Towards a Political Economy of Urban Communication Technologies
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By the year 2050, about three quarters of the world’s population will live in cities. Most cities are developed by state or federal governments; however, some cities are developed for the purpose of private interests that plan the city. While the concept of private companies planning and sometimes even owning cities is not a new development, there seems to currently be a rise in this trend, with communication corporations such as IBM, Google, Intel, and Cisco now taking advantage of this growing market. Known as “smart” or “wired” cities, this new privatized way of planning communities allows major communication corporations to play an important role in shaping the future of our communities. Google, IBM, and Intel are all playing a role in planning the future of Portland, Oregon. By analyzing documents such as planning ordinances, financial reports, and government transcripts, as well as conducting interviews with city planners and corporate employees, this study found that many of the “smart” city efforts being undertaken by these communication corporations are intimately tied to their efforts to bring the Internet of Things (IoT) to fruition. Ultimately, the main goal of these efforts is to utilize urban communication technologies (UCTs) to gather data about community members by tracking their activities. In this emerging personal data economy, identities are the main commodity being fetishized.