16 November, 2018

2HQ2 – Two new seats for the new Amazon.com Headquarters, not one

Screenshot of an article by J. David Goodman and  Emma G. Fitzsimmon published online 
at the New York Times, November 6 (2018). Photo by Hilary Swift




The race is over now. As the result of a widely communicated search for its new North American headquarters (HQ2) that began back in October 2017, Amazon.com announced last Tuesday that it would place its new basecamp in two cities: one in Long Island City in Queens, New York, and the other in Crystal City, Arlington, a suburb of Washington D.C. The search campaign was part of a massive orchestration by Amazon that turned out to be extremely clever, given that this campaign received wide spread media coverage for which the firm did not have to pay a cent. The campaign comprised of a public call for tender, which found almost global recognition; 238 municipalities and regions applied for the honor of being the host city/region; and this was followed by a months-long speculation as to who would eventually make it, and for what reason … By last week, well informed sources already assumed that there might be two localities – not one – to be chosen, and these two would be most likely located on the East Coast, close to major metro areas, and not in North Dakota or the sunny side of Phoenix, Arizona. The existing breed of “world-class talent”, so the company told us, was the decisive argument for choosing the two, not proximity to money (NYC) or politics (DC). Believe it or not. (-1-)

The search for HQ2 and the associated bid campaigns were run by city and county governments across the continent, supported by economic development boards, policy alliances and a broad range of planners and stakeholders, and even academics. Thanks to the Internet, even remote observers were able to follow this process and reconstruct the current state of urban-regional competition, which provided a perfect sense of how that game is played under today’s framework conditions. Much of this is already public, such as the contracts that Amazon agreed upon with the selected municipalities (which included the incentives and subsidies to be paid for every job created). Great stuff to read that probably offers more instruction on how places sell themselves and are being evaluated - and will thus be ‘produced’ - than any economic geography or planning textbook. (-2-)

Actually, one may wonder whether city managers and economic development board chairs could have afforded not to run for such an offer. (We know that a few decided in the very end not to apply, see our entry here). Obviously, the temptation and excitement about this opportunity – 50,000 jobs created, an overall investment of about US$5bn – and hence the desire to apply was much greater than any doubts and reservations might have been, which might have prevented public officials from bidding. No, almost everybody in charge of urban and regional policy and practice had to run for this: That is at least what the competition (and the way it was publicly framed and perceived) looked like. Whether the offer will indeed be a great chance for the selected cities, or whether it will make them even more overcrowded and divided, remains to be seen.

The benefits provided by the huge number of highly paid jobs that will be created (or moved there) will have to be balanced against public cost, i.e. the massive tax discounts that Amazon was successful in negotiating with the authorities of New York City and State, and the State of Virginia, respectively. “New York promised Amazon $1.525 billion in incentives, including $1.2 billion over the next 10 years as part of the state’s Excelsior tax credit. The state also pledged to help Amazon with infrastructure upgrades, job training programs and even assistance ‘securing access to a helipad’ — none of which came with a price tag. Virginia promised Amazon an incentive package worth $573 million, including $550 million in cash grants — $22,000 per job. The state also pledged $250 million to help Virginia Tech build a campus in Alexandria, near the Amazon site in Arlington, offering degrees in computer science and software engineering. (Virginia, too, offered to help the company get a helipad.)” (New York Times, 14 Nov 2018, p. B1)

In terms of the definitive location choice, the pros and cons of agglomeration were obviously carefully weighed and balanced – actually more carefully than one would have expected in the beginning. Even Amazon officials might have learned from the well disputed prospect of placing 50,000 employees at one single locale – a promise that quickly turned into a threat for many. Some commentators were also pointing at an earlier blogpost by Joe Cortright who expected nothing but a split of the big HQ into at least a few locations; otherwise cities wouldn’t be able to handle that injection of money, buildings, people and their demand. How is it possible to suddenly provide housing for that sheer number of people? How is it possible to add so many daily trips to transport networks that are already working far beyond limits? Seriously, why not take into these issues into account and dedicate a subway line for the exclusive use of Amazon staff, as The Onion has already suggested (thus evoking the Google-bus controversy from the SF Bay Area …)?

Now the cake is divided into two, with each city getting 25,000 jobs each, plus another 5,000 for a tech-fulfilment basis in Nashville, Tennessee. We will have to wait and see how this sort of massive place-making will work. Soon after the decision went public, Crystal City seemed already re-branded into the somehow superficial “National Landing”. There will be more of this coming up in the near future. Inserting a global player’s headquarters into actually existing urban life-worlds (i.e. places that already tend to suffer from having too much of everything…) will become a rather exciting experiment for urban studies. Current and future student generations are well advised to keep an eye on the framing, implementation and contestation of all of this.

Of course, the race is not over yet in more general terms as well. Amazon.com will likely continue to fight its “store wars”, trying to achieve hegemony in the retail business – not only through running its e-commerce platforms, but also with brick & mortar-outlets that are fully equipped with digital devices and algorithms, and almost no staff; in Seattle, this model has already proven to work quite efficiently. The company will also move on with trying to squeeze out as many tax rebates and subsidies from the public (state and local governments’) budgets as possible, when the next promise for investment will be made. The firm will continue to pursue its mission of becoming the one ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution for everything that customers need; driven by a first class combination of spaces and flows, thus becoming really hegemonic and leaving behind a devastated landscape of traditional retail (and in terms of competitive power, most likely providing less, not more choice to customers). (-3-)

Last but not least, if the planet is going to get desperate with the never-ending race to the bottom for more, then Bezos will bring those who can afford outer space, where ‘Blue Origin’ will offer them a safe, extraterrestrial haven. Cynical? No, it’s just about customer dedication, technology and the modern world, stupid.

Markus Hesse

Further related readings
Hesse, M./Carr, C. (2018) The Corporate City Looming Part II: The “smart” City competes
Carr, C. (2018) Wagering the Waterfront? Angling the abc & xyz of Quayside Toronto
Carr, C./Hesse, M. (2017) The Corporate City Looming? Part I
Carr, C. (2017) Digital Cities - Toronto trying to get ahead


Notes
-1- Those who are interested in learning more about this case: Planetizen.com provides an excellent overview on the subject matter and various responses from cities, stakeholders, observers.
-2- Wondering to what extent the new, tech- and data-trading big corporation, its locational imprint and the associated ramifications for people and place(s) have already been covered by textbooks. They actually deserve the same treatment as it was the case with the industrial corporation (see e.g. Phillip O’Neill: The Industrial Corporation and Capitalism’s Time –Space Fix. In: Trevor J. Barnes, Jamie Peck, Eric Sheppard (eds.) The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Economic Geography, pp. 74-90. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell).
-3- See my book chapter on “The logics and politics of circulation. Exploring the urban and non-urban spaces of Amazon.com”, in K. Ward, A. E. Jonas, B. Miller, D. Wilson (eds.) Routledge Handbook of Spaces of Urban Politics, pp. 404-415. Abingdon/New York: Routledge (2018).

