Mediated by Code: Unpacking Algorithmic Curation of Urban Experiences

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2439

Article | Open Access

Mediated by Code: Unpacking Algorithmic Curation of Urban Experiences

  • Annelien Smets imec-SMIT, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium
  • Pieter Ballon imec-SMIT, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium
  • Nils Walravens imec-SMIT, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium

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Abstract:  Amid the widespread diffusion of digital communication technologies, our cities are at a critical juncture as these technologies are entering all aspects of urban life. Data-driven technologies help citizens to navigate the city, find friends, or discover new places. While these technology-mediated activities come in scope of scholarly research, we lack an understanding of the underlying curation mechanisms that select and present the particular information citizens are exposed to. Nevertheless, such an understanding is crucial to deal with the risk of the socio-cultural polarization assumedly reinforced by this kind of algorithmic curation. Drawing upon the vast amount of work on algorithmic curation in online platforms, we construct an analytical lens that is applied to the urban environment to establish an understanding of algorithmic curation of urban experiences. In this way, this article demonstrates that cities could be considered as a new materiality of curational platforms. Our framework outlines the various urban information flows, curation logics, and stakeholders involved. This work contributes to the current state of the art by bridging the gap between online and offline algorithmic curation and by providing a novel conceptual framework to study this timely topic.

Keywords:  algorithmic curation; algorithmic mediators; context media; smart cities; spatiality; urban algorithms

Published:   18 November 2021


© Annelien Smets, Pieter Ballon, Nils Walravens. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.