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      Toronto’s Smart City: Everyday Life or Google Life?

      Architecture_MPS

      UCL Press

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          Abstract

          In August 2015, Google reorganized its various interests as a conglomerate called Alphabet Inc. Under the new umbrella, Google’s search, data aggregation, and advertising subsidiaries, were joined by Sidewalk Lab and its suite of urban products: high-speed broadband services, Android Pixel2 phone, mobile mapping, autonomous cars, artificial intelligence, smart homes, and all the data captured therein. The City of Toronto’s recent award to Alphabet’s Sidewalk Lab for design services has sparked a heated controversy among urban planners and citizens alike. Toronto’s decision not only signals a different model of professional practice, but it also represents a conceptual shift away from citizen to urban consumer. By engaging a private technology company, one that passively captures data on its customers and then re-sales that data to third parties, Toronto’s smart city points to a significant change in the understanding and practice of contemporary urban planning and design.

          Acknowledging the city as a site of disciplinary disruption, this paper introduces Bratton’s stack theory as a way to understand networked urbanism more generally, and Waterfront Toronto specifically. We build on Bratton’s position by closely examining twenty-first century histories and anthropologies related to the Internet, privacy, and the dominance of big data. Our principal concern is with the transformation of personal and environmental data into an economic resource. Seen through that particular lens, we argue that Toronto’s smart city has internalized relations of colonization, whereby the economic objectives of a multinational technology company take on new configurations at a local level of human (and non-human) information extraction – thereby restructuring not only public land, but also everyday life into a zone of unmitigated consumption.

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          Most cited references 8

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          “Positioning Locative Media: A Critical Urban Intervention.”

           T. Tierney, (2013)
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            “The Automobile in the Urban Environment: Planning for an Energy-Short Future.”

             Mark Foster, (1981)
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              “Regulating the Internet of Things: First Steps Toward Managing Discrimination, Privacy, Security, and Consent.”

               Scott Peppet, (2014)
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Journal
                Amps
                Architecture_MPS
                UCL Press
                2050-9006
                February 2019
                : 15
                : 1
                Affiliations
                University of Illinois Urbana Champaign, USA
                Article
                10.14324/111.444.amps.2019v15i1.001
                Copyright © 2019 The Author(s)

                This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

                Page count
                Figures: 3, Tables: 0, Equations: 0, References: 34, Pages: 24

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