07 November, 2018

IGU Urban Geography Commission Annual Meeting - Call for Abstracts


IGU Urban Geography Commission Annual Meeting
August 4th to 9th, 2019, in Luxembourg

URBAN CHALLENGES IN A COMPLEX WORLD: Urban geographies of the new economy, services industries and financial market places
The Urban Commission of the International Geographical Union (IGU) in collaboration with the Urban Studies team of the Institute of Geography and Spatial Planning, University of Luxembourg, is pleased to invite you to its 2019 Annual Conference, taking place on Campus Belval at the University of Luxembourg, in Esch-sur-Alzette.

Deadline for abstract submission: 31 January, 2019

CALL FOR ABSTRACTS
Papers are invited to address the special topic 'The urban geographies of the new economy, services industries and financial market places’. Our aim is to emphasise urban-regional development patterns and phenomena under the influence of economic change, digitalisation, multi-level governance and sustainability imperatives. Besides focusing on services and tech capitals as well as financial market places, this includes related processes that are shaping cities in general terms.

Besides, participants can submit individual papers, and/or proposals for panel sessions/roundtables, that are linked to the following thematic foci of the Urban Commission:
1 - Complex urban systems and processes of cities’ transformation
2 - Technological innovations, creative activities in cities
3 - Innovative and smart building and transportation in cities
4 - Polycentrism, small and medium-sized cities
5 - Sustainable to resilient cities
6 - Shrinking and ageing cities
7 - Urban governance, planning and participative democracy
8 - Contested social spaces
9 - Subjective/objective well-being in cities
10 - Urban heritage and conservation
11- New concepts and methods in urban studies

CONFIRMED KEYNOTE SPEAKERS
Dr. Sabine Dörry, LISER, Luxembourg, on “Urban geographies of financial market places and business services centres”
Prof. Natacha Aveline, CNRS-Geographie Cités, Paris, France, on “The financialisation of real estate in East Asian cities”
Prof. Manuel Aalbers, KU Leuven, Belgium, on “The financialisation of housing”
Dr. Iván Tosics, Metropolitan Research Institute, Budapest, Hungary, on “The failure of EU efforts for an urban policy and the promise cities can offer”

Abstracts may be submitted via, and following the recommendations indicated on, the commission website, where more detailed scientific and practical information is also available. Please note: only abstracts submitted via the platform will be accepted.

VENUE
University of Luxembourg – Campus Belval
2, avenue de l’Université
L-4365 Esch-sur-Alzette, Luxembourg

We will be delighted to welcome you to this conference,
Prof. Dr. Celine Rozenblat, University of Lausanne, Chair of the IGU Urban Commission
Prof. Dr. Markus Hesse, University of Luxembourg, for the Local Organising Committee

Further contact information: IGU2019@uni.lu 


14 October, 2018

There is no one human scale - Reflections on urban development practice in Luxembourg


In this entry of Urbanization Unbound
Constance had the pleasure of working with
 Rebecca Lutz and Kevin Schutz, 
students from our Masters programme in
Geography and Spatial Planning, UL. 
A pdf. version of this paper is available here
bonne lecture!

Last month, we had the pleasure of participating in Prosud's showing of the documentary, “The Human Scale” at the University of Luxembourg, that was followed by a panel discussion with Markus Hesse of the University of Luxembourg, Eva Westermark from Gehl People, Francois Bausch, Minister of Sustainable Development and Infrastructure, and the Mayor of Esch/Alzette, Georges Mischo. It was a great opportunity for members of the University – students of urban studies and architecture in particular – to exchange thoughts with members of Luxembourgish civil society, and to reflect on the themes presented in the movie and their relevance (or lack thereof) for Luxembourg. Particularly welcome was that the University was used as venue for dialogue and open debate, Prosud and the guests should be recognized for their commitment in this regard. In this entry of Urbanization Unbound, after briefly recapping the main messages of the film, we want to address a couple of the associated hidden dimensions of urban development that we as urban geographers know are relevant if not central, and yet were not addressed in the film.

The film
In essence, the documentary showcased some of examples of Jan Gehl’s work in various cities around the globe – notably New York City’s car free Time Square, traffic calming in Dhaka, pedestrian network in Chongqing, revitalization in downtown Melbourne, and post-quake redevelopment in Christchurch. The underlying argument was that urbanization processes are accelerating and city populations are growing faster than cities can expect to keep up with, so good urban design is necessary. Good (dense) design would not only be able to mitigate this pressure but it can/will revolutionize the way people use urban space. To assure some degree of local acceptance to what is essentially a foreign expert coming in and designing a space with which they have little knowledge, the Jan Gehl approach aims at generating interaction with people on the street. How barriers such as language, or other methodological issues are dealt with, were not explained. But okay, the Gehl approach understands that people are important, and so the general aim is to consider people when planning cities – an angle that, in his view, was not taken seriously enough in years prior. Jan Gehl, together with his bureau, thus tries to reconfigure urban spaces that were initially very accommodating for cars in such a way that people can better use the space walking, biking, and socializing.
   The Human Scale documented first and foremost the positive side of design, or perhaps the ‘beautiful sides’ of urban design that show people hanging about, socializing, and using the space. And, of course, this is great: Indeed, there are plenty of plans in circulation where, astonishingly, people are completely absent. Still, this notwithstanding, it is hardly a secret that,

"any general plan or master plan for a metropolitan area 
is in effect a policy statement as to how that area should be
spatially arranged," (Foley 1964).

And further, following for example Lefebvre (1991), spatial practice is inseparable from ideology – meaning that spatial arrangements in urban space are reflections of the certain modes of their production. Design is therefore political, and therefore reflects certain dynamics of power and social modes. There are thus further dimensions that need exploring that are not included in the beautiful plans. These include the less comfortable topics such as addressing those who might be excluded or profit a little less than others. It could also include a palate of unforeseen negative externalities. And, last but not least, these dimensions might be about the consequential struggles and conflicts. Ignoring these dimensions is not merely the practice of looking through rose coloured glasses at beautiful plans, it arguably constitutes just plain bad urban planning.


