Accountability Technologies

Tools for Asking Hard Questions

“The basic need of civil society to live in responsibly planned and managed cities, to be involved in the planning process, or to at least be informed about it, has become a renewed focal point of debate in the past years.
While the incipient criticism of the institutionalized and oft-unquestioned decision- making chain of urban planning was accompanied by a basic struggle for more say and participation in the 1970s, the varieties of participation, the technical possibili- ties of knowledge transfer and the understanding of transparency—keyword Open Data—have fundamentally changed in today’s information society. Much suggests that the classic distribution of roles between public and “individual” responsibility and the interface between citizens, activists and government have to be re-negotiated under new conditions.
With the help of visualization, analysis and measurement tools subsumed under the term Accountability Technologies, as well as socio-cultural practices, extensive data on noise, environmental pollution, mobility and corruption, for instance, can be compiled and represented. This book exemplarily shows which socio-political areas of action are opened up by Accountability Technologies, but also which critical aspects are tied in with them. Such as, for example, the seemingly simple insight that the enormous convolutes of availably-made data are neither neutral, nor do they imply a better understanding of complex processes “per se.” The subtitle of this book indicates the direction: Accountability Technologies are to be understood as Tools for Asking Hard Questions, not as keys to ultimate answers.
Like the volume Inscribing a Square: Urban Data as Public Space (Springer Verlag, 2012), edited by Katja Schechtner and Dietmar Offenhuber as well, this publication also rests upon the precondition that architecture and urbanism go far beyond the physical space and the singularity of built structure. The basis for this book is pro- vided by the second edition of the symposium Sensing Place/Placing Sense, again carried out with exceptional cooperation between the AIT Austrian Institute of Tech- nology, the Ars Electronica and the afo architekturforum oberösterreich within the scope of the Ars Electronica Festival 2012.
Thanks to these initiatives at the interface of several disciplines, the increasingly dense interweaving of urban data and their physical context has been continued in such an exciting way under the aspect of Accountability Technologies. I would like to thank all those involved, especially the two editors, for their competence and commit- ment in realizing this book.
What began as a one-off publication now reveals itself—also in its graphic appear- ance—as a mutually related, mutually stimulating twosome.” Gabriele Kaiser, architekturforum oberösterreich

currently available here

cover visualization: crowd-investigation of plagiarism in the doctoral dissertation of a former German defense Minister – by GutenPlag/User8

Table of Contents
Introduction Dietmar Offenhuber, Katja Schechtner

Data Is Political: Investigation, Emotion and the Accountability of Institutional Critique – Amber Frid-Jimenez, Ben Dalton
Civic, Citizen, and Grassroots Science: Towards a Transformative Scientific Research Model – Public Lab
Bejing Air Tracks: Tracking Data for Good – Sarah Williams
Legibilty from Below – Dietmar Offenhuber

Newspaper Front Page Analysis: How Do They Tell the Story? – Pablo Rey Mazón
Accountability Tech — Tools for Internal Activism – Leonardo Bonanni
Fighting Corruption Where and When It Happens — Ambient Accountability – Dieter Zinnbauer
Political Read-Write Culture and the Logic of Collective Action – Interview with Lawrence Lessig

Reflections on a Swarm – Plagdoc
Crowdsourcing a Street Fight – Aaron Naparstek
The Fab City: Hard and Soft Tools for Smart Citizens’ Production of the City – Tomás Diez
Answers from Within – Katja Schechtner
Crowdsourcing Situational Awareness – Interview with Patrick Meier