DCRP Lecture: Cities and Technological Imaginaries: Big Data, Fintech and the Limits of Transparency, with Matthew Zook
Technological imaginaries have long influenced urban planning with the current iteration foregrounding big data and “smart” approaches. Drawing from the past five years of my work this talk engages both critically and practically on how data (drawn from our ever increasingly digital lives) come to matter in cities and everyday economies. Data are often mobilized as depoliticizing devices, obscuring their conception and collection to legitimize their use in city politics, urban planning and economic policy. For example, discourses on the need for increased data transparency on mortgage debt (resulting from the 2007-08 GFC) led to Fintech solutions organized around transparency rather than addressing underlying causes for the crisis such as greed, speculation or the financialization of nearly all facets of life. At the same time, new big data sources have great potential in analyzing and understanding cities. Cases discussed in this talk include using social media data to (1) counter “common sense understandings” of spatial boundaries and mobility in cities and (2) define gentrification not simply in residential terms (where you sleep) but from a relational perspective (where you are active) that reconfigures how particular people are connected to particular places in cities.
Matthew Zook is a Professor of Economic and Digital Geography at the University of Kentucky and Managing Editor for the interdisciplinary open access journal Big Data and Society. His research focuses on digital technology and cities, the use of big data in urban analysis, and the role of finance (VC, crypto) in urban and regional development and has been supported by the NSF, Fulbright and the NGS.