Looking for the secret recipe to urban development
There is a habit (a seemingly North American one?) of looking to the medieval European city for town planning inspiration. This is seen particularly in searches for the ideal green city, in which authors (e.g Wheeler and Beatley 2014) point to Europe's (apparent) compact cities, and use them as model designs, in their search for modes of town planning where commuter distances are reduced and the odds for neighbourly contact and civic participation are increased. In a recent publication in the Journal of Urban Affairs, Lutt (2018), from the University of Cincinnati, even spoke of his "pilgrimage" to Copenhagen – the setting that inspired Jan Gehl’s people oriented cities. This search for the sustainable city is an understandable reaction to prevailing problems of urban development that accommodates and encourages car-dependent lifestyles and associated value chains of production. However, the wholesale search for optimal dense design – based on European models – is misguided because policies and designs developed elsewhere in different contexts, and as a consequence of different historical trajectories cannot simply be packaged, imported, and unboxed, ready-to-wear. This is the main message of the policy mobilities literature: Urban policy-making cannot be about finding solutions/recipes because policies cannot simply be transferred from one place to another (Carr 2014; Temenos & McCann 2014; Ward 2009). Context matters.
   This is one fundamental problem about the product (pedestrian zones, bike lanes) that Gehl People sells. First, such plans rarely reflect properly the city-regional morphologies and functions of current lived urban spaces, nor do they reflect local socio-political and economic contexts and respective pressures. Take Kirchberg, for example. This is one of Luxembourg’s large-scale projects (Leick 2016) where the interests of global corporate finance, the institutions of the European Union, the ministries of the Grand Duchy, cross-border commuters, high school students, moviegoers, and shoppers all collide. On a single tram ride, alone, one can expect to engage with at least five languages. The routines, practices, structures of power, flows and pathways that constitute this space are simultaneously global, international, local, multilingual, and multi-level. The corresponding needs and problems are equally diverse and pressing. There is no one human scale. So, a single pedestrian path will serve only limited impact (that only certain persons will feel). Second, Luxembourg has undergone a specific growth trajectory that was based on the car. Even in the Ville de Luxembourg, a lot of space was and remains dedicated to cars (e.g. the Glacis area, or the former EU-parking spot on Kirchberg). Sure, it would be nice if these were people-friendlier. Any imported design, however, would need take into account the sociopolitical dynamics of the rental markets and the consequences on, for example, cross-border labour. Third, there is another underlying problem concerning the general feeling that many have about Luxembourg being a car-addicted nation. It is continually debated what the root of this phenomenon is – whether it is a reflection of Luxembourg’s rural legacy, whether it is a kind of “wealth sickness” (Wohlstandskrankheit) (MDDI 2010), whether it is a necessary flexibility in a small state vulnerable to economic volatility, whether it is a result of cheap gasoline prices, or whether it is something else altogether. It is clear, however, that imposing a sudden people-friendly zone (as enticing as that sounds!) will hardly address the underlying issues, and thus remain sort of incomplete.

The dialectics of conceiving, perceiving, and living the Cité de Sciences
All of the above issues come together in Belval, which in retrospect was the perfect setting for the event. Belval, a local lieu-dit referring to the brownfield urban redevelopment project in the southern part of Luxembourg, is the site of the University of Luxembourg, other knowledge sector industries, and government institutes that together constitute the Cité de Sciences. It, like Kirchberg, is another one of Luxembourg’s large-scale projects (Leick 2016), with its own special set of problems. Like Kirchberg Plateau, too, there is no one singular human scale at Belval.
   As a large-scale planning project, one could perceive it as Luxembourg playing the long game. That is, Belval is supposed to be a land use development scheme that will ensure decades of prosperity derived from the international knowledge sector and associated economic activities (commerce, rental markets for office space and housing). The actors in this game that structure development land use relations are big businesses and big government, involving inputs from starchitects and possibly, as was suggested during the panel discussion, starplanners. Actually, it looks as though Luxembourg is trying to reproduce the Bilbao Effect, which has already been problematized in urban studies (González 2011). More to the point, however, Belval is a place where the lived experiences of thousands of cross-border workers, international specialists, and students unfold. Like two sides of the same coin, one conceives the long term, the other lives the immediate term, and both simultaneously contradict and constitute one another. Academically, this discussion closes in on the thoughts of Lefebvre (1991) again, where one could explore the moments of social production of space – Lefebvre’s “triad of the perceived, the conceived, and the lived,” (p. 39) – and conceptualize how they are dialectically constructed.
   While many are worrying about the elections (also part of the long game), there is an urgent need to address immediate shortages that students and staff are currently coping with, such as a functioning transport system to reach the area. There is a need for bike lanes connecting to the City of Esch-sur-Alzette for students and staff who, more and more, are settling there. There is also a desperate need for faster trains connecting Belval to Bettembourg and/or Luxembourg City (that don’t predictably stop for 10-20 minutes just 500m before reaching the main central station, Gare …). If these are too difficult or complicated to realise, a fleet of buses would suffice as well. Students also voice needs for free spaces (Freiräume) and meeting points. The emergence of urban gardening at Belval, Gaart Belval, was a great start here(!) – as a place to meet, exchange, and be creative without also being someone’s customer. From this perspective, the long game of starstruck development is perceived as exceptionally slow and altogether missing the mark. How is the bold promise of a high-speed tram that won’t materialise for another 20 years useful? From this perspective – on this Other scale – what is needed is not dreams, conjecture, and speculation about what might be awesome later, but for someone with the power to make decisions to represent the everyday at the relevant political economic platforms and address these imminent problems.
   The panel discussion was an excellent venue to begin these discussions, and students of urban planning and architecture at the UL really took advantage of the opportunity to articulate their perspective as well as their analytical standpoints. So, let’s do it again. Bring it on! Let’s talk some more.

Constance Carr, Rebecca Lutz, Kevin Schutz

See also
Hesse, M., Doerr, J., and Carr, C. (2018) Keep off the grass - even if the grass is not grass

References
Carr, C. (2014) Discourse yes, implementation maybe: An immobility and paralysis of sustainable development policy. European Planning Studies 22, 1824-1840.

Foley, D. (1964) An approach to metropolitan spatial structure. In Webber, M.M., Dyckman, J.W., Foley, D.L., Guttenberg, A.Z., Wheaton, W.L.C., Bauer Wurster, C. Explorations into urban structure. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

González, S. (2011) Bilbao and Barcelona ‘in motion’. How urban regeneration ‘models’ travel and mutate in global flows of policy tourism. Urban Studies 48(7) 1397-1418.

Lefebvre, H. (1991, translation) The Production of Space. Oxford: Blackwell.

Leick, A. (2016) Kleines Land, große Projekte. Diskurse, Praktiken und soziale Welten im Entscheidungs- und Planungsprozess der Großvorhaben Belval und Kirchberg in Luxemburg. Dissertation, Institute of Geography and Spatial Planning, University of Luxembourg.

Lutt, F. (2018) People cities: The Life and Legacy of Jan Gehl. Book Review in the Journal of Urban Affairs. https://doi.org/10.1080/07352166.2018.1507215

Ministerium für Nachhaltige Entwicklung und Infrastrukturen (MDDI) (2010) PNDD, Ein Nachhaltiges Luxembourg für mehr Lebensqualität. Luxembourg

Temenos, C. & McCann, E., (2012) The local politics of policy mobility: Learning, persuasion, and the production of a municipal sustainability fix, Environment and Planning A, 44(6), 1389-1406.

