Note — Jul 18, 2021

Cartographic Evidence of Invisible Cities

Seen in → No.182

Source →

This piece at MAS Context intersects with last week’s everyone should decide how their digital data are used, Olga Subirós explains interactions between data ownership and choices in what is mapped, and why it’s important for citizens to create and collect cartographic evidence of “invisible cities.”

After setting the groundwork for how mapping can be a powerful tool, Subirós lists and details a number of great projects and organizations doing that kind of work, tracking things like: community justice, spending on incarceration; conflict urbanism; human rights violations; evictions; and programs that enable citizen to participate in mapping projects.

The conclusion connects these efforts with two important issues: what should a smart city actually be, and fake news.

There is data sovereignty, which we must demand from the public sphere, and also the data we can produce from active citizenship. The aim is to redraw the city by creating new cartographies to support the best analysis and diagnosis to resolve our coexistence and guarantee the right to a just city. […]

Mapping the invisible in the city means putting what is ephemeral on the map. The city is, above all, invisible activity: the data on telephone use, social networks, banking transactions, the consumption of basic supplies, check-ins at restaurants and leisure venues, complaints, etc. and also environmental data such as air quality, water and soil quality, noise pollution, etc. This represents huge amounts of data and metadata. […]

Because a “smart” city is one in which citizens use data to diagnose its problems. It is urbanism using big data for the common good as a tool to uphold the social contract, a tool that complements citizen participation. […]

At a time when fake news has become widespread and sectors of power persist in denying the crimes that are committed, the creation of evidence is a fundamental tool for citizens to combat exploitation, systemic inequality, and mass surveillance by governments and corporations.