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Data-based frictions in civic action: trust, technology, and participation

Powell, Alison B. (2024) Data-based frictions in civic action: trust, technology, and participation. In: Glückler, Johannes and Panitz, Robert, (eds.) Knowledge and Digital Technology. Knowledge and Space. Springer, Cham, CH, 169 - 184. ISBN 9783031391002

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Identification Number: 10.1007/978-3-031-39101-9_9


In order to address climate change and persistent air pollution, many cities have developed policy plans to reduce vehicle through-traffic on residential roads. These are ‘smart city’ policies in the sense that they use data-sets and predictions related to air quality, traffic levels and climate change models to derive policy positions. During the COVID-19 lockdowns, several London inner-city governments introduced low-traffic neighbourhood policies as ‘experimental’ interventions, consulting residents after introducing measures temporarily. Vociferous opposition emerged to these schemes, coalescing on social media including Twitter and Facebook groups. This essay examines the nature of citizen action in a data-based environment, exploring how citizen responses to smart governance create the conditions for political polarization, because not enough opportunity is provided for frictions or feelings of dissent. Although previous work on citizen action and smart cities has identified that permitting frictions between these different actors might increase the depth or legitimacy of citizen involvement in data-based policies (Powell, Undoing optimization: civic action in smart cities. Yale University Press, New Haven, 2021), analysis of posts made on a Facebook group discussion opposition to data-driven Low Traffic Neighbourhood policies reveals that different qualities of feeling influence the extent to which policy interventions are perceived as legitimate. Without the capacity to have opposition listened to or heard in a data-driven ‘smart governance’ setting, people begin to consider all government-collected data to be illegitimate, generate their own vernacular evidence, and form shared identities based on perceived alienation from elite decision-makers. The results of this analysis suggest that data frictions need to be understood in relation to affective politics. Without space for strong feelings to become part of a socially validated process, these harden into antagonism and animosity, leaving space for political polarization.

Item Type: Book Section
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2024 The Author(s)
Divisions: Media and Communications
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HE Transportation and Communications
T Technology > T Technology (General)
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Date Deposited: 19 Feb 2024 10:48
Last Modified: 11 Jul 2024 05:21

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