Ward, K. (2009) Towards a relational comparative approach of cities. Progress in Human Geography. 34 issue: 4, page(s): 471-487.

Wheeler, S. & Beatley. T. (Eds.) (2014) The Sustainable Urban Development Reader, New York: Routledge.

08 October, 2018

3rd Affordable Housing Forum: Towards New Cultures of Affordable Housing?



Save the date, because I hope to see you there, as I (Constance) will be presenting a paper. A glimpse of my paper is provided below. A more detailed program will follow in due course.

Abstract
This paper explores non-market housing in urban regions under growth pressure, and aims to open up a conversation about how modes of housing and related policies might be conceptualized in urban geographical scholarship, in order to broaden the possible range of housing policy measures beyond the rather narrow imperative of market solutions that prevail. The project is extension of a larger project that Markus Hesse and I have been working on for many years, examining spatial planning problems and governance in urban regions under in Luxembourg and Switzerland. Now we are moving on towards one component that is central to the topic: housing and housing in non-market contexts. But how might one effectively conceptualize housing, given what we know about recent scholarship in urban studies? I argue that, first, there is much to be learned with urban comparison. For inspiration here, I draw on the works of Schmid et al. (2018) who understand that there is a vast diversity of urbanization processes that produce an equally diverse and differentiated palate of urban spaces. This challenges urban geographical scholarship to understand urban space as well as the way processes that constitute those spaces (housing) as context specific. The policy mobilities literature (Ward 2017) iterates a similar message: Urban studies cannot simply be about finding solutions/recipes to particulate problems because context matters. I also argue that Storper's (2014) application of bricolage in conceptualising urban transformation is also useful for conceptualising non-market housing processes in the context of that are forever changing and in flux.

Schmid, C., Karaman, O., Hanakata, N.C., Kallenberger, P., Kockelkorn, A., Sawyer, L., Streule, M. & Wong, K.P. 2017. Towards a new vocabulary of urbanization processes: A comparative approach. Urban Studies, 55(1) 19-52.

Storper, M. 2014. Governing the Large Metropolis. Territory, Politics, Governance, 2, 115-134.
Ward, K. 2009. Towards a relational comparative approach of cities. Progress in Human Geography. 34 issue: 4, page(s): 471-487.


-- Constance Carr

03 October, 2018

Guest Lecture - Nick Phelps on Which Suburbs in an Urban Age?

The Institute of Geography and Spatial Planning gladly welcomes Nick Phelps, University of Melbourne, who will open the Lecture Series on Suburban Transitions


Thursday 4th of Oct. 14h30-15h30, MSH, Black Box

The question of whose city was the title of Ray Pahl's celebrated volume. Part of the zeitgeist, Pahl's Whose City?, Gans's People and Plans and Lefebvre’s The Urban Revolution ushered in a significant sophistication of urban theory. Yet, ironically, as a result, the question of which city is one we less often ask ourselves these days. The two questions - of whose city and which city - are, of course, hardly separate. Yet rarely, it seems, is the city treated as anything other than a single undifferentiated unit in contemporary analysis. Adopting a suburban-centred perspective, this paper suggests we ought to pay more attention to the spatially differentiated character of the urban if we are to properly understand the triumphs and tragedies of 'the city' and if we are to advance urban theory under conditions of planetary urbanisation. This includes returning to how we as academics generate representations of the urban however imperfect and sometimes problematic these may be.

02 October, 2018

Lecture Series organised by the Institute of Geography and Spatial Planning - Save the Dates!






Every year, the Institut of Geography and Spatial Planning organizes lecture series on a given topic. This year's theme is Suburban Transitions, covered by a range of highly prolific, renown speakers from the international geography and planning communities.

Suburban Transitions is devoted to analysing spatial trends and policies in and for suburban areas. After at least two decades of densification discourses and urbanity praising, suburbs have returned to the research and policy agendas. This happens for good reason, as suburbs still represent vital parts of the city region, and they may complement core metropolitan areas in order to combat the housing crisis. What are the key functional and morphological changes that these in-between space have encountered? How can we think of suburban spaces - given their specific housing and nature mix or transport patterns - as places of opportunities to transition to more sustainable city regions? What would be the related implications for practice?

Nicholas Phelps, University of Melbourne, Australia
Thu 04/10/2018 15.00-16.00, Black Box

Alan Mace, London School of Economics, UK
Tue 06/11/2018 13.00-14.00, Black Box

Mohamed Hilal, INRA, France
Tue 27/11/2018 13.00-14.00, Black Box

Axel Priebs, University of Vienna, Austria
Wed 27/02/2019, Black Box


23 September, 2018

Come, let’s watch a film and discuss cities!!

THE HUMAN SCALE – A CONVERSATION ON ARCHITECTURE, PLANNING, DESIGN, POLITICS

What follows are my musings on an event yet to happen: 

Wednesday 26 September, 18h00 to Campus Belval, Maison du Savoir (MSA), Salle 3.500

In the coming week, I am invited to join a panel discussion regarding a film on the work of the famous Danish architect, Jan Gehl(-1-). I am not yet sure whether we will watch a movie or a documentary. I am also not sure what Luxembourg can learn from the best practices of starchitects. In any case, I am curious about this opportunity to talk to practitioners and participate in a creative exchange. Sometimes different people perceive a given subject in rather different ways, so talking about this can be really enriching, or entertaining at least. (I am hoping that the film is not too long, and there will be still sufficient audience to talk to afterwards …).




As a matter of total coincidence, there is a national election coming up in Luxembourg and the event coincides with ongoing campaigning. On Sunday, October 14, voters will be called upon to decide the race for 60 Chamber seats. Judging from the palate of political programmes and platforms, issues such as spatial planning, cities, and housing are not necessarily playing a prominent role there – apart from the discursive routine where all parties generally consider issues such as transport or housing to be problematic. However, the parties are far from presenting a convincing idea concerning how to resolve it, which, admittedly, would be nothing short of heroic: Its a market environment composing one of the richest countries of the planet, an island of money industries and services firms, where real estate bingo is played by both local families and the Middle East state investment funds. Any policy program to address this situation would necessarily have to include a toxic package, demonstrating: strong political will, efficient means for creating new supply and at the same time regulating the market, and last but not least, a preparedness for getting into conflict with most powerful lobbies around (home/landowners on the one hand, and real estate agents and developers on the other).

Is anything like this rising on the horizon? No, let’s be serious. It is rather unlikely that this could become part of a realistic tableau for future politics in the Grand Duchy, as long as the economy is booming and outer space is increasingly the testbed for alternative room for the small, landlocked country. So, should we leave it here? My part on the podium isn’t likely to be about politics and policy, which is actually the privilege of the Minister and Mayor to address. And, as I am still unsure what we will listen to Wednesday night concerning the details and impacts of global starchitecture, I remain somewhat puzzled about what my researcher’s point of view should be? What can I bring to the table on this occasion?

