CRESR Seminar - ‘If someone would just give us a city and put us in charge’: Experimenting with systemic digital platforms as new infrastructures of control

Start date: 
Wed, 15/05/2019
Closing date: 
Wed, 15/05/2019
Sheffield Hallam University, City Campus, Stoddart Building, Room 7139
Event contact: 
Ian Wilson & Ben Pattison (Tel: 0114 225 3073)

4.00-5.00 pm


Mike Hodson and Andrew McMeekin
Sustainable Consumption Institute
University of Manchester


In this seminar I will draw on the early stages of work we have undertaken to understand Sidewalk Labs’ attempt to develop a new digitally-organised urban neighbourhood on the Toronto waterfront. This has produced dense empirical material that we are still trying to make sense of and I welcome the opportunity this seminar provides to help with clarifying our understanding. We address the emerging relationship(s) between ‘conventional’ forms of urban infrastructure provision and digital platforms, the ways in which the politics of urban transformation are playing out at this interface and the implications of this. More specifically, we argue that, in Toronto, a combination of corporate and public actors are at the forefront of constituting a vision of a new systemic/city-scale digital platform to control circulations of people and objects and to appropriate rents. They do this by constituting a new digital infrastructure that they aim to layer over/integrate with existing infrastructure systems. How this happens is subject to much uncertainty and political struggle through experimentation. In doing this, we extend debates on urban experimentation by understanding experimentation as a purposive process that aims to build capability and undertake infrastructural reconfiguration in ways that secure rents for a narrow coalition of interests.


Mike Hodson is senior research fellow at the Sustainable Consumption Institute, University of Manchester. Mike's research focuses on relationships between urban governance, the shape of future sustainable cities and transitions in urban infrastructures. He has published and presented widely on this agenda. He is currently developing a programme of research (with Andy McMeekin) on Platform Urbanism.

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