Do algorithms have a right to the city? Waze and algorithmic spatiality

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article introduces the notion of algorithmic spatiality as a way to capture the unique spatial knowledge created by digital mobile media, and the way that this knowledge acts upon space, and is perceived by other actors involved in the production of space. Focusing on the navigation giant Waze, it asks how this new spatial actor legitimates the knowledge it creates about space and the effects incurred by this knowledge. In theoretical terms, it asks how Waze asserts its ‘right to the city’ through a discourse of a superior knowledge of space. These questions are discussed in light of a case study of the clash between Waze and local residents over the application’s common practice of diverting large volumes of traffic through side-roads, located in quiet neighbourhoods and villages in Israel. Over a period of two years, these clashes – by legal, political, and discursive means–reached public discussions in news outlets and social media, and these form the corpus of the research. The article shows how along long-established forms of knowledge which underlie different actors’ right to the city–experts’ knowledge, democratic knowledge, market knowledge, and local knowledge–emerges a new kind of knowledge, backed by big-data and algorithms and managed by a quasi-monopolistic platform, which claims a legitimate right to the production of space. Traditionally a right upheld by underprivileged groups and individuals, the right to the city is currently upheld by a socio-technical assemblage.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)74-95
Number of pages22
JournalCultural Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2 Jan 2022

Bibliographical note

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  • Navigation
  • Waze
  • algorithms
  • locative media
  • right to the city
  • spatiality


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