A reflection on place, planning and implementation
My take will probably be to provide a sort of sense-making endeavour: What is this place really about, so that the recipe-like stuff recommended by urban designers might not appear like it is falling out of blue sky down to the soil, but something that could inspire mutual understanding of, and reflection on, the situation here – before getting into the hasty run for ‘solutions’ whose seedbed is difficult to prepare. What I can refer to are Luxembourg’s framework conditions that shape its development trajectory and render it rather specific: It is small but global, embedded in a network of relationships that compensate limited size, and at the same time, offering a wide range of political and business niches to explore, being these the financial market, European politics, the services industries and corporate headquarters (attracted by a favourable tax regime), or as recently put on the screen, space exploitation. For further readings, there is no need to be repetitive. I can spare the details and refer to two recent entries that I wrote for this Blog before the summer break (-2-). It’s all there, there is nothing really new. 

What I will do here and then is reflect on the flip side of economic success, and the way Luxembourg’s development activities have left their imprint on land, mobility and the built environment. Most particularly: As Luxembourg’s business secret of being a hotspot in global GDP and wealth was effectively homemade, so likewise were the responses to it -- the plans and strategies, the people and institutions in the planning and real estate domains etc. Nothing of this kind came from mighty powers elsewhere, but was intelligently funneled through local brains, desks, strategies (to a limited degree) and practice. This would be my contribution to the panel discussion: How does planning usually to respond to overarching development pressure, and are the responses appropriate given the scope and scale of the challenges?

This is the question that we as members of the UL are also engaging with in our research and teaching endeavours. Good fortune will also have that I just started my planning track in our Master’s Programme “Geography & Spatial Planning” (-3-) at the UL, consisting of three seminars on cities, planning and urban governance, on related theories and progress, and on research practice. So, this event comes at a time when all these issues are around and we are right the thick of it. Hopefully, we can also attract a number of our students to attend the event, to listen, learn, and debate with our guests.

The two different worlds of planning: parametric vs. procedural
When reflecting on planning, teaching students, or presenting to a panel audience, there are basically two different approaches to planning and urbanism that we can distinguish and that are worth mentioning. One approach is in the tradition of parametric planning; that is to say, steering a topical issue so that it conforms to certain measurements and thresholds (such as density, design, accessibility). The belief is that such measures will provide a desired impact, if users and systems (and subsystems) behave in causal directions, irrespective of the fact that parametric planning may serve some interests while unfolding on the cost of others. It is roughly oriented to the supply side of planning problems. The second approach is based on the communicative, collaborative or co-productive paradigm, which has become rather mainstream in planning theory and practice in recent decades (but not everywhere, of course). The ambition is more demand-side oriented, asking for people’s interest and will, providing a consensual solution everybody can live with. Its drawback may be that the real impact on how the system works could turn limited, as the two main goals - impact vs. acceptance - are not subject to a linear but possibly reciprocal relationship.

Hence, my question will most certainly not be about what the best possible design solution for Luxembourg is. As an urban geographer, I am still in the process of trying to distil my own experience and interpretation. This it not an absolute truth, of course, but an understanding founded on empirically settled knowledge which was carefully reflected on, and based on grounded argumentation. My view focuses on the ways socio-economics, wealth and growth have exploded, nested in a highly dynamic mix of land and property development and various flows of mobility, and how this changes neighbourhoods, towns and the country, and thus poses extraordinary (!) planning challenges. When I consider these issues, I aim to reference existing knowledge, particularly concerning what we believe we know from the history of planning (time) and from experiences made elsewhere (space). However, dear friends in the ministries and local councils, we need to be totally aware of the specificity (!) of what happens in the Grand Duchy. It is far from normal. Hence, seeking inspiration from planning expertise from elsewhere, or best practice ideals from shining stars in urban design, risks turning in useless exercise, at least as long as local specificities are not taken into account in an appropriate way, subject to open (rather than closed) and honest (rather than biased) conversation.

Supply of and demand for planning in Luxembourg
What is the Luxembourg planning system, habit and practice about, in a nutshell? Let’s start with the demand side; that is, the real world of those who are using land and resources is to be steered by consensual planning. How about the people targeted by plans? Consensus seems to be the traditional and preferred approach of making it happen in this small country, and maybe for good reason. However, the more intense the economic growth and the more that wealth accumulates, the more this society is fragmented and segmented. One might reiterate that half of the country’s population are landed immigrants, a number that exceeds 70% in the capital city. Deviating from conventional wisdom, Luxembourg is not one society. This is obvious from any city tour that we’d recommend on an average workday morning. Based on origin, nationality, language, qualification, kinship, access to land, employment model, commuting needs, and other factors that are relevant here, one must distinguish a wide variety of different groups and social milieux.

As a result, a key question for Wednesday night, in this setting then, is whether there can even be one ‘Human Scale’. Or, are there many scales, depending on economic, social, or tribal capital? How many are there, how are they articulated, how can they be included in a balanced way? Referring to the specific problem of housing: For whom is housing a problem, and for whom is it a resource, an asset? These are the real issues and questions we are confronted with, not the search for big bang solutions or the technical or design fixes that supposedly make everyone happy.

Turning to the supply side, there is the planning system that is repeatedly called upon to urgently sort things out, while avoiding any harm to growth and wealth, of course. Effectively, the call for order is stuck in a dead end for several reasons. (a) Planning is confronted with increasing degrees of complexity and uncertainty. Where, for example, does the space of spatial planning end in the globally and regionally highly connected, not territorial, but relational Luxembourg? At the border, in Lorraine, in China? (b) Planning does not have the legal means to sort things out, and this is also why so much is compensated with big money put into large-scale urban projects and triple-win solutions for all involved, except regular people. So, do we need more of that? Probably not. c) Planning and planners are not invited to emphasise tension and conflict – even though the most fundamental reason for inventing urban and spatial planning has always been, from its very beginning, mediating concurring needs and interests in land, development, resources. Do we need to refer to the great volumes on the history of planning as provided by the late Sir Peter Hall in order to recall the overly conflicting nature of planning (-4-)? It is a bitter truth (sorry) and the most brutal aspect here: The Luxembourg way of handling issues in an utterly hermetic “cage of consensus” assures that any sort of corridor towards solving problems effectively stays out of reach.

A fresh look at the problem: Relational and evolutionary perspectives
As a researcher, I don’t want to play the political card, even though one cannot effectively talk about planning without recognising that planning was – see above – invented to deal with conflict. Being aware, too, that the University of Luxembourg is increasingly called upon to serve the country, related reflections from geography and planning studies would focus on two observations resulting from over a decade of empirical research. They fit with our most recent comparative study of Geneva, Luxembourg and Singapore, that was funded by the FNR and its highly demanding international peer-review system (-5-). In analytical terms, the clue to this research is to look at relations rather than (solely) territories. This includes a fresh look at land, which seems to be the ultimate resource for getting things going, and focussing the lens on the commodification of land by two different, but also strikingly comparable, ‘property states’ – the Southeast Asian city-state, Singapore, and the liberal market economy of land ownership and property trade of the Grand Duchy.

