Databite No. 78: Gregory Donovan

Remixing Modes of Knowing and Belonging in the Urban Platform

04.28.16 - 12:00 pm

Data & Society
New York, NY

Databites are Data & Society's weekly lunch conversations focused on unresolved questions and timely topics of interest to our community.

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This talk will also be streamed live.

Gregory Donovan presents Social Networks and Settlement Houses: Remixing Modes of Knowing and Belonging in the Urban Platform:

Gregory will situate the privatization of space and information as core components of “smart urbanism” and invite us to critically consider a more participatory and equitable mode of development that accounts for both a “right to the city” and a “right to research” for everyday people, especially youth. As urban youth grow up with smart phones and within smart homes, classrooms, and cities, their routines generate troves of data on daily life that are mined for both governance and profit. Despite being both a frequent source and object of this data mining, urban youth are among the least likely to be given a meaningful role in this process of knowledge production. Meanwhile, as urban economies become oriented toward digital and creative industry, gentrification is accelerated to make space for an incoming young, affluent, highly educated, and largely white, workforce. Although this emerging urban platform is mythologized as a more socially, environmentally, and economically efficient frontier, its creative destruction has been unevenly distributed among residents and across neighborhoods. Despite the big data shaping, and being shaped by, smart urbanism, more attention must be paid to the historical geography of inequity and injustice reproduced through these uneven forms of proprietary knowledge and spatial production.

Gregory will draw from three NYC-based projects in order to question, as well as reimagine, what can be known and who can belong on the smart urban frontier. The first project is MyDigitalFootprint.ORG, a participatory research and design project with NYC youth that began by interviewing New Yorkers ages 14-19 and then involved five interviewees as co-researchers in a Youth Design and Research Collective (YDRC) to analyze interview findings through the collaborative design of an open source social network. The second project is Designing Smart Cities for Social Justice, a college service-learning course that partners with a settlement house on Manhattan’s Upper West Side in order to engage students in a community-based research project that asks how a smart urban design oriented towards social justice could help rework the current flows of wealth, opportunity, and privilege in New York City. The third project entails a recently initiated comparative ethnography of two housing developments, one public housing and one private real estate, on Manhattan’s West Side—a region last developed by Robert Moses in the 1950s and presently undergoing techno-social formatting for what Saskia Sassen has described as urban agglomeration in the digital era.

Gregory Donovan is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication and Media Studies as well as an affiliate faculty member of the New Media and Digital Design Program, the Urban Studies Program, and the Urban Law Center at Fordham University. Gregory received his Ph.D. in Environmental Psychology with a doctoral certification in Interactive Technology and Pedagogy from the CUNY Graduate Center and his research explores the mutual shaping of people, place, and proprietary media, and how to reorient such shaping toward more just and meaningful publics. He is also Co-Chair of the Digital Humanities Working Group at Fordham, a member of the Editorial Collective of The Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy, and a founder of the OpenCUNY Academic Medium at the CUNY Graduate Center. You can find Gregory on the web at and on Twitter at @gdonovan.


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