STS Seminar Series explores Sidewalk Labs’ smart city, data governance and tech monopolies, Jan. 28

The next instalment of the 2019-20 Research Seminar Series in Science & Technology Studies (STS) takes place on Jan. 28 and features Anna Artyushina, a PhD candidate in Science and Technology Studies at York University.

York University PhD candidate Anna Artyushina
York University PhD candidate Anna Artyushina

Now in its 26th year, the series has hosted hundreds of experts from across Canada and around the world presenting on a wide range of STS-related topics. The talks are free and open to the public, and STS majors are encouraged to attend. Refreshments are provided.

The Jan. 28 seminar, titled “Is civic data governance the key to democratic smart cities? The role of the Urban Data Trust in Sidewalk Toronto,” will run from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Room 203, Bethune College, Keele Campus.

Unless otherwise specified, all seminars in this series will take place on Tuesdays from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in 203 Bethune College (Norman’s).

Since the deal between Alphabet and the Government of Canada to create the Sidewalk Labs’ smart city in Toronto was announced in 2017, the case study has been at the center of controversies relating to its proprietary approach to personal data, with increasingly powerful criticisms of the project’s potential effects on privacy. In this talk, Artyushina will analyze the urban data trust, the entity that was proposed to manage residents’ data in the smart city. The trust was expected to take on an unprecedented role as the first public institution informing corporate data governance through the establishment of data standards. Artyushina will explore how Sidewalk’s trust appeals to and sustains a certain political-economic regime governed by the logic of rent seeking, which aims to entrench the economic dominance of tech monopolies.

This research draws insights into experimental practices of data governance, new definitions of data, and the role of civic governance as they were envisioned by Alphabet and its critics.

The series is sponsored by York University’s Department of Science & Technology Studies, Faculty of Science, and coordinated by members of the department. For more information about the Research Seminar Series in Science & Technology Studies, contact Professor Conor Douglas at or visit