Moreover, addressing the dimension of time, the aim is to provide a sense of evolution: How did all this come into being? Explosion of growth in a variety of parameters (GDP, jobs, people, cars ...) was possible through the evolution of an exceptional planned out system of land use and property development. It was institutionalised (laws, ordinances, frameworks, practice) rather lately, while a huge portion of development was already on the rise. It became then over-regulated by French law, which understanding poses obvious difficulties not only for planners and practitioners, but even to government officials as well. And, the system still suffers from a lack of binding power. It is squeezed in-between local planning autonomy and the state’s strategic and budgetary authority, the foundational conflict that we see popping up almost everywhere. Tension is ubiquitous, also when looking at the leading government bodies in charge (one designs and controls municipal affairs, the other designs and controls the state’s framework). The same can be said about the relation between government and municipal levels, made even more complex through party and ideology variances and governmental blendings (double mandates in local council and national Chamber). Likewise, towns and cities are called to collaborate, but in the very first instance are successful by pursuing their own interests, and not by addressing the common good or watching out for their immediate neighbours. 

Wherever one looks, one finds different interests, different beliefs and mindsets, and different worlds. According to Storper (2014), fragmentation is the norm rather than the exception in metropolitan governance.(-6-) This is why he sees bricolage and tinkering – not the big plan from above – as a possible means of dealing with such issues. Fragmentation also rules in temporal terms: Fast growth rates tend to create synchronicities all over the place. For example, where long-term infrastructure policy is facing the speed of demand for land development or transport arterial capacity that we observe right now. Look at the government’s recent mobility turn with Modu 2.0: it is like changing the wheels while the locomotive is yet running, both catching up with the past and simultaneously caring for the future. Ironically, in their election programmes, Luxembourg political parties promise free transit, while the system’s performance got so terrible that people would love to pay … if the trains would only work. This is more than fuzzy.

(When) Does (what) planning provide the clue?
Now the question is whether we can cure this problem with some exclusive urban design? Let’s not forget that the real estate market has already jumped beyond the threshold of 20k€/m2 for wealthy pockets in the capital city, that has put top-notch inner-city districts such as Limpertsberg significantly beyond the 10k-threshold. Single homes in the city are unavailable for under 1 million euros. Exclusive urban design solutions? I have my doubts. Doubts may also apply to the belief that collaborative planning, driven by the search for consensus, can fix the issues, while political and discursive machines are yet controlled by governing actors? I remain skeptical. I also admit that I don’t have any clear answers. The dilemma for us as researchers, and this is the point here, is that tensions or conflicts are key in understanding what development has brought about, and what is imminent to planning and implementation. However, unfortunately such terms are considered inconvenient in this country. They are hidden in the cage of consensus, blocked by hesitance or fear against strategy (which would entail a formulated vision that might be subject to debate and interrogation), while preferring meticulous building practices against thoughtful planning.

Still, Luxembourg is no exception from the common standards and expectations seen in the international discourse that planning should switch from autocratic to more participative means and objectives. We got this here as well. The point remains, of course, what these offers are applied to: to clearly defined projects and well-argued problems that people would know how to evaluate and make judgements on, or to complex plans and frameworks (e.g. land use plans, spatial planning directives) that are overly detailed, comprehensive and thus difficult to assess? Another question is, of course, how and where actual political decision-making is yet situated. Will it continue to take place backstage, in municipal council enclaves, in ministers’ cabinets and spin doctor kitchens, on Big Four corporate advisory and consultancy office floors, then to be framed through the black box of the Leviathan State’s hegemony and control? If yes, then once again, there is little chance for real exchange, for open controversy and alternative pathways that could adequately inform planners, planning and civil society.

To be clear, and here is another link to planning theory: This is not post-political planning. Sorry folks, wrong reference -- it is highly political. It is a strange mix of planning that is presented to us in the shape of a de-politicised, neutral, technical system, one that effectively pursues social engineering, under the siege of a strong (but obscure) political imperative which is non-negotiable and thus not really open to debate. The risk that is associated with this ‘style of thought’ (see the debate of Ludwik Fleck’s Denkstile, -7-) is not only that it confuses matters and meaning, but thus promotes misguided perceptions of the subject matter. The dilemma is that officially legitimised knowledge produces selective imaginaries of planning, promising a capacity to steer that is actually not existing under the above circumstances. For me, this marks the real planning problem of the country.

Outlook: make no big plans
Curious to see whether next week’s journey into urban design across the world will bring us closer to a proper understanding of this messy situation, and help designing some thoughtful estimation as how to deal with it more appropriately. As an academic, my plan is to pose questions, debate these openly and in a creative setting. What I have learned is certainly that plans do not necessarily come to implementation, which is empirically evident. My hope is that there will be further questions, and also possible ways to figure out how to reach answers.

If variety is the spice of life, then one could also change respective roles and expectations: we as academics do not play the theorists’ but practitioners’ role. So I am asking myself: why not taking care of implementation on Wednesday night? Minister and Mayor may be asked to deliver their vision. Assisted by starchitect planning office representative, we could then see how this would work out. Worth an attempt to go for? I’ll keep you posted.

Markus Hesse


Notes
-2- The two blog entries on Luxembourg of earlier this summer, here and here.
-4- Hall, P. and M. Twedr-Jones (2010): Urban and Regional Planning. 5thEd. London: Routledge.
-5- See, for example, my take on land markets and property states: Hesse, M. (2018): Into the ground. How the financialization of property markets and land use puts cities under pressure. ARCH+231, 78-83 (English version, accessible here). The German version “In Grund und Boden” can be found here.
-6- Storper, M. (2014). Governing the large metropolis. Territory, Politics, Governance2(2), 115-134.
-7- Fleck, L. (2011). Denkstile und Tatsachen. Ed. by Sylwia Werner, Claus Zittel et al. Berlin: Suhrkamp.


09 August, 2018

Wagering the Waterfront? Angling the abc & xyz of Quayside Toronto

 Looking over docklands on a hot summer day - the view here is amazing (Carr, 2017).

It’s been almost a year now since Waterfront Toronto announced that Sidewalk Labs – a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc. (formerly known as Google) – won the international competition to develop Quayside, a derelict piece of land located at the bottom of Parliament Street, wedged between Lake Ontario and the Gardiner Expressway. A media storm ensued around the world(1), announcing that Google was getting into urban development, and rightly so. After all, why would a company that runs an annual revenue of roughly 110 billion (Alphabet, 2017: 5) based on advertising (Fuchs 2017; Glowik, 2017), or as Bilić (2018) called it “algorithm capitalism”, get into urban development? Or more urgently: In what ways does this challenge other modes of urban development?

