While the explosion of new sources of data has left cities clamoring to become ‘smart’, the availability of this data hasn’t led to an inexorable shift towards either more rational governance nor more equitable outcomes. Drawing on research from Atlanta, Georgia and Louisville, Kentucky, this talk explores how the rise of smart cities and data-driven urban governance has led ‘ordinary’ American cities to actually grapple with the challenges of planning and politics in fundamentally unequal cities and societies. Ultimately, it is argued that rather than serving as a counterweight to an emerging ‘post-truth’ politics, data-driven governance is fundamentally compatible with – and indeed fuels – a society where appeals to data not only carry less weight than they might have previously, but are used primarily as a means by which to provide cover and legitimacy for fundamentally political decisions.
Dr. Taylor Shelton is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geosciences at Mississippi State University. Prior to joining MSU in 2017, he held appointments as a visiting scholar in the Department of Geography at the University of Kentucky and as a postdoctoral fellow in the Center for Urban Innovation at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Broadly-trained as a human geographer, Dr. Shelton earned BA and MA degrees in geography from the University of Kentucky and his PhD from the Graduate School of Geography at Clark University.
Dr. Shelton’s work focuses on exploring the social and spatial dimensions of emerging sources of ‘big data’, combining the analysis and visualization of spatial data with a critical and theoretically-informed understanding of how this data shapes our understandings of the world. In particular, he is interested in how such a critical approach to mapping can be used to develop alternative understandings of urban social and spatial inequalities.