The Programmable City
Start date: Jun 1, 2013,
End date: May 31, 2018
"Software is essential to the functioning of cities; a vital element in the operation and governance of travel, the built environment, consumption, work, home life, services and utilities. To date, analysis has focused on the technologies that software enables, rather than the actual code that renders the city programmable and knowable in new ways. We have thus failed to appreciate and understand a key mediator of urban change and city life. The project will provide a groundbreaking analysis of the emerging programmable city with respect to: (1) how the city is translated into software; (2) how software reshapes the city. It will examine these processes in relation to four key urban practices – how we understand, manage, work and live in the city. With respect to how cities are translated into software, the project will examine how cities and citizens are captured and processed as data; how ideas about city governance are composed into code; the geographies of software production; how software is discursively produced and legitimated by vested interests. With respect to how software reshapes cities, the project will examine: the rise of ‘big data’ and how data infrastructures and information systems are used to inform public policy development; how software is used to regulate and govern city life; how the activities and practices of work are being reshaped by computation; and how software transforms the spatiality and spatial behaviour of individuals. A range of methodologies will be employed, including interviews, ethnographies, audits, surveys, discourse analysis, and the development of a new method, algorithm archaeology. The project will address a serious lacuna in social science research by answering key questions concerning the nature of software and the changing production and management of cities and citizens. It will provide new theoretical tools and rich empirical evidence for thinking through the new era of programmable urbanism."
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