Sarah Barns
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Essays and other writing

Recent news and views across urban data strategy, creative programming and digital place-making. 

Posts in smart cities
Keynote: Cities in the Age of the Platform

I was very honoured to be invited to deliver the Workshop Keynote at the Smart Cities and Urban Innovation Symposium held at the University of NSW on June 1 2016. The event was a part of a rather excitable co-mingling of two Sydney festivals: the Vivid Festival and the Media Architecture Biennale. 

The topic of my talk was 'Cities in the Age of the Platform'. This is all about the new practices, policies and problems for cities emerging in an era of platform scale. A full recording of the presentation is here. 

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When Two Worlds Collide: Data Strategy and Strategic Planning for 'Smart Governance'

As the dashboard model grows traction and is embraced by Australian governments, this paper reflects on the institutional design of city dashboards, as they cut across the worlds of ICT policy and strategic urban planning. Based on recent case study research across Sydney, London and New York, this presentation compares a series of dashboard examples with a view to understanding the relationship between data-driven discovery programs, open data release channels or platforms, and the mechanisms of city performance management and strategic planning. In particular, it addresses the ‘back end’ support programs that support data discovery and harvesting; the challenges of persistent ‘data shadows’; and the forums needed to support alignment between data discovery, citizen engagement and strategic planning. 

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Mine your data: open data, digital strategies and entrepreneurial governance by code

A recent article on the uses of open data by city governments. A recent shift in the rhetorical aspirations of the open data movement away from the values of openness and transparency and towards a more confined focus on value generation raise important critical questions for urban geographers concerned with the nature of urban governance in an age of big data.

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Platform Urbanism: The politics and practices of data-driven urbanism

I was invited to attend an Urban Studies Foundation Postdoctoral Research Forum at the University of Glasgow in April 2015 to present on my research underway at the University of Western Sydney. It was a chance to set out a research agenda for 'platform cities' from both a practice and a research perspective. For me the term has more resonance than 'smart cities' because it addresses the dynamics of digital disruption as led through the platform-based business model.

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smart citiesSarah Barns
This is Parramatta

While based at the Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University, I've become more and more fascinated by the transformation of Parramatta as one of the epicentres of urban growth currently in Australia. How can open data and digital platforms be better leveraged to capture the scale of the transformation currently underway? 

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smart citiesSarah Barns
Valuing Open Data: Not so simple, Simon

In this piece for The Conversation (March 2014) I examine attempts to put a dollar figure on the value of open data.

Governments have typically signed on to the open data agenda through initiatives such as the Open Government Partnership and the G8 Open Data Charter and made various high-level announcements, but there are many obstacles when, as the report authors remark, “agencies and those within them find ways to delay openness to minimise institutional risk”.

Putting a dollar figure on open data isnecessarily speculative. Where open data has the potential to be a game-changer for many industries, currently the data is not being released in sufficient volumes to realise maximum potential.

Read the full article on The Conversation: Open data and the G20: the value is there to share

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smart citiesSarah Barns
Appyland or Geekistan? The open questions of open data

It’s hard not to get excited by the promise of a more enriched and open digital ecosystem that makes the way we digitally interact with governments a whole lot better. But as we stand at the cusp of this open data-driven transformation, we should also take a deep breath and consider how “openness” is being used to drive public sector change.

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smart citiesSarah Barns