Short Paper , , , ,

Vulnerable Bodies: Relations of visibility in the speculative smart city

Debra Mackinnon
University of Calgary

sava saheli singh
University of Ottawa

From wearables, IoT sensors, apps, platforms and cameras, we “shed” various forms of data as we navigate our increasingly networked and smart environments. Recent discussions of urban data have focused on post collection practices of translation and circulation – following data threads, journeys and exhaust as they enact urban life. We seek to further complicate these thick data accounts focusing on movement, bodies and embodiment. As our bodies become information, the accuracy and affordances of these data portraits remain critical sites of inquiry. How do surveillance technologies, map, render and perform human and non-human interactions; moreover, exacerbate injustice? In this paper, adding to the rich discussions of future-ing, anticipatory imaginaries and implications on the urbanite body, we offer a critical interrogation of the oligoptic gaze and the relations and politics of visibility. We do this through the narrative of Frames [https://www.sscqueens.org/projects/screening-surveillance/frames] – a speculative near future account of mapping a body through the various lenses of a smart city. Focused on what is included (and excluded) from the “frame”, we navigate domains of aesthetics and politics in order to foreground the embodied experiences, decisions and interactions which are mapped by these surveillant spatial locative technologies. We contend these renderings or simulacra of a ‘singular’ knowledge politic serve to stabilize and normalize ways of seeing, knowing and control. Yet, these rationalities are irrational – potentially producing inefficient, inaccurate and unjust portraits.