Corporate smart city initiatives are just one example of the contemporary culture of surveillance. They rely on extensive information gathering systems and Big Data analysis to predict citizen behaviour and optimise cit y services. In this paper we argue that many smart city and social media technologies result in a paradox whereby digital inclusion for the purposes of service provision also results in marginalisation and disempowerment of citizens. Drawing upon insights garnered from a digital inclusion workshop conducted in the Galapagos islands, we propose that critically and creatively unpacking the computational techniques embedded in data services is needed as a first step if we are to reimagine neganthropic, sustainable and empowering data services for inhabitants in diverse localities. We propose a therapeutic inspired by the concept of ‘common
ground’ from communication theory. Common ground presupposes a symmetry of purpose, shared values and accessible participation processes. When common ground is deployed in the smart city context it prompts us to re-imagine data services as an ongoing dialogue between peers,
to rethink citizen participation in terms of capabilities and empowerment, and to focus on clear lines of accountability and equality of citizen outcomes.