School of Global Affairs Seminar Governing through Technology: Command Centers and Big Data in Smart Cities
by Dr. Leon Morenas Associate Professor School of Planning and Architecture
The international technology provider Schneider Electric that provides the platform for Naya Raipur’s Smart City claims that its command and control centers “manages all traffic and critical infrastructure” for Madrid, “reduced[sic] average travel times by 14%” in Sao Paulo and saving “over $3 million in energy and water savings in over 40 Buildings” What makes this possible at a city scale? What is gained and what is lost? In this paper, I examine the “backbone” of the Smart City— the centralized command and control center— which has traditionally been viewed as a black box. In the first section, I will be looking at the components that constitute the command centers. As suggested in its nomenclature control over urban space and peoples’ behavior is central to the project. This is evident when one is confronted with the ubiquity of sensors that percolate through our private and public spaces. In the second section, I elucidate the working of Control Centers and the instrumentality of Big Data collected from these sensors. In particular, I focus on urban indicators and dashboards. Demonstrating how data is used to illustrate the ‘typical’ and the ‘normal,’ I discuss the manner in which important political issues like surveillance and loss of privacy are rendered invisible, immaterial, and simultaneously, mandatory. In the third and concluding section, I locate Command Centers within the larger rubric of surveillance and platform capitalism and discuss the implications this has for Smart Cities.
Leon Morenas is an Associate Professor at the School of Planning and Architecture, Delhi. He is an architect with a Master’s in Urban Design from the SPA, Delhi and a PhD in Architectural Sciences—with a specialization in Informatics—from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New York. Morenas’ research uses the disciplinary lens of science and technology studies to understand the relationship of technology with contemporary design, architecture and urban planning. He recently concluded a two year fellowship at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla where he worked on a project entitled “Mohallas and Smart Cities: Post-Colonial Development in Delhi.” He was a World Social Sciences Fellow in Sustainable Urbanization (2014) and Programme Coordinator of the Masters in Social Design at Ambedkar University, Delhi (2013).
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