Interconnectivity Overload

This week we have been reading about networked spaces and their relationship to urban infrastructure. Stephen Graham’s book Disrupted Cities, discusses the ways in which society as we know it, is dependant on the tight coupling of multiple urban infrastructure networks such as telecommunications lines, energy and water systems etc. Although his work can be read through a technologically determinist lens,  it is likely that society would not function to its current social, economic and political capacity without these networks.

Graham also discusses the limitations of life within a networked society, specifically in relation to infrastructure terrorism, or the appropriation of urban infrastructure for destruction. I myself was naive to the fact that the basic units of modern urban life could also be used to destroy it. As networks need to be partially open for optimal functioning, there is never such thing as complete securitization.

As society continues to progress, more sophisticated infrastructure networks are laid in place. The Internet of Things (IoT), what can be understood as inanimate objects embedded with computing devices for the ability to send and receive data. The largest development within the IoT is the creation of ‘Smart‘ cities. Alberta is currently home to the Canadian Smart City Alliance, in which developers are working on innovative infrastructure networks to ease travel for the Albertans. Screenshot 2017-03-26 20.44.20

These ‘smart’ cities are proposed to include ‘smart’ roads and bridges that will communicate with ‘smart’ vehicles and command centres in order to indicate road and traffic conditions, as well improve the flow of traffic via. volume monitoring. Projects like these may seem futuristic, but they have in fact already begun here in Canada.

Keeping in mind Graham’s discussion of infrastructure terrorism, specifically the ease in accessibility of cyber attacks, I am having trouble foreseeing smart cities as an affordance. I am not sure that I would trust my vehicle to make electronic decisions via. sensory communication knowing that almost anyone has the ability to infiltrate and alter the functioning of my ‘smart’ vehicle.

How to you view ‘smart’ cities… affordance or limitation?

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1 Comment

  1. This is a really interesting example and I agree with you regarding your comment about seeing the smart city as an affordance. In relation to Graham’s reading from this week in regards to infrastructural terrorism, if our vehicles were essentially synced with the operation of our city and other infrastructures, I can foresee cyberterrorists hacking into the system and shutting down a component of it, which would in turn impact the entire system’s operation. If the infrastructures and vehicles could operate independently if there was a failure in the system, perhaps this could help combat this issue, although based on how new this technology is, this is most likely still a work in progress. I don’t know much about the smart city currently in Alberta, although I imagine it is not accessible to all Albertans, so I think it might further create a social divide. If a smart city utilizing this smart technology continues to be implemented into the city’s design, how will people are unable to afford the smart vehicle able to operate within this network?

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