Author Archives: Liam Heaphy

Boston fieldwork

Boston and Brookline from the tower in Mount Auburn Cemetery.

Boston from the tower in Mount Auburn Cemetery

From April 2nd to 30th five of the Programmable City team travelled to Boston (or rather as we quickly learned the Metro-Boston area, which is a conglomerate of 101 municipalities) to undertake fieldwork, staying in Cambridge.  Over the course of a busy month the team:

  • conducted 75 interviews/focus groups;
  • had 25 informal meetings;
  • undertook participant observation at 3 civic hacks;
  • were given 4 tours of facilities and 2 of the city;
  • presented 7 invited talks (at MIT (3), Harvard, Northeastern, UMass Boston and Analog Devices);
  • attended 8 other workshops/conferences (Bits and Bricks at MIT; Using Technology to Engage Constituents and Improve Governance at Northeastern; Civic Media meetup at MIT; Urban Mobility in Green Cities at Boston Univ; Microsoft Civic Innovation; Climate Change Policy after Paris at Boston Univ; Digital GeoHumanities at Harvard; City Mart at NY Civic Hall).

The interviews were conducted with a range of different stakeholders including municipal, regional and state-level government officials, various agencies, university researchers, and companies.  The research focused on mapping out the smart city landscape in general terms, with a particular in-depth focus on various data-driven initiatives in the metro area, transportation solutions, civic hacking, the development of civic tech, procurement of smart city technologies, and emergency management response.

Along with the 29 interviews conducted on previous visits, we now have a rich dataset of over 100 interviews to analyse in order to make sense of the Boston Metro area’s use of smart city technologies and to compare with Dublin (for which we have a couple of hundred interviews).  That said, we’ve not quite finished with the fieldwork and a couple of team members will be back at some point to extend their work.  We’ll also be returning for the Association of American Geographers conference which is being held in Boston in 2017 to present some of our findings.

We would like to thank everyone who agreed to take part in our research and for generously sharing their knowledge, insights and time, and also for helping to introduce us to other potential interviewees and generally steer us in the right direction.  We very much appreciate the excellent hospitality we received during our visit.  The next task is to get all the interviews transcribed and to start the coding work.  No small task!

Rob Kitchin

Rachel O’Dwyer – Governance by Design: The Case of Blockchains

Dr. Rachel O’Dwyer presented here on the 9th December (see poster), talking about the history of the blockchain and its relevance to governance. She talked about the relationship between peer-to-peer systems such as the blockchain in relation to our concepts of ‘governance’, ‘trust’ and ‘democracy’, stimulating an interesting discussion on how these concepts are reconceived in relation to this new form of digital infrastructure.

Along with our previous seminars from 2015, you can see the presentation below:

Seminar – Governance by Design: The Case of Blockchains

We are delighted to have Dr. Rachel O’Dwyer as a guest speaker on Wednesday 9th December at 1pm, Iontas Building, room 1.33 for the third of our Programmable City seminars this semester.

Rachel is the holder of an Irish Research Council post-doctoral fellowship in Maynooth University, where she is preparing a book based on her thesis focused on the political economy and historical development of mobile networks. She is the founding editor-in-chief of the peer-reviewed journal Interference and leader of the Dublin Art and Technology Association.  She is curator of the Openhere conference and festival, and member of the peer-to-peer foundation, coordinating the P2P academic research network with Penny Travlou.

Rachel will be talking about the implications of the blockchain for peer-to-peer governance; a blockchain being a form of decentralised digital database mostly associated with the cryptocurrency BitCoin.

Flyer - Rachel O'Dwyer