Makeshift Visions of IoT for Urban Spaces in Brazil (2017- ongoing):
This study examines tactical, mobile media and open data projects in Brazilian urban areas as an alternative to canonical smart city models. The predominant vision of the Internet of Things is animated by Mark Weiser’s vision of calm computing and its (tentative) implementation through Smart Cities models developed by Cisco, IBM and Intel. The social and cultural imagination of this technological future privileges seamless interfaces between machine and human, in almost septic, automated physical spaces in which networked connectivity is taken for granted. All models of smart cities are designed for urban areas in developed countries in which technological infrastructures are mature and developed. The implementation of commercially driven smart cities derives from a neoliberal mindset in which governments subsidize the IT private sector to facilitate efficient governance of the city, its spaces, and citizens through digital technologies (Greenfield 2013). Meanwhile, open source urbanism (Sassen 2011) uses open databases, data visualization, and play to engage people into shared governance of public spaces. While some Brazilian cities have established partnerships to implement top-down smart cities testbeds, i.e. Rio de Janeiro’s project with IBM (Freitas 2018), Curitiba’s partnership with Huawei, Oi Telecom and the Smart City Business Institute, there are several other open and decentralized bottom-up practices of data appropriation and visualization that mediate non-institutionalized alternatives to occupy Brazilian urban spaces. Malalai, for example, is a project that sources data to ensure women’s safe mobility in the city. Bueiros Interconectados (Interconnected manholes) collects data from sensors installed in the city’s manholes to monitor the risk of flooding.

I argue that grassroots projects such as these, privilege collaborative technologies and engagement with data as a way to engage citizens in their experience of the city and shape public policies. By doing so, they advocate for shared governance and data literacy and they foster the development of smart citizenship (Sadoway & Shekhar 2014; Saunders et al. 2015; Waal et al. 2017). Moreover, they reveal ways to appropriate media technologies that are marked by improvisation, DIY, and creation through/despite scarcity of resources. My argument is that these modes of appropriation can inform a decolonial theoretical framework of media appropriation that can define a unique perspective on technological innovation.