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Sustainable Consumption Institute

Urban platforms: corporate or civic digital transformation?

Principal investigators - Mike Hodson and Andy McMeekin

London skyline
© User: Colin and Kim Hansen / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

This project supports research visits to Toronto and London, in autumn 2018. The aim of the visits is to undertake fieldwork on digital platforms in two different urban contexts. Preliminary work we have done suggests that digital platform development in Toronto by Google represents a corporate view of the future of the city, transformed by digital platforms. By contrast, in London, work by Transport for London appears to suggest attempts to build a more civic understanding of the role of urban platforms in transforming the city.

Our plan is to build on documentary work that will scope out these two cases further by undertaking a programme of 10 interviews each (20 in total) in Toronto and London. This will allow us to exemplify these radically different visions of the future of the city under digital platforms. The focus on digital platforms matters as contemporary cities and processes of production and consumption are being transformed through new digital infrastructures. Who is governing these processes, for what purpose and with what effects are critical issues. Though these processes will affect most cities we have identified Toronto and London as cases that exemplify radically different ways of organising and governing digital platforms at the scale of the city. This work contributes an innovative new idea in the context of the SCI’s developing agenda on cities and (post-)sustainability.