The Conjoined Spectacles of the “Smart Super Bowl”

  • Renee Shelby Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Sarah Barnes Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Nassim Parvin Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Mary G. McDonald
Keywords: smart city, Super Bowl LIII, Atlanta, security technology, surveillance, predictive policing


This essay examines the Super Bowl and the smart city as conjoined spectacles. A focused case study on Super Bowl LIII and its staging in Atlanta, Georgia in 2019 allows us to investigate how the use of cutting-edge smart technologies, including cameras, sensors, artificial intelligence, image recognition, and data collection techniques to secure Mercedes Benz stadium naturalizes a broader anticipatory logic of state and corporate intervention, often evoked in the name of public safety and terrorism-prevention. Together the spectacles of sport and smart technologies gloss over systemic inequality and legitimize security infrastructures as well as related ideas that social problems such as a lack of affordable housing, police brutality, and environmental degradation are best addressed through technological solutions. Foregrounding the conjoined spectacles of the smart city and Super Bowl problematizes seemingly necessary security processes and social relations among people, events, technologies, and cities, inviting further research and discussions necessary for strengthening critical interventions and theorizing in these areas. 

Author Biographies

Renee Shelby, Georgia Institute of Technology

Renee Shelby recently received her PhD in History and Sociology from the Georgia Institute of Technology, and will begin a postdoctoral fellowship in Nortwestern’s Gender and Sexuality Studies program in the fall of 2020. Shelby’s research examines the socio-legal dimensions of surveillance technologies, with particular attention to how these structures co-produce in/equity in terms of race, gender, and class.

Sarah Barnes, Georgia Institute of Technology

Sarah Barnes is Postdoctoral Fellow in the Sports, Society, and Technology Program in the School of History and Sociology at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Her research focuses on athlete welfare and debates about science and technology in sports. Barnes is working on several manuscripts that explore how sleep enhancing products and technologies are taken up in athletic settings.

Nassim Parvin, Georgia Institute of Technology

Nassim Parvin is an Associate Professor of Digital Media in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Parvin’s research explores the ethical and political dimensions of design and technology.

Mary G. McDonald

Mary G. McDonald is Professor and Homer C. Rice Chair of Sports and Society in the School of History and Sociology at the Georgia Institute of Technology. McDonald’s research focuses on inequality and sports.

26 Jun 2020
Critical Engagements