, city officials, and the public that the challenges facing cities can be solved through the adoption of omnipresent technological systems.
But the smart city is really the captured city, says Sadowski, where collection of data and surveillance of physical space are prevalent. Urban policing is one example of how the private sector runs the show from behind the scenes:
The most powerful upgrades to urban surveillance used to come primarily from the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security, but today, corporations like Amazon roll out systems that the FBI and CIA would have literally killed to install. (Now they can just pay a monthly fee for access.) Amazon’s networked doorbell camera Ring and its associated Neighbors app are an example.
Sadowski believes some people will creatively resist the totalitarianism of social and technological infrastructure of the captured city, but a meaningful resistance will need go further. "It will require us to target with ruthless criticism the producers and users of surveillance systems, the supply and demand for urban control. It will require us to know our enemies and name them as such."