What is all the hype about?
It is perhaps not surprising that many are waiting with baited breath in anticipation over what it is that Sidewalk Labs will, in fact, build. So far, Sidewalk Labs maintains that, in partnership with Waterfront Toronto, it will develop Quayside into the best smart city ever, learning from past urban planning projects, and building improvements into the design. This joint effort is called Sidewalk Toronto (not to be confused with Sidewalk Talk)(2). Quayside will be environmental with climate positive passive buildings, which will be flexible and multi-purpose. The garbage will also be automatically removed, smart cars will efficiently ferry people about, and sensors will monitor air pollution and traffic. Quayside will also be social: Development will be participatory and harnessing diverse inputs. To this end, Sidewalk Labs has already engaged a series of Public Roundtables, Public Talks, Neighbourhood Meetings, Workshops, Design Jams, Civic Labs, Kids Camps, and more in what is termed interacting with the neighbourhood (Aggarwala, 2018). Housing will also be affordable and residents will profit from a system that integrates health services.

With the aid of the celebrated “single unified platform” Quayside will also help the government be more efficient (reducing the costs of government and the amount of taxes that each citizen will have to pay), providing data about crowd control, issuing per-click governmental permissions, and generally easing bureaucratic processes that are traditionally scattered across different public institutions in different, often incompatible, data formats (Sidewalk Labs, 2018). Best of all, this digital district that will be “private by design,” (Sidewalk Labs, 2017), drawing upon a “developed in Canada” philosophy of privacy developed by the renowned Professor Ann Cavoukian at Ryerson University.

See Sidewalktoronto.ca for a trove of information about development at Quayside, including interviews, videos, calendar of upcoming activities, reviews of past events, press releases, and image galleries. Browse through the appendices of their Feedback Reports or lists of English language media coverage.

In short: Sidewalk Labs assures us that Quayside is going to be amazing. The question is only: How amazing and for who?

This may all look exciting, but there are many unanswered questions
Sidewalktoronto is definitely a departure from business as usual developer-led urbanization in the city. If its commitment to state-of-the-art design doesn’t ring out remarkable, then its apparent readiness to interact with Torontonians ought to strike a new chord. However, there are many unanswered questions, and we are certainly not the first to notice the gaps in information (see John Lorinc's work at spacing.ca). As urban scholars, we very much appreciate these concerns, and are interested in following Quayside because it has the potential to be a game changer in how we understand the political economic production of cities. There are many uncertainties associated with Quayside, in particular, and digital cities in general. While the digitalization of urban spaces (broadly conceived) can potentially offer benefits, a number of unresolved or emerging challenges are easily identifiable, especially in respect to the over reliance on tech companies and their products, reliability of data production and corporatized data infrastructure, and not least urban governance, data ownership, and data sovereignty.

It is well-documented that smart cities have been heavily pushed by tech companies who view digitizing urban environments as a burgeoning market for their products (Kitchin 2015). Kitchin (ibid.) notes that this possibly comes along with a number of undesirable externalities: a) the commodification of public services, as city services are administered for the benefit of private profit; b) technological lock-in effects that can be not only be difficult to reverse, but may also render the city less resilient as it fights bugs, viruses, crashes, and hacks; and, (c) digitalization endorses processes of standardization that overlook specificities of place (a case of policy mobility, actually! see Carr, 2013), and fixes municipal administrations to narrowly defined technocratic modes of digital governance.

Others observe that there is a need to understand the epistemologies behind the production of big data, algorithms, digital technology design, (Ash et al., 2016): Data is not value-free (Kitchin 2015). Rather, they are indicative of end processes of political ideologies (e.g. neoliberal urban agendas), and the associated methods and processes of framing that structure the production of data. One might search out, for example, how algorithms are informed by and then reproduce socio-economic inequalities, or how far the resulting corporatization of city services resemble technological solutionism (Ash et al., 2016). Ash et al., (2016) refer to the work of Graham and Shelton (2013) who identified data shadows, “where groups who are considered valuable are increasingly data mined, while other populations are excluded from analysis,” (Ash et al. 2016: 34).

Circulation of data around the globe has always sparked debate about who owns and regulates data stored, processed in remote geographic locations (De Filippi and McCarthy 2012). Increasingly, too, scholars are wondering about the implications of data-driven markets, algorithmic capitalism, and algorithmic governance (Bilić, 2018; Fuchs, 2017; Larsson, 2018). There is thus, 

“the need to examine the ownership and control of data; the integration of data within urban operating systems, control rooms, and data markets; data security and integrity; data protection and privacy, data quality and provenance and dataveillance.” (Ash et al., 2016: 37).

On this level, one might find inspiration from projects like NetHood or MAZI that aim to  democratise data collection by promoting technological literacy and seeking out ways that data generation/collection can be performed by and for neighbourhood communities.

In any case, these are all extensive debates – and they are hardly only relevant debates(!) – that are unfolding across various fields of social science, which ought to be considered before or alongside developments at Quayside. This entry of Urbanization Unbound will start simple, and unpack some of the links between Alphabet, Google and Sidewalk, and who/what is promoting the activities at Quayside.


An interesting encounter of the … kind?



The above Twitter dialogue was a series of responses that Sidewalk Labs had to a question of mine concerning their observations of the St. Lawrence Neighbourhood (SLN). Back in July, Sidewalk Labs circulated an article expounding on SLN’s uniqueness. Knowing the area well, I tweeted,

“Very nice article on the St. Lawrence Neighbourhood (where I grew up). It took imagination to build that neighbourhood & courage to try non-market modes of land use. @sidewalklabs How does this square this with Google-owned Quayside?” 

And, minutes later, Sidewalk Labs responded, outlining some development intentions and correcting me on its business structure. As an urban geographer that has focussed on other issues of developer-led urban transformation, it hadn’t been high on my priority list to examine the precise structure of Alphabet Inc. But, okay, the oversight was indeed mine.

So, Sidewalk Labs was correct in reminding me that they are not Google: They are a sister firm of Google LLC, umbrellaed by Alphabet Inc. And, Rohit Aggarwala, Head of Urban Systems at Sidewalktoronto, was also not incorrect in insisting that Sidewalk is not a tech company (even if it seems overstated, and a bit like a backlash to the sceptical press),

“I want to reiterate: We are not a tech company!! We’re different. We combine that belief that cities are a combination of, yes, a set of technologies and a place in geography, but a community of people,” (Aggarwala, 2018).

In his view, it was essential to understand that when Waterfront Toronto put out its call for proposals, it was out of the plain love of city building that Sidewalk responded (Aggarwala, 2018).


