HCI Tactics for Politics from Below: Meeting the Challenges of Smart Cities

Whitney, Cedric Deslandes; Naval, Teresa; Quepons, Elizabeth; Singh, Simrandeep; Rick, Steven R; Irani, Lilly

As crucial public functions are transferred to computer systems, emerging technologies have public implications that are often shaped beyond public influence and oversight. "Smart city" and "modernization" projects are just some examples of such transformations. This paper focuses on struggles over the acquisition, control, and maintenance of these public, digital infrastructures. We focus on the forms of HCI knowledge and practice that proved useful to a coalition of community organizations claiming rights of input into and political oversight over surveillance technology. Their claims were a response to their exclusion from decisionmaking about smart city implementation in San Diego. We offer tactics "from below" as a way to attune HCI to the needs and practices of those excluded from power over widespread technology infrastructures. Ultimately, we argue that HCI cultivates a variety of capacities beyond design and redesign that can strengthen struggles to shape real-world technologies from below.