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