Today, 5,600,000,000 results were retrieved after a Google search on the term ‘data’ (after 0.55 seconds). Other web search engines, such as Bing, Yahoo!, Baidu, AOL or Ask might provide alternative results. In the patterns of everyday life, more than 90% of all the available data on the internet was generated since 2011, and this increased nonlinearly with more data being generated and released by people and/or things (e.g. their properties, states and/or interactions registered by automation processes, such as cameras, sensors, card usages and other resource flows, logins, emails, short messages, photos, likes, cookies, social media posts), groups and periods of time, which can be combined into larger groups and/or longer periods of time, analysed, and so forth, making up what is currently termed ‘big data’ (Dragland 2013; see also Margetts, John, Hale and Yasseri 2015).
In recent years, Cisco, IBM, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Alibaba and other transnational information and communication (ICT) corporations realised this new scale and value of data for commercial utilisations within internet services, provided for/by their billions of users across the globe. Particularly in ‘smart’ cities, these ICT corporations have been showing a deep interest in the generation of urban visions which seem to promote major changes in our urban lives, following such visionaries like Jane Jacobs or Le Corbusier (Greenfield 2016).
Could the worldwide proliferation of corporate ICT infrastructures in smart cities be seen as a new form of extraction urbanism, following similar examples of resource extracting strategies for gold, oil and other resources? Could recent political changes call for new civic demands for those private ICT infrastructures, thus enabling digital equalities for grassroots movements?
On the one hand, this recent global smart trend, promoted by those ICT corporations, might raise ethical issues and other implications for the future of humanistic cities, since it implies ‘opportunistic’ sensing and monitoring of its citizens through algorithms, sensors, cameras, crowdsourcing and other information extraction networks essentially from a top-down perspective. On the other hand, more can be made through partnerships between these corporations and universities, local institutions and communities, to enable participatory data collection and sharing from bottom-up approaches, in order to face complex challenges such as climate change. Recent examples of hackathons organised by universities to save environmental information to private ICT infrastructures, thus protecting data sets from new political policies in the North America region, might be showing new paths for research collaborations between private and public infrastructures and organisations.
Diogo Pereira Henriquesdiogo.firstname.lastname@example.org