Category Archives: analysis

Smart Moscow

Last week I visited Moscow to teach a short course and deliver a public lecture on smart cities hosted by the Moscow School of Social and Economic Studies.  In addition, I met some folks from Smart Moscow (part of the Administration of the Mayor and Government of Moscow), Yandex (the Russian Google), Habidatum (urban big data company), Strelka (an institute focusing on media, architecture and design).

smart moscow2The vision of a smart city, as articulated by the city administration, is based on three pillars of smart urban governance: (1) strategic planning using big data to develop and implement real-time adaptive management solutions; (2) sustainable, continuous development based on co-evolution of society and nature aimed at making life better while also reducing the negative impact on the environment; (3) engaging residents in the city’s administration through dialogue and collective decision-making using websites and mobile apps.

The programme has been running for about five years and now consists of suite of different e-government and management services (see Figure below).  These have been developed across a number of departments and agencies and like Dublin the Smart Moscow initiative has drawn these together to create a more coherent narrative, though it is not clear the extent to which they work in any coordinated way or their continued development is being undertaken cooperatively and in alignment.  It also seems that, as yet, there is no fully developed smart city strategy, advisory board or network, or communications programme (for example, the initiative does not appear to have a website in either Russian or English).  There is also a Smart City Lab within the Moscow government that is responsible for an innovation strategy.

My sense was that while the groundwork for Smart Moscow has been laid and there are a number of operational initiatives that Moscovites are familiar with they are largely unaware of Smart Moscow initiative itself.  It will therefore be interesting to see how Smart Moscow unfolds over the next few years and it would certainly be an interesting case study to examine in depth and compare to other European cities.

smart moscow

Rob Kitchin

Working paper – Crafting code: Gender, coding and spatial hybridity in the events of Pyladies Dublin

A working paper by Sophia Maalsen and Sung-Yueh Perng on the subjectivity and spatiality of coding, prepared for Craft Economies: Cultural Economies of the Handmade, edited by Susan Luckman and Nicola Thomas, is available to view.

In the paper, we look at the integration of the digital and the resurgent interest in crafting artefacts. We do this by focusing on the work, relationships and spaces occupied by Pyladies Dublin – a coding group intended for women to learn and ‘craft’ code in the programming language of Python. Pyladies offers an interesting and fruitful case study as it intersects gender, relations of making and places of making, nested firmly within the digital world. The relations of making within the Pyladies group provides salient insight into the production of code, gender and space. Pyladies is predominantly attended by women with the focus to encourage women to become more active members and leaders of the Python community. By producing code in a friendly space, the group also actively works towards producing coding subjectivities and hybrid, mobile spatiality, seeking to produce coding and technology culture that is diverse and gender equitable. We base our ethnographic study to suggest ways in which Pyladies Dublin is consistently engaging in crafting code and crafting coding subjectivity and spatiality.

We thank the generosity of PyLadies Dublin for accommodating us and engaging in very productive conversation in the process.

Sophia and Sung-Yueh

Working paper: The spaces, mobilities and soundings of coding

A short paper has been developed as a pre-print for a chapter in an exciting book Experiencing Networked Urban Mobilities, edited by Katrine Hartmann-Petersen, Emmy Laura Perez Fjalland and Malene Freudendal-Pedersen.

The paper is concerned with embodied experiences, focusing on sounds, of interacting with code and discusses what happened in an introductory workshop to the programming language, Processing, organised by Coding Grace as an example. The paper demonstrates the complexity of organising one’s own experiences according to the logic and reasoning of a specific programming language. I was in the workshop, and the tutor, Stephen Howell, who is the Academic Engagement Manager at Microsoft Ireland, did a fantastic job explaining the code and navigating the participants through the problems they had. The workshop was well-paced, and Stephen planned ahead to ensure everyone could follow the instructions. Therefore, the difficulties that still emerged when participants engaged with the code tell something more than pedagogical styles or approaches. For example, writing code or setting parameters are much more contingent in civic hacking events. Decisions have to be made with partial or limited information, skill sets contingent upon the participants of the day, with time and resources constraints, without knowing fully about the individuals or organisations that can be affected, etc. Some of these issues are discussed in another working paper on the frictions and strategies in civic hacking (paper is here). Further, there are also the issues concerning who these programmers are; how they perceive themselves in relation to their skills and genders; how they organise communities and spaces to support themselves? These are something that Sophia Maalsen and I continue to work on and to share with you again soon.

Have a look at the paper here if interested, and let me know what you think!


Reflecting upon hackathons by their participants

Thomas James Lodato and Carl DiSalvo give a good overview of what hackathons are in their recent article:

Hackathons are rapid design and development events at which volunteer participants come together to conceptualize, prototype, and make (mostly digital) products and services.

Coupling with the rapid pace of conceptualising a product or service, prototyping and making do with limited time and resources during the event, is the competition with other teams for the prizes, ranging from cash rewards to a spot in an incubator programme that could potentially transform the initial idea at a hackathon into a startup success.

We often see coverage of the winning teams, their ideas and sometimes their presentations before the judging panel. However, we do not necessarily know how participants reflect upon their own experiences, problems they encounter along the way and adjustments to their goals and strategies under time pressure.