The conglomerate in the background
Still, let’s back up and clear some things up with a bit of cursory research. Back in 2015, Google Inc. announced that the company would be structured such that the incorporated Google would be transformed into a limited liability company and become a subsidiary of a newly created public holding company. Headquartered in Mountain View, California, Alphabet Inc. (3), became the new parent company of Google LLC and a myriad of further subsidiaries – sister companies to Google LLC, that is. There are many illustrations across the net that attempt to explain the structure – It is hard to be sure, however, which ones are well researched, accurate, complete, and up-to-date. Financially, Alphabet Inc. is divided into two "segments,"

“[Alphabet’s] segments include Google and Other Bets. The Google segment includes its Internet products, such as Search, Ads, Commerce, Maps, YouTube, Google Cloud, Android, Chrome and Google Play, as well as its hardware initiatives. The Google segment is engaged in advertising, sales of digital content, applications and cloud offerings, and sales of hardware products. The Other Bets segment is engaged in the sales of Internet and television services through Google Fiber, sales of Nest products and services, and licensing and research and development (R&D) services through Verily,” (Reuters, 2018a).

Listed as GOOGL (Class A, one vote each) or GOOG (Class C, no voting rights) on the NASDAQ(4), stock values have nearly doubled since the day that Alphabet Inc. was founded, October 2, 2015. In the second quarter of 2018, Alphabet announced 32.657 billion US Dollars in revenue, 32.512 billion of which was generated by the larger of its two segments, Google (Alphabet 2018: 2-3). It’s fair to say that revenues from Alphabet’s Google segment constitute a large portion of Alphabet's earnings – like 99.5559%. Rounding it up to 100%, however, would occlude the remaining 145 million $US generated by Alphabet Inc.’s smaller segment that is aptly named, Other Bets. Companies listed in this portfolio include the Google X moonshot factory projects, Verily (healthcare, smart contact lenses, glitter-sized biomarkers), Calico (biotech, curing aging), GV (a venture capital fund), Chronicle (cybersecurity), DeepMind (AI development), Waymo (self-driving cars), Access (internet provider), Loon (internet balloons), Wing (delivery drones) (5), and Sidewalk Labs and Sidewalk Talk (based in NYC), and Sidewalk Toronto (6). 

In investor circles, stocks in Alphabet Inc. are among the most closely watched. Small wonder, given that the return on investments have been on the scale of 25-30% per year, a yield that could dwarf the appreciation of single pieces of property – even those in downtown Toronto (7). And while bullish returns have delighted investors, some note that Google’s – ehm Alphabet’s – returns are not as strong as others from the so called FAANG group (Facebook, Amazon, Apple Netflix, Google). These investors wager that Alphabet Inc. is playing the long game trading off short term gain for possible longer term returns associated with these… other bets.

So, it seems that Sidewalk Labs is, in the first instance, one of Alphabet’s gambles. And by extension, the ca.100 strong labour force working there are in charge of upping their odds and maximizing their winnings. In an of itself, this is nothing new in market-led development, of course. It does raise the question of what Waterfront Toronto and Torontonians – the necessary partners (Aggarwala, 2018) – stand to gain. It is even less clear how some of the issues will be dealt with, such as algorithmic governance and corporatised public services that have been identified in scholarly circles (see above and reference list below). We will try to dive deeper into some of these topics in later entries.

Constance Carr 


This article is also available as a pdf here.

Acknowledgments
Thanks, Markus, for reading and pushing me on this.
Notes
  1. In a previous post, we listed some of those articles, including German sources. However, if you want an exhaustive list of articles, look no further Sidewalk Labs has already compiled them at their website.
  2. @Sidewalklabs, if you are reading along, please feel free to leave a correction in the comments below!!
  3. This page has easter eggs too!! Tell me if you find them.
  4. Does anyone know what GOOGL.O is?
  5. Some of these have since become independent companies listed in Other Bets (Reuters, 2018b)
  6. Can anyone confirm that Sidewalk Labs is part of the Moonshot Factory?
  7. August and Walks (2018:131) calculated that TransGlobe accrued a 60% return after two years. And, while winnings are in the order of millions (not billions), such practices of financialization already cause problems with respect to housing affordability in the city.

References
Alphabet Inc. (2017) Alphabet Announces Fourth Quarter and Fiscal Year 2017 Results https://abc.xyz/investor/pdf/2017Q4_alphabet_earnings_release.pdf (Accessed August 6, 2018)

Alphabet Inc. (2018) Alphabet Announces Second Quarter 2018 Results https://abc.xyz/investor/pdf/2018Q2_alphabet_earnings_release.pdf (Accessed August 6, 2018)

Alphabet Inc. (2018) Q2 2018 Earnings Call webcast, Transcript https://abc.xyz/investor/pdf/2018_Q2_Earnings_Transcript.pdf (Accessed August 6, 2018)

Aggarwala, R. (2018) Public Roundtable #1. Sidewalk Toronto. https://sidewalktoronto.ca/event/public-roundtable-1/ (Accessed August 6, 2018)

Ash, J., Kitchin, R., Leszczynski (2016) Digital turn, digital geographies? Progress in Human Geography, 42(1) 25-43.

August, M. and Walks (2018) Gentrification, suburban decline, and the financialization of multi-family rental housing: The case of Toronto. Geoforum, 89,124-136.

Bilić, P. (2018) A Critique of the Political Economy of Algorithms: A Brief History of Google’s Technological Rationality. tripleC: Communication, Capitalism & Critique 16(1) 315-331.

Carr (2014) Discourse Yes, Implementation Maybe: An Immobility and Paralysis of Sustainable Development Policy, European Planning Studies 22(9) 1824-1840.

Fuchs, C. (2017). Social Media: A Critical Introduction, 2nd Edition. Los Angeles: Sage


Glowik, M. (2017) Global Strategy in the Service Industries: Dynamics, Analysis, Growth. New York: Routledge.

Graham, M. and Shelton, T. (2013) Geography and the future of big data, big data and the future of geography. Dialogues in Human Geography. 3(3) 255-261.

Kitchin, R. (2015) Making sense of smart cities: addressing present shortcomings. Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, 8, 131-136.

De Filippi, P. and McCarthy, S. (2012). Cloud Computing: Centralization and Data Sovereignty. European Journal of Law and Technology, 3(2)

Larsson, S. (2018) Algorithmic governance and the need for consumer empowerment in data-driven markets. Internet Policy Review: Journal of internet regulation. 7(2), 1-13.

Reuters (2018a) Profile: Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O) https://www.reuters.com/finance/stocks/company-profile/GOOGL.O

Reuters (2018b) Alphabet to make Loon, Wing projects independent companies
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-alphabet-projects/alphabet-to-make-loon-wing-projects-independent-companies-idUSKBN1K128R (Accessed August 7, 2018)

Sidewalk Labs (2017) Our Approach To Data Privacy. https://sidewalktoronto.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Sidewalk-Labs-Approach-to-Privacy.pdf (Accessed August 6, 2018).

Sidewalk Labs (2018) Meet Sidewalk Toronto: Kristina and Craig Talk Open Urban Data https://youtu.be/LKN_EHkjCcs (Accessed August 7, 2018)