Dr. Vincent Mosco gives 2019 Bonnycastle Lecture

Distinguished sociologist will discuss smart cities

Dr. Vincent Mosco contends that technology-driven cities are conduits for surveillance and anti-democratic policies.

Supplied photo

On Thursday, Sept. 19, Dr. Vincent Mosco will give the 2019 Bonnycastle Lecture on the topic “What Makes a City Smart?” The event is organized by the University of Winnipeg (U of W) sociology department and will take place from 7 to 9 p.m. in Convocation Hall on campus.

The Bonnycastle Lecture Series, established in 1969, was named after Richard Bonnycastle, the U of W’s first chancellor. According to the Bonnycastle Lecture Series policy document, the “lecture usually focuses on an area of special interest to Mr. Bonnycastle – the economic, social and cultural life of cities.”

Invited speaker Dr. Vincent Mosco, professor emeritus at Queen’s University, is a sociologist who studies communication, technology and society. He has published extensively and held numerous research and consulting positions. Dr. Mosco recently received the 2019 C. Edwin Baker Award for the Advancement of Scholarship on Media, Markets and Democracy.

U of W assistant professor of sociology Dr. Davina DesRoches says, “his work on the social impacts of information technology, including those relating to urban transformation and urban governance, such as his most recent book, The Smart City in a Digital World, make him an ideal speaker for this lectureship series.”

Dr. Mosco will be “describing, challenging and offering democratic alternatives to the view that the answer (to the question “What makes a city smart?”) begins and ends with technology,” according to the description of the event. He will argue that people – not technology – make cities “smart.”

Dr. DesRoches notes the relevancy of this topic.

“In the wake of the 2008 global financial meltdown, corporations converged on cities around the world to sell technology, harvest valuable data and deepen the private governance of urban life,” she says.

“They partnered with governments to promise what on the surface look like unalloyed benefits to city dwellers: safer streets, cleaner air, more efficient transportation, instant communication for all, and algorithms that take governance out of the hands of flawed human beings.

“However, as Dr. Mosco will argue, another story lies beneath that surface. Technology-driven smart cities deepen surveillance, shift urban governance to private companies, shrink democracy, create a hacker’s paradise and hasten the coming of catastrophic climate change.

“Dr. Mosco’s lecture will contend that genuinely intelligent cities start with a vibrant democracy, a commitment to public space and to citizen control
over technology.”

Such lectures are crucial parts of a university’s campus culture, providing a forum for the free proliferation of ideas.

“Speaking as a professor myself, one of the joys of academic life is inviting speakers to one’s campus – and getting invited to other campuses to share your own work,” DesRoches says. “Much joy comes from such intellectual and collegial endeavours.”

For more information on the 2019 Bonnycastle Lecture, visit uwinnipeg.ca/events-calendar/index.html.

Published in Volume 74, Number 3 of The Uniter (September 19, 2019)

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