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An Informational Right to the City? Code, Content, Control, and the Urbanization of Information - New Paper

After much work, many discussions, a lot of writing and rewriting, and many many presentations around the world, Joe Shaw and I have our 'Informational Right to the City' article in print. 

An Informational Right to the City? Code, Content, Control, and the Urbanization of Information

Henri Lefebvre talked of the “right to the city” alongside a right to information. As the urban environment becomes increasingly layered by abstract digital representation, Lefebvre's broader theory warrants application to the digital age. Through considering what is entailed by the urbanization of information, this paper examines the problems and implications of any “informational right to the city”. In directing Tony Benn's five questions of power towards Google, arguably the world's most powerful mediator of information, this paper exposes processes that occur when geographic information is mediated by powerful digital monopolies. We argue that Google currently occupies a dominant share of any informational right to the city. In the spirit of Benn's final question—“How do we get rid of you?”—the paper seeks to apply post-political theory in exploring a path to the possibility of more just information geographies.

Download it, and our related pieces at the links below:

Shaw, J. and Graham, M. 2017. An Informational Right to the City? Code, Content, Control, and the Urbanization of InformationAntipode.  10.1111/anti.12312

Graham, M. and Shaw, J. 2017. An 'Informational Right to the City'?New Internationalist. Feb 8, 2017

Shaw, J and Graham, M. (eds). 2017. Our Digital Rights to the City. London: Meatspace Press.

An ‘Informational Right to the City’? - Piece in New Internationalist

Together with Joe Shaw, I have written a short article for New Internationalist titled: An ‘Informational Right to the City’?

As our cities become increasingly digital, and as corporate giants like Google play an ever increasingly central role in our digital lives, a renewed debate about what an informational right to the city might look like could help us ensure that older struggles about urban rights make their way into the digital world. 

For a longer treatment of the issue, please also see our new pamphlet on the topic:

Shaw, J and Graham, M. (eds). 2017. Our Digital Rights to the City. London: Meatspace Press.

 

Our Digital Rights to the City || download/order our pamphlet

The pamphlet ‘Our Digital Rights to the City’ is now out on Meatspace Press. We are pleased to offer it for free download (epub, mobi, pdf), as a low-cost paperback, and as a self-print pdf.

‘Our Digital Rights to the City’ is a small collection of articles about digital technology, data and the city. It covers a range of topics relating to the political and economic power of technologies that are now almost inescapable within the urban environment. This includes discussions surrounding security, mapping, real estate, smartphone applications and the broader idea of a ‘right to the city’ in a post-digital world.

Should we feed all the data for a given problem to a computer? Why not? Because the machine only uses data based on questions that can be answered with a yes or a no. And the computer itself only responds with a yes or a no. Moreover, can anyone claim that all the data have been assembled? Who is going to legitimate this use of totality? Who is going to demonstrate that the “language of the city”, to the extent that it is a language, coincides with ALGOL, Syntol, or FORTRAN, the languages of machines, and that this translation is not a betrayal? Doesn’t the machine risk becoming an instrument in the hands of pressure groups and politicians? Isn’t it already a weapon for those in power and those who serve them?

Henri Lefebvre in the Urban Revolution (1970)

The collection is edited by Joe Shaw and Mark Graham and its contributing authors are Jathan SadowskiValentina CarraroBart WissinkDesiree FieldsKurt IvesonTaylor SheltonSophia Drakopoulou and Mark Purcell.

Free Download:

.epub (for most e-readers except Kindle ): free download at SmashWords.

.pdf (for most things): free download from Internet Archive or view hi-res in browser at Issuu.

.mobi (for Kindle): free download from Internet Archive.

Paperback:

We have a limited print run of just 50 copies available via Big Cartel for £3 each + P&P.

Details:

Title: Our Digital Rights to the City
Edited by: Joe Shaw & Mark Graham
Contributing authors (alphabetically): Valentina Carraro, Sophia Drakapoulou, Desiree Fields, Mark Graham, Kurt Iveson, Mark Purcell, Jathan Sadowski, Joe Shaw, Taylor Shelton, Bart Wissink.
Design: Irene Beltrame
Format: Paperback, .epub, .pdf and .mobi
Length: 35 pages
Language: English
Publisher: Meatspace Press (2016)
ISBN (paperback): 978-0-9955776-0-2
ISBN (e-book): 978-0-9955776-1-9
ISBN (pdf): 978-0-9955776-2-6
License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA

The Geography of Twitter

A few months ago, Antonello Romano and I published some maps of Twitter. Those maps showed which parts of the world produced more content than others. However, what they failed to do is account for differences in Internet penetration around the world. 

The above map normalises the Twitter data by internet population data: revealing the parts of the world that are home to internet users who are more likely to publish content on the platform. 

You can see that the differences between places are not slight ones. Internet users in some countries (like Malaysia) are dozens of times more likely to tweet than internet users in places like India or Kenya. 

As in painfully obvious in 2017, information in social media streams can have an outsized influence. Knowledge shared on Twitter can shape how people around understand society, the economy, and politics. But, as we see here, that knowledge has distinct geographies. It is far more likely to be created in some places than others.

Further reading:

Graham, M, S. Hale, and D. Gaffney. 2014. Where in the World are You? Geolocation and Language Identification in Twitter. The Professional Geographer 66(4) 568-578. (pre-publication version here)

Graham, M., De Sabbata, S., Zook, M. 2015. Towards a study of information geographies:(im)mutable augmentations and a mapping of the geographies of information Geo: Geography and Environment.2(1) 88-105. doi:10.1002/geo2.8

Graham, M. 2015. Information Geographies and Geographies of Information New Geographies 7 159-166.

Graham, M., S. Hale & M. Stephens. 2011. Geographies of the World's KnowledgeConvoco! Edition.

infogeog, oiiMark Grahamoii, twitter, map