File(s) under permanent embargo
#BlockSidewalk to Barcelona: technological sovereignty and the social license to operate smart cities
journal contributionposted on 2020-09-01, 00:00 authored by Monique MannMonique Mann, Peta Mitchell, Marcus Foth, Irina Anastasiu
This article explores technological sovereignty as a way to respond to anxieties of control in digital urban contexts, and argues that this may promise a more meaningful social license to operate smart cities. First, we present an overview of smart city developments with a critical focus on corporatization and platform urbanism. We critique Alphabet's Sidewalk Labs development in Toronto, which faces public backlash from the #BlockSidewalk campaign in response to concerns over not just privacy, but also lack of community consultation, the prospect of the city losing its civic ability to self‐govern, and its repossession of public land and infrastructure. Second, we explore what a more responsible smart city could look like, underpinned by technological sovereignty, which is a way to use technologies to promote individual and collective autonomy and empowerment via ownership, control, and self‐governance of data and technologies. To this end, we juxtapose the Sidewalk Labs development in Toronto with the Barcelona Digital City plan. We illustrate the merits (and limits) of technological sovereignty moving toward a fairer and more equitable digital society.