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43. Controversial Digitization: Solidarities, Conflicts, And Power Dynamics In Mediated Urban Space


  • Oksana Zaporozhets, The Einstein Researcher, Georg Simmel Center for Metropolitan Studies, Humboldt University of Berlin,
  • Liubov Chernysheva, Research Fellow, Institute for European Urban Studies, Bauhaus University Weimar,


In recent decades, digital platforms, networks, and infrastructures have become a crucial augmentation of cities and new sites for urban encounters and contestation. The modes, paces, institutional contexts, and scales of urban digitization vary widely across the globe, creating new opportunities for claims, resistance, and justice (Gerbaudo 2012; Mortensen et al. 2018), as well as exacerbating existing inequalities, power disbalances, and oppressions (Datta 2018, 2023; Kitchin 2020; Couldry, Mejias 2019). Despite the crucial differences between cities and geographies, the digital sphere today often functions as the space where urban citizenship is “done” and enacted, urban solidarities emerge, and conflicts are articulated and framed (Iveson 2011; Iyer, Kuriakose 2023).

However, being controversial and multidimensional, digitization is often considered through a binary opposition between state- or corporate-led and urban activist- or citizen-led, where the former is associated with forced/monopolized digitization that strengthens authoritarian regimes (MacKinnon 2011; Polyakova, Meserole 2019) and benefits neoliberal platform economies (Shaw, Graham 2017; Stehlin 2020), while the latter is seen as a means of resistance and protest (Anduiza et al. 2014; Santos 2018; Treré 2018).

The session aims to overcome the existing binarism and highlight more complex interactions between different types of digitization and their agents, including human (collective and individual) and non-human (platforms, bots, specialized software, VPNs, etc.). The session searches for new critical perspectives and new/revised vocabularies (Treré, Carretero 2018) that allow grasping the changeability of digital assemblages, the way they challenge, appropriate, corrode, or reinforce each other and influence urban life at different scales, leading to “digital localization” at the neighborhood or city scale (Chernysheva, Zaporozhets 2023), “technocratic nationalism” (Datta 2015) or transnational alliances (Uitermark, Nicholls 2012).

The discussion will be guided by (but not limited to) the following thematic axes:

  • Different scales of urban inequalities and exclusions related to digitization, including their spatial distribution;
  • Strategies and practices of digitalization considered as flexible and diffused assemblages that constantly modify and influence each other through legal (including digital sovereignty) and moral regulations, technological interventions (creation of bots to hack official websites, use of AI software, ), modes of coping with, and so on;
  • The ways in which digitization has affected existing social institutions (state, bureaucracy, corporate platforms, ). Their alternatives, substitutions, and modifications produced by different actors, including DIY digital infrastructures developed by urban communities;
  • How digital infrastructures reflect, change, or redefine some crucial urban distinctions (public and private, small and large scale, local and translocal, ) and urban actors;
  • Resistance and avoidance of digitization by different

The session welcomes a wide geography of presentations and pays special attention to the digitalization in the Global South(s) and ‘Global Easts’ (Müller, Trubina 2020).

Centro de Estudios de Conflicto y Cohesión Social.

Diagonal Paraguay 257,
Torre 26, Oficina 1504
Santiago – RM

Los Navegantes 1963
Providencia – RM