THE DATACRACY THREAT OF SMART CITIES
Called “Smart City” by commercial enterprises, media and marketing departments, the fully connected metropolis risks being anything but. It is undeniable that the digitization of metropolitan infrastructures is both desirable and ultimately needed, but the way it may be performed demands consideration. A mechanistic approach, focusing mainly on databases and predictive analytics risks ignoring the subjective values that make communities lively and diverse places. Besides raising concerns about privacy and surveillance, this approach may further alienate citizens in the homogeneous bubbles of peer groups, isolating them from major structures that define contemporary urban living. It may also increase social fragmentation, inequality, intolerance and many psychological illnesses that are hard to measure, such as depression and loneliness.
Beyond data and analytics, smart city information and communications technologies approaches need to tap into the organic flows that make up a living city. This research believes it is the most effective way to turn cities into serviceable interfaces for urban development, with people at the heart of the process. The Digital revolution is less about the physical matter of cities and more about how the infrastructure and its inhabitants will communicate with each other.
But some questions remain unanswered: who owns the data accumulated by smart grids and networks?
A proprietary system may lock its client cities into expensive and ineffective policies which may reduce incentives to cultivate in-house expertise. What happens when strategic data is hosted on a propriety platform, in another country, subject to its laws? How will these new relationships work? If information is power, information asymmetries tend to lead to power imbalances. A digital information society will only be fully democratic when everyone relevant has equivalent access to the information concerning their environment. It is a very different situation than the one that is lived today, in which centralized entities know much about their users, who are instead unaware of which data is collected, how is it traded and what kind of profiles are being made with it.
Keywords: Smart Cities, Datacracy, Social Networks, Internet of Things, Datasphere.