Smart Cities and Social Control

Room A - Fri 11:40


Maria Farrell - Consultant and Writer, Internet Policy

Smart Cities and Social Control: How the IoT is changing relations between citizens, the private sector and the State, and what we can do about it.

Cities attract a huge and growing percentage of the global population. They are drivers of innovation and growth, and also of progressive social values and political change. Cities are where you go if you want to “be someone” and also if you’re a bit different. Unsurprisingly, states are ever-keen to control cities – to keep the economic engines going, but with a bit less of the profound social and political change, thank you very much.

This talk will use lots of visuals to take a fresh look at “Smart Cities”, and how the way we think and talk about them is subtly influenced by fear and the desire for centralised control. Networking everything and everyone sounds like Utopia – Smoother transport! Cleaner air! Doing more with less! But there is also a dark side to the datafication of public space – ubiquitous surveillance, digital kettling and increasing inequality.

Drawing on history – from policing the Irish in nineteenth century New York to building twentieth century cities that chillingly aimed to “perfect” human nature – and real-world examples of municipal IoT implementations, this talk will identify the key things we need to do so that “smart cities” and wide-scale IoT implementations don’t end up squashing both our individual liberties and the endless, occasionally riotous variety that makes cities wonderful.