Smart cities and digital democracy have begun to converge and create opportunities to enact a new digital civics. This application of technology to government holds a number of assumptions about government and citizenship, many of which rely on transactional notions of service selection and delivery. This talk addresses how design can support the development of a relational digital civics by recognizing that data are social—whether through the act of collecting them, to marshaling them for argument and advocacy, or by being acted on by them. Building on recent work in participatory design, I argue that designers and research working in community settings are not simply creating end products that make use of data, but are designing publics through the creation, collection, and curation of data—and the processes around which data are produced. These publics are socio-technical articulations that address the different tensions, boundaries, and values present in community contexts and arise in response to issues, form through a range of attachments, and ultimately act through the creation of new socio-technical infrastructures.
Dr. Christopher Le Dantec is an Assistant Professor in the Digital Media Program in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication at the Georgia Institute of Technology. His research is focused on the intersection of participatory design, digital democracy, and smart cities—what is now becoming the area of digital civics. He is specifically interested in developing community-based design practices that support new forms of collective action through the production and use of civic data. After earning his Ph.D. in Human-Centered Computing in 2011 from the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he advanced theoretical and practice-based approaches to bridge the digital divide experienced by homeless families in the U.S., he has worked closely with the City of Atlanta and a range of community-based partners to explore new forms of civic participation through community-centered design inquiry. His research has direct impact on how policy makers and citizens work together to address issues of community engagement, social justice, urban transportation and development. In addition to publishing in a range of ACM conferences, he is the Community+Culture forum editor for interactions magazine and the author of Designing Publics (MIT Press).