Smartification and the privatization of public spaces

Mai 7, 2016

The introduction of mobile broadband on a mass scale is often regarded as a technological enhancement of public space: as a new layer added to existing physical spaces that allows for a smarter management of scarce spatial resources or even for the creation of new public spaces by way of the appropriation of otherwise anonymous urban spaces through personalization (and the subsequent sharing of these profiles). But is that really the case? Or is – on the contrary – the ’smart-i-fication‘ of public space the end of public space as we know it?

In the dynamics between the formation of public spaces and the increasing proliferation of digital media one aspect receives inadequate attention: the role of public spaces as political spaces and their transformation through the ubiquitous proliferation of privately owned and — post-Snowden evidently — gouvernmentally supervised media technologies. Out of the spectrum of digitalization as a broad and all-encompassing phenomenon, this paper would focus on the proliferation of mobile broadband on a mass scale. The technology of mobile broadband will be conceptualized from a politico-economic point of view under the framework of “extrastatecraft”1, i.e. of mobile broadband as spatially active agency that redesigns the formation of public spaces and the social fabric as a whole. Within this perspective an attempt shall be made to analyse the interpenetration of public space through digital media as (one of) the current vectors of corporate and surveillance capitalism2: what does the increasing involvement of proprietary digital network technologies (‚apps‘) mean for the formation of public spaces?

Prospects and perspectives

  • development of a descriptive model of urban public spaces as dispersed and segregated by way of smart digital media as a theoretical counterpoint to the smart-media-as-enhancement paradigm

  • identification of starting points for policy strategies to counter the colonization of public space by private interests of big tech corporations and political technocracy

  • qualitative characterization of contemporary public spaces as inclusive political spaces in spite of digitalization

  1. Easterling, Keller. Extrastatecraft: The Power of Infrastructure Space. London ; New York: Verso, 2014. []
  2. Zuboff, Shoshana. „Google as a Fortune Teller The Secrets of Surveillance Capitalism“. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 5. März 2016. []

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