The Captured City

A closer look at the bundle of technologies and policies associated with “smart cities” suggest a different aim. These technologies treated the city like a battlespace, redeploying information systems originally created for military purposes for urban policing. Sensors, cameras, and other networked surveillance systems gather intelligence through quasi-militaristic methods to feed another set of systems capable of deploying resources in response. In reality, the urban command centers — or, the sophisticated analytics software that create relational networks of data, like that produced by the CIA-funded Palantir — are built primarily for police, not planners, let alone the public.

Contrary to the suggestions of “smartness” shills, these systems are not used by the general public but on it. This urban war machine (as I call it in my forthcoming book Too Smart) is the true essence of “smart” urbanism. It is the next step in the high-tech militarization of society. Rather than produce the smart city, it yields the captured city.

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