DMRC Research Seminar: The Digital Town Square

Watch the seminar recording here


Key Details

Date & time:

1.00pm – 2.30pm

Thursday 23 June 2022


Noosa & Springfield Rooms, X Block, KG


From smart cities to digital town squares: DataCare as a model for community-led urban analysis

Professor Peta Mitchell

School of Communication

Professor Marcus Foth

School of Design

Professor Markus Rittenbruch

School of Design

Various notions of digital cities and digital town squares have been around since the internet’s early days. The hype around smart cities has given rise to new academic fields such as urban science on the positivist and critical data studies on the more constructivist end of the epistemological spectrum. One of the recent smart city tools to arrive are Digital Twins – big data driven replica of cities to help analyse real-time processes and model future scenarios.

In this presentation, we critique some of the issues arising from such tools including data ethics, privacy, mass surveillance, commodification, and social control. Paying homage to the original values embedded in the digital town square, we present DataCare – a model for cities to practically implement a more citizen and community-oriented way to benefit from urban data collection and analysis. DataCare proposes a model for a dedicated facility hosted by the city and offered to citizens, communities, and businesses comprising a dedicated space, which can be tailored to raise awareness of data ethics, improve data literacy, engage in participatory data analytics, and speculate about city data futures. DataCare aims to empower citizens and community with a view to co-create more liveable, sustainable, and equitable cities.


Can the ‘I’ as ‘We’ exist in a digital public sphere? Sociopolitical reflections from Samoa

Aimee Hourigan

PhD Candidate, Digital Media Research Centre

For the Samoan people, a consideration of the politics of individual expression and debate is often mediated by the sociocultural values and responsibilities inherent to fa’asamoa; the Samoan way of life.

Whilst digital technologies, such as social media platforms like Instagram or Facebook, to some extent offer a means of circumventing such responsibilities, opening new avenues for agency in communication and the creation of new informational connections, broader sociocentric ideals complicate these outcomes of individual digital technology use.

Additionally, the idea of a ‘digital town square’ is difficult to contemplate or construct from a fa’asamoa point of view when considering how such opportunities for ‘freedom of expression’ are more deeply encompassed within Western structures of dominance and control.

In this presentation, three brief provocations will be put forth, focusing on considerations of what (and whose) ‘inclusion’ agendas are encompassed within the political and technical construction of a ‘digital town square’, and further, whether such a term appropriately captures the sociopolitical needs of a communal, yet hierarchical culture such as that of Samoa.

Reflections and insights will be drawn from a community-led research project design and implemented with members of the Samoan community in Meanjin/Brisbane in 2021.