Digital Lives in the Global City
308 pages, 6 1/2 x 9 1/2
53 colour photos, 3 illus., 2 charts, 1 table, 6 figures, 4 maps
Release Date:15 Oct 2020
Release Date:15 Oct 2020

Digital Lives in the Global City

Contesting Infrastructures

UBC Press

Digital technologies have changed the world, transforming how, where, and when we communicate, love, learn, re/create, produce, distribute, and consume. Digital infrastructures connect people and places across vast distances, yet they also extend the working day into personal time and space, increasing the power of financial institutions, and enhance state and corporate surveillance capacities.

Digital Lives in the Global City examines the entanglements of urban life, investigating how urban land, governance, and the economy are being contested and remade by advancing communication technologies. How do digital infrastructures influence complex human intimacies and perspectives? What does this mean for citizenship and political life in the city?

Emerging from a multi-year partnership between scholars, documentary filmmakers, and communities, Digital Lives in the Global City intersperses critical scholarship with a series of provocative short works from activists, artists, and citizens. Moving beyond the so-called smart cities of the global north, leading thinkers engage with a wide range of issues wrought by digital infrastructure: struggles over unsafe and illegal buildings in Mumbai, the conditions of migrant work in Singapore, the question of digital debt in Toronto, and targeted policing in New York. This nuanced exploration reveals the profound connections between digital technologies and the social life of global cities.

Tackling important contemporary issues, this accessible book will speak to a wide public audience with interest in urban culture as well as to scholars of geography, media studies, architecture, cultural studies, science and technology studies, urban studies, and women and gender studies.

[Digital Lives in the Global City] is a highly engaging and thought provoking read and an important contribution to both academic and activist discussions. Casey R. Lynch, University of Nevada, Antipode
Digital Lives in the Global City: Contesting Infrastructures makes an exciting contribution to a wide range of linked issues. It does so on its own terms, with its own concepts and aspirations. from the foreword by Saskia Sassen, author of The Global City
A work of art, a digital map, and an academic text, Digital Lives in the Global City powerfully articulates the uneven and globally entangled politics of urban infrastructure and planning. Heather McLean, School of Geographical and Earth Sciences, University of Glasgow
This is an important book. It maps simultaneous and imbricated infrastructures: the material infrastructure of the city, and the digital infrastructure that overlays the city and increasingly directs life within in. The experimental organization of the book and unorthodox style of many of the contributions are a welcome intervention. Craig Willse, author of The Value of Homelessness

Deborah Cowen is a professor in the Department of Geography and Planning at the University of Toronto. She is the author of The Deadly Life of Logistics: Mapping Violence in Global Trade and Military Workfare: The Soldier and Social Citizenship in Canada, and coeditor of War, Citizenship, Territory and the Errantries book series at Duke Univeresity Press. Alexis Mitchell is an artist and SSHRC postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Disability Studies at New York University. She has had recent exhibitions at Mercer Union (Toronto), the Berlinale (Berlin), and the BFI London Film Festival, and was an artist-in-residence at Akademie Schloss Solitude, Stuttgart, in 2015–17 and at the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire in 2018. She often works collaboratively with artist Sharlene Bamboat under the name Bambitchell. Emily Paradis is an instructor with the Urban Studies Program of Innis College at the University of Toronto, a Maytree fellow, a collaborator with the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness, a member of the Right to Housing Coalition, and an independent research consultant. Her scholarship and practice aim to support marginalized communities in claiming spaces and rights in the city. She has authored more than thirty publications on housing policy, homelessness, human rights, and lived expert leadership. Brett Story is an assistant professor in the School of Image Arts at Ryerson University, has a PhD in geography from the University of Toronto, and has held fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the Sundance Documentary Institute. She is the author of Prison Land: Mapping Carceral Power across Neoliberal America and the director of the award winning documentaries, The Prison in Twelve Landscapes, and The Hottest August.

Contributors: Grace Baey, Simone Browne, Charmaine Chua, Katarina Cizek, Judy Duncan, Neha El-Hadi, Heather Frise, Stephen Graham, Ju Hui Judy Han, Hussain Indorewala, Symon James-Wilson, Anja Kanngieser, Sameera Khan, James Kilgore, Krystle Maki, Shaka McGlotten, Lize Mogel, Paramita Nath, Natalie Oswin, Shilpa Phadke, R. Josh Scannell, Kashaf Siddique, Nicole Starosielski, Indu Vashist, Visualizing Impact, Alan Walks, Shweta Wagh

Foreword: The Towers in the World, the World in the Towers / Katerina Cizek

Foreword: When Localities Go Global / Saskia Sassen

Introduction / Deborah Cowen, Alexis Mitchell, Emily Paradis, Brett Story


Digital Debt in a Precarious City / Emily Paradis, Heather Frise

Toronto’s Unsecure(d) Urban Debtscape / Alan Walks

Automating Social Inequality / Krystle Maki

ACORN’s Campaign for Affordable Access / Judy Duncan, ACORN

Transmutations / Nehal El-Hadi

Security and Surveillance

Digital Borders and Urban Worlds/ Stephen Graham

Audre Lorde’s File and June Jordan’s Skyrise / Simone Browne

Policing the Future(s) / R. Josh Scannell

Policing Borders through Sound / Anja Kanngieser

Big Data Meet Location Monitoring / James Kilgore

Digital Apartheid / Visualizing Impact


Mumbai Rising, Buildings Falling / Emily Paradis, Brett Story, Deborah Cowen

On "Market-Friendly" Planning in Mumbai / Hussain Indorewala, Shweta Wagh

Kashaf Siddique on Being Precariously Home in the Suburbs / Deborah Cowen, Kashaf Siddique

Dispatch from Mumbai / Deborah Cowen, Paramita Nath

#WhyLoiter / Shilpa Phadke, Sameera Khan

Shifting and Scripting Urban Lives

High-Altitude Protests and Necropolitical Digits / Ju Hui Judy Han

Terabytes of Love / Indu Vashist

The Most Hated Woman in Israel / Shaka McGlotten

DIY WI-FI / Heather Frise

Network Dislocations / Nicole Starosielski


The Labour of Global City Building / Alexis Mitchell, Deborah Cowen

Skyline of Dreams / Grace Baey

Sunny Island Set in the Sea / Charmaine Chua

Singapore as “Best Home” / Natalie Oswin

Not Another Cinderella Story / Symon James-Wilson


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