Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-7635

Article | Open Access

Data-Driven Participation: Algorithms, Cities, Citizens, and Corporate Control

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Abstract:  In this paper, we critically explore the interplay of algorithms and civic participation in visions of a city governed by equation, sensor and tweet. We begin by discussing the rhetoric surrounding techno-enabled paths to participatory democracy. This leads to us interrogating how the city is impacted by a discourse that promises to harness social/human capital through data science. We move to a praxis level and examine the motivations of local planners to adopt and increasingly automate forms of VGI as a form of citizen engagement. We ground theory and praxis with a report on the uneven impacts of algorithmic civic participation underway in the Canadian city of Toronto.

Keywords:  big data; civic engagement; data-driven; local government; participation; smart city; urban planning; VGI; volunteered geographic information



© Matthew Tenney, Renee Sieber. 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.