City Bricolage: Imagining the City as a Platform

  • Sarah Barns
Part of the Geographies of Media book series (GOM)


In this chapter addresses a set of  civic responses to platform intermediation that are focused around issues of urban data governance. This aims to highlight a range of alternate data governance models currently in play, which point to  different roles for city authorities acting as custodians of their city’s data assets. The development of urban dashboards, urban data marketplaces, and civic data trusts, in particular, represent  different ways that cities are increasingly acting as proactive champions of urban data as public infrastructure, supported by increasingly sophisticated approaches to data sovereignty and data commons. The data governance challenges associated with attempts to build a city ‘from the internet up’ by Sidewalk Labs in Quayside, Toronto highlight the growing politicisation of urban data and platform ecosystems. At the same time, the data governance conditions enabled via global platform intermediation, in the case of a company like Uber, continue to evidence powerful asymmetries of data access and use between global platform providers and place-bound civic authorities.


  1. Aouf, R. (2019, April 25). China Is One of the Best Places for Experimenting with Urban Technology Says Carlo Ratti. Dazeen.Google Scholar
  2. Arup, Liveable Cities, & UCL. (2014). Delivering the Smart City: Governing Cities in the Digital Age. London: Arup.Google Scholar
  3. Barns, S. (2018). Smart Cities and Urban Data Platforms: Designing Interfaces for Smart Governance. City Culture and Society, 12, 5–12. Scholar
  4. Barns, S. (2019). Responsive Listening: Negotiating Cities of Sirens, Smartphones and Sensors. In M. Droumeva & R. Jordan (Eds.), Sound, Media, Ecology. London: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  5. Barns, S., Cosgrave, E., Acuto, M., & McNeill, D. (2017). Digital Infrastructures and Urban Governance. Urban Policy and Research, 35, 20–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. BBC. (2018, August 27). Toyota to Invest $500m in Uber in Driverless Car Deal.Google Scholar
  7. Calzada, I. (2018, September 12). (Smart) Citizens from Data Providers to Decision-Makers? The Case Study of Barcelona. Sustainability, 10(9), 3252.Google Scholar
  8. CDE. (2018). City Data Exchange: Lessons from a Public Private Data Collaboration. Copenhagen: City of Copenhagen.Google Scholar
  9. Choudary, S. P. (2019). Country as a Platform: Why Singapore’s Future Needs a Platform Strategy. Available from:
  10. Dawson, A. (2018). An Update on Data Governance for Sidewalk Toronto. Sidewalk Labs. Available from:
  11. European Union. (2018). General Data Protection Regulation. Available from:
  12. GLA. (2016). Data for London—A City Data Strategy for London. London: G. L. Authority.Google Scholar
  13. GovLab Research. (2013). Towards Reimagining Governance: Mapping the Pathway Towards More Effective and Engaged Governance (GovLab Research Working Papers).Google Scholar
  14. Greenleaf, G. (2019, February 8). Global Data Privacy Laws 2019: 132 National Laws & Many Bills. (2019) 157 Privacy Laws & Business International Report, 14–18. Available from SSRN:
  15. Griswald, A. (2018, January 24). Softbank—Not Uber—Is the Real King of Ride Hailing. Scholar
  16. Jiang, M., & Fu, K.-W. (2018). Chinese Social Media and Big Data: Big Data, Big Brother, Big Profit? Policy & Internet, 10, 372–392.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Kitchin, R., & Dodge, M. (2011). Code/Space: Software and Everyday Life. Cambridge: MIT Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Kitchin, R., & McArdle, G. (2016). Urban Data and City Dashboards: Six Key Issues. In R. Kitchin, G. McArdle, & T. P. Lauriault (Eds.), Data and the City. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  19. Lewin, A. (2018, November 16). Barcelona’s Robin Hood of Data: Francesca Bria. Sifted.Google Scholar
  20. Liang, F., Das, V., Kostyuk, N., & Hussain, M. M. (2018). Constructing a Data-Driven Society: China’s Social Credit System as a State Surveillance Infrastructure. Policy & Internet, 10, 415–453.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Lorinc, J. (2018). A Mess on the Sidewalk. The Baffler, 44.Google Scholar
  22. Lozinski, L. (2017). The Uber Engineering Tech Stack. Part I: The Foundation. Uber.Google Scholar
  23. Lyon, D. (2014). Surveillance, Snowden, and Big Data: Capacities, Consequences. Critique. Big Data & Society, 1(2), 1–3.Google Scholar
  24. Mazzucato, M. (2011). The Entrepreneurial State. London: Demos.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Mazzucato, M. (2018). The Value of Everything. New York and London: Allen Lane.Google Scholar
  26. Morozov, E., & Bria, F. (2018). Rethinking the Smart City: Democratising Smart Technology. New York: Rosa Luxemburg Foundation.Google Scholar
  27. Nesta. (2019). Call for City Governments to Make Data the New Public Good of the 21st Century Before It’s Too Late.Google Scholar
  28. Pettit, C., Bakelmun, A., Lieske, S., Glackin, S., Hargroves, K., Thomson, G., et al. (2018). Planning Support Systems for Smart Cities. City Culture and Society, 12, 13–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Plautz, J. (2019). Survey Shows Majority Support for Sidewalk Toronto Project. Smart Cities Dive.Google Scholar
  30. Pollio, A. (2019, forthcoming). Forefronts of the Sharing Economy: Uber in Cape Town. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research.Google Scholar
  31. Privacy International. (n.d.). What Is Data Protection. Privacy International.Google Scholar
  32. Raetzsch, C., Pereira, G., Vestergaard, L. S., & Brynskov, M. (2019). Weaving Seams with Data: Conceptualizing City APIs as Elements of Infrastructures. Big Data & Society, 6, 1–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Robinson, R. (2016). Why Smart Cities Still Aren’t Working for Us After 20 Years. And How We Can Fix Them. Available from:
  34. Scholz, T. (2016). Platform Cooperativism: Challenging the Corporate Sharing Economy. New York City: Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung.Google Scholar
  35. Sherman, L. (2017). Why Can’t Uber Make Money? Forbes.Google Scholar
  36. Townsend, A. (2014, March 6). Re-programming Mobility: How the Tech Industry Is Driving Us Towards A Crisis in Transportation Planning. Cities on the Move, Mountain View, California. New Cities Foundation.Google Scholar
  37. Vorwerk, M. (2019). Data Science at Scale: A Conversation with Uber’s Fran Bell. Uber Engineering. Available from: Accessed 13 March 2019.
  38. Wachsmuth, D., & Weisler, A. (2018). Airbnb and the Rent Gap: Gentrification Through the Sharing Economy. Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space, 50, 1147–1170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Williams, T. (2016). Smart Cities Need Smart Governance: Discuss! Available from:
  40. Wohlsen, M. (2014, May 21). Why Google Must Now Also Rule the Physical World. Wired.Google Scholar
  41. Wylie, B. (2019, November 6). Sidewalk Toronto: Waterfront Tornto’s Words on Deeds on Digital Don't Align Yet. Medium. Available from:

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sarah Barns
    • 1
  1. 1.Sitelines MediaSydneyAustralia

Personalised recommendations