UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Networked technopolitics within the smart city : urban social movements, public policy, and surveillance capitalism from Barcelona to Toronto Recvlohe, Corey


The rise of modernity has been the history of urbanization, stoked by the trade of global capital through worldwide financial networks. This course has led to the city's primacy as an economic, cultural, and political fixture within an interconnected world order. With the advancement of information and communication technologies, we are now undergoing a radical shift in how we imagine cities from the ground up, creating an urban setting that reflects new technical systems, political arrangements, and economic priorities. Central players in this new smart city are urban social movements, firms specializing in surveillance, and urban regimes, negotiating rights, privileges, and expectations within an emerging network society. This thesis investigates precisely how urban social movements shape public policy and the development of the smart city. This research covers the outcomes of technopolitical practices employed by networked actors across physical and virtual terrains, contesting the balance of power between residents, firms, and public institutions. The following analysis utilizes a qualitative method with a case study approach, examining the public policy process in Barcelona, Spain, and Toronto, Canada. Included are examinations of literatures, original documents, and public statements by relevant participants in the struggle for dignity, respect, and voice. Conclusions from this inquiry paint a hopeful picture. In the race to dominate public purchase of technological infrastructure, firms have motivated urban citizens to mobilize resources through the same information and communications technologies deployed, resulting in new data governance and procurement processes that craft an innovative revision of the smart city. Whether through co-production of public policy using open-source software or centering privacy as a non-negotiable condition of business, the findings demonstrate a normative change occurring in contemporary urban development.

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