Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

The Maintenance of Urban Circulation: An Operational Logic of Infrastructural Control

Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

The Maintenance of Urban Circulation: An Operational Logic of Infrastructural Control

Article excerpt

Abstract

This paper examines the increased visibility of urban infrastructures occurring through a close coupling of information technologies and the selective integration of urban services. It asks how circulatory flow is managed in the contemporary city, by focusing on the emergence of new forms of governmentality associated with "smart" technologies. Drawing on Foucault's governmentality, and based on a case study of Rio de Janeiro's Operations Centre (COR), the paper argues that new understandings of the city are being developed, representing a new mode of urban infrastructure based on the partial and selective rebundling of splintered networks and fragmented urban space. The COR operates through a "un-black boxing" of urban infrastructures, where the extension of control room logics to the totality of the city points to their fragility and the continuous effort involved in their operational accomplishment. It also functions through a collapse in relations of control--of the everyday and the emergency--, which, enabled by the incorporation of the public in operational control, further raise public awareness of urban infrastructures. These characteristics point to a specific form of urban governmentality based on the operationalisation of infrastructural flows and the development of novel ways of seeing and engaging with the city.

Keywords

Control rooms, smart city, urban governmentality, infrastructure, urban flows, black boxing

Introduction

In 2011, Rio de Janeiro opened an operations centre known as the Centro de Operacoes Rio (COR), a metropolitan scale control room aimed at providing integration across a multiplicity of public and private organisations in charge of managing urban infrastructures, delivering key local services and providing for emergency response. Rio's COR, remarkable for its dominant role within public imagination, has been ubiquitously showcased by the media and technology corporates as an exemplar "smart city" initiative (see New York Times, 2012). Its operations have generated a significant increase in the visibility of urban infrastructures, a function of a close coupling between networked infrastructures and information technologies alongside the establishment of new ways of seeing the city and its infrastructures through media platforms. By examining in detail the functioning of the COR and its possible implications for the configuration of urban governmentalities, and drawing on a Foucauldian unpacking of circulation as a "key instrument and target of governing processes" (Aradau and Blanke, 2010: 45), this paper asks how circulatory flow is managed in the contemporary city. The paper focuses on the emergence of new forms of governmentality associated with "smart" technologies (Braun, 2014; Gabrys, 2014), examining a developing form of circulatory control through information technologies.

The COR "operates 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, interconnecting the information of several municipal systems for visualisation, monitoring, analysis and response in real time" (Prefeitura Rio de Janeiro, 2011: 14). The idea dates back to April 2010, when the State of Rio experienced a traumatic rain event that resulted in widespread flooding, hundreds of landslides, 15,000 homeless families and the loss of over 200 lives. Rio de Janeiro, the State's capital, was significantly affected. The city's main roads were flooded, public transport collapsed, power, gas, and water supplies disrupted and commercial activity paralyzed. Shortly afterwards the city's mayor, determined to put in place the required tools to increase the city's ability to respond to emergencies, enlisted IBM in envisioning a facility capable of providing rapid responses to urban disruptions whilst constantly feeding information--to other public agencies as well as to the public--on the state of the city. The COR was designed to function both as an operations centre (running the city's everyday) and an emergency response centre, two processes which, according to an IBM engineer involved, utilise the "the same approach and the same actors, players and technologies" (Interview, 2014). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.