Predictive Cities

Manu Luksch

Medium: Video
Issues: Africa, Drone Footage, Mapping, and Urban Space

Project Links


The video Predictive Cities emerged out of a period of workshops, papers, and online tools published here http://predictive.cityabc.xyz The shaping of the urban space – most recently implemented in the form of “smart city” technologies – has been and still is the domain of men – bringing with them a narrow set of priorities such as acceleration, predictability and profitability. My work renders a different image of this latest urban transformation – one of a hollow city, vulnerable and calling for agency. For the creation of the urban scans, we mapped neighborhoods of Dakar, Senegal, with a 4K cam mounted on a drone. I wanted to develop a visual metaphor, that could support the work’s exploration of the loss of autonomy in a hyper-networked and surveilled world (or smart city), where transparency is not necessarily the base for accountability but the vulnerability experienced by glass citizens. Hence, the choice to work with point clouds, composed of uncountable points – data points – but much harder to post-produce than 3D mesh models. We used Perl to create a code that would allow me to affect the point clouds, as a further metaphor for the data-driven manipulation of public urban space.

As a female artist and filmmaker working in the intersection of art, data politics and surveillance, my work has continuously contributed a critical voice to the rapid developments in the name of technology-led progress. We live in an age of unprecedented quantification – never before have cities, and our lives, been subject to so much probing, measurement, and analysis, enabling a shift towards automation and machine learning. Multi-sensory, hyperconnected, algorithmic systems are bringing sweeping changes to the urban fabric, and all our daily lives. Recognizing the urgent need for a new visual language to represent the contemporary, data-driven ‘predictive city’, I have developed a hybrid method using photogrammetry, volumetric filmmaking, and code-based manipulation. Through its auratic and poetic use of computational imaging technologies, the moving image piece questions the limitations and errors of algorithmic representations.


Manu Luksch is an Austrian filmmaker, artist, activist, and researcher, whose practice interrogates conceptions of progress with a strong emphasis on research, participation, and new forms of engagement. She has been researching the effects of emerging technologies on daily life, social relations, urban space, and political structures for the past 20 years. Her current focus is on corporate-governmental relationships and the social effects of predictive analytics in the algorithmic city. Her work is included in the Collection de Centre Pompidou, the BFI National Archive, and the Core Collection at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences; she is a Resident Artist at Somerset House, and was formerly an Open Society Fellow and visiting Fellow at Goldsmiths, University of London. Luksch’s awards include the ZONTA Award, at the 65th Kurzfilmfest Oberhausen 2019; Open Media Award 2019; Best Feature at the Moscow International Documentary Film Festival 2016; Elevate Artivism award 2015; and the M. v. Willemer Prize by Ars Electronica Centre and City of Linz.