Call for Papers: The Infrastructures of Socio-Ecological Knowing in the City

Abstract Deadline: 14th December 2023

We invite you to our workshop on ‘the infrastructures of socio-ecological knowing in the city’ that will take place on the 11thJanuary 2024, at King’s College London. The output of this workshop will be proposed as a special issue, which will be submitted in late Spring of 2024. Contributors to the workshop will be encouraged to submit to the issue, understanding the workshop to be a space for developing works in progress, rather than necessarily presenting complete papers. 

Please submit your 200 word proposals by the end of 14th December by emailing to

We have funds to cover (at least partially) the travel expenses for Early Career Researchers who otherwise don’t have funding. If you need to obtain visa to travel to the UK, let us know and we’ll expedite the decision making process for your abstract submission.


When the concept of the smart city emerged, one of its primary promises was to make cities more sustainable. With ubiquitous sensing and real time data flows, city administrators, we were told, would be able to monitor levels of urban pollution, energy use and air quality, which would lead to more efficient and sustainable management of resources. Whilst it is true that technologies, including cameras. sensors, and more recently AI, have been effective at recognizing and tracking environmental impacts, there is also much evidence that highlights the environmental cost of these same technologies, which rely on energy intensive infrastructures (Monserrate, 2022). Moreover, several scholars have observed that the quantifiable logics of data collection on this scale (the datafication of pollution, tree coverage, air quality etc.) does not necessarily lead to meaningful policy changes or straight forward action (see, for example, Gabrys, 2020). 

With the recent progress (and hype) in data and AI technologies, some have argued that other ways of knowing the city have been eclipsed by the episteme of data and algorithmic imaginaries, which offer seemingly objective views on urban processes due to their impressive technical capabilities (Mattern, 2017). Following Louise Amoore’s (2020) work, however, we know that AI and Machine Learning techniques can be understood as an aperture – or a perceived opening to new ways of knowing, but also a foreclosing of possible futures into computational and statistical ways of knowing. So, taking the urbanists Brenner and Schmid (2015)’s question: ‘through what categories, methods and cartographies should urban life be understood’?, we instead ask, ‘through what other categories, methods, and technologies could urban ecology be understood?’

We invite papers that are grounded in the reality of how data and AI technologies, and the situated socio-political ways they have become embedded in city governance, have come to shape our understanding of ecological processes in the city, thus moving us away from the imaginaries of smart city techno-utopias. We aim to bring together an understanding of the current state of play, but also to develop future directions for urban-ecological relations that are guided not by today’s focus on datafication and algorithmic processing, but by other ways of knowing the city. 

Some questions to guide submissions:

  • How do sensing and algorithmic technologies shape understandings and perceptions of socio-ecological systems in cities, and how might they foreclosure other ways of knowing?
  • Which ways of knowing the city are obscured by our society’s focus on the logics of datafication? 
  • How are socio-ecological relations made visible through the lens of digital media? And who are they made visible for?
  • What role do digital media platforms play in our understanding of socio-ecological ways of knowing the city?
  • What are the ways of socio-ecological knowing that may be localised, digital or non-digital that might help in working towards environmental justice in the urban environment?

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