Brokerage: Mediating Datafication, Citizenship and the City
Datafication is transforming citizenship in cities around the world by introducing new relationships between citizens and governments. Alison Powell's talk examines how the emergence of various forms of data brokerage by companies as well as civic entities recasts notions of citizenship and institutional responsibility. For local government, pressure to roll back the state sets up a new kind of perspective on citizenship that shifts from seeing citizens as those with civic responsibilities and engagements, to classifying them as consumers. A consumer perspective on citizenship transforms the relationship between government, individuals and corporate entities. In a data city, this transformed relationship is evidenced by production, exchange, and brokerage of data. Citizens can become consumer-producers of data, creating value for governments and for the companies that provide brokerage of that data. Governments too become consumers, of analytics that help them to rationally manage resources that are deemed scarce. These relationships are mediated by brokers – companies, organizations or other entities - who can negotiate the relationships between these two entities, positioning them both as consumers, but of different packages of analytic data. In her lecture, Powell will compare and contrast different forms of commercial and “civic” data brokers, identifying how each kind of brokerage leverages analytic resources and contributes to the construction, imagination, and valuation of data in the city. She identifies brokerage as a form of heterarchical power, and clarifies the possibilities and limits of seeking to challenge the consumer framework of citizenship by changing brokerage arrangements.
Alison Powell is Assistant Professor in Media and Communications at the London School of Economics. Her research examines the ways that value decisions are negotiated within the design of new ICTs. She is writing a book on good governance and the Internet of Things, and working on several projects related to citizenship, cities, data and ethics. Along with Nick Couldry, she recently published “Big Data From the Bottom Up” in Big Data and Society, along with several recent publications discussing information policy, activism, and open source culture. She is regularly invited to deliver lectures on the social and political consequences of the Internet of Things and Smart Cities projects.