David Murakami studies the histories, technologies and practices of surveillance in cross-cultural contexts. His current project, Ubicity, an examination of security in smart cities, is funded by SSHRC.
‘Smart cities’ are characterized by pervasive and distributed sensor networks capturing and generating big data for forms of centralized urban management, drawing together such previously unconnected infrastructural systems as video surveillance, meteorological stations, traffic lights and sewage systems. Although presented as largely civic, corporate and managerial, these schemes have a parallel history in military strategic thinking and policing, from crime mapping and predictive policing models, to new forms of urban warfare involving sensor platforms, and computer analytics, to enable forces to get a ‘clear picture’ of the complexities of the urban landscape and its inhabitants. In some cases, these have come together in overt ways, for example in the new ‘Domain Awareness’ initiatives in Oakland, California, and in New York which extends existing port security projects way beyond the military maritime surveillance ‘domain’ into the surrounding city and its governance. This talk examines some of these intersections of big data, smartness and security and argues that the big data city is always also a surveillance city.