In this blogpost, we try to give a glimpse of these aspects by asking participants how and what they did in the Global Data Fest/Smart City Hackathon which took place in Dublin between 6 – 8 March, 2015. The videos were taken before the teams presented their ideas to the judges, which means they did not know who were going to win and thus the conversation was not about their ‘winning experiences’. Instead, the videos are about how they took into account of all sorts of challenges and the advice they received from the mentors to finish their project. In doing so, we also wish to create cultural memory for the participants and for one the various pursuits of transforming Dublin into a smart city.

Here they are!

Project: Life Tracking

Project: EmuLUX

Project: CityBuzz

Project: BikeRack

Project: Bintel

Project: BedCount

We thank the participants and also David Prendergast from Intel, who also gave a talk for our seminar series, for making the videos happen.


Unpacking Dublin as an emergent smart city

The Smart Dublin (SD) initiative has been promoted by Dublin City Council in collaboration with the other three local authorities of the Dublin city region to identify “open challenges” and to “drive innovation and collaboration in the development of new urban solutions, using open data and with the city region as a test bed”. (1)

Since its commencement in June 2015, the Smart Dublin initiative has conducted four one-day workshops with the employees from each local authority (Dublin City Council, Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council, Fingal County Council, South Dublin County Council) to draw on their practical knowledge of the challenges facing the Dublin region, as well as to note all the existing cases of smart city technologies and practices in each area for a new website,, explaining Dublin’s merits as a Smart City and the challenges ahead.

From June to December of 2015, a number of case studies (2) and challenges have been collected and identified, and then further studied by Prog City project researchers to create case study texts for The ‘soft launch’ of was on the 5th of October 2015 with a number of these case studies, and the final, more complete, website will be launched on the 8th of March, 2016, at Dublin City Hall.

Wow! Tickets for @smartdublin launch event snapped up in a few hours.We want you there!Last few tickets click here

— SmartDublin (@smartdublin) February 19, 2016

SD intends to act as a driver and connector for a step-change, coordinative transformation in Dublin’s smart city policies, moving from an approach based on the ‘creative city’ and entrepreneurism towards a larger emphasis on service delivery and efficiency, although keeping the link with start-ups and open innovation processes as well as developing different forms of procurement and the deployment of smart technology in an urban setting.

In particular, a specific form of procurement, called “procurement by challenge”, has been adopted by SD from Citymart, a consultancy agency located in Barcelona. Traditionally, procurement is based on identifying both problem and its solution, and then tendering for the chosen solution. In contrast, “Procurement by Challenge” is based upon, firstly, identifying problems as “open challenges to entrepreneurs and citizens”, and secondly, seeking the solutions themselves using this process, awarding the actual development contract to the team which came up with the best solution. (3)

Thus conceived, SD is at the centre of various events and projects occurring in Dublin since autumn 2015 (Web Summit, SD soft launch, Open Agile Smart Cities seminar, Future of Cities seminar, Smart City tour, Smart District etc.). Its mandate is to provide a platform for smart city governance and innovation in order to make Dublin a global player in smart cities and the Internet of Things, while coping at the same time with the limited role of the public sector in urban transformation due to the recent recession and related austerity drive and the commensurate need to reduce the costs of public services.

The new ‘smart city atmosphere’ created and promoted through SD shows the following interrelated features, marking a significant change in the how Dublin tackles governance and innovation:

  • a challenge-driven form of urban innovation: it reframes the procurement relations between public and private sector to mobilise resources focused on “problems instead of solutions” and to establish shared governance practices and standards;
  • a test-bedding approach: urban space becomes a distributed laboratory in which to test smart city technologies based on big data and the Internet of Things, creating test sites that might help solve challenges faced by Dublin; “allowing to explore smart city solutions in a space small enough to trial and wide enough to prove”;
  • mutable scales: a shift from the Dublin city core to the Dublin city region scale as a joint endeavour of the four local authorities. This changes to the scale of “networked cities” when confronting with the global settings,  such as in the case of Open Agile Smart Cities.

A number of recently initiated ProgCity case study projects aim to explore how these changes affect Dublin urban space and management, starting from the settings where the new forms of procurement and test-bedding are generated and adopted

The objective is to understand how smart city management ideas circulate and interact with the adoption of smart technologies, thus shaping Dublin organizational, technological and everyday settings. Research will focus on different processes occurring in test-bed and procurement:

  • accidental smart urbanism through multiple co-existing, co-evolving and conflicting forms of algorithmic governance applied to traffic control, environmental monitoring and crowd management;
  • anticipation and demonstration as coordination devices and performative devices: how procurement and testbedding embody and enact anticipation and demonstration dynamics, how they interact with the spatial change of scale of Dublin and perform its specific material, social, cultural urban arrangements and finally how they make sense of accidental and fragmented smart city landscape.

Two other projects are looking at existing and emerging Smart City case studies in Dublin:

  • Real-Time Passenger Information (RTPI): this looks at the interaction between code and space resulting from the implementation of this technology into Dublin’s transport systems. This case study will seek to examine a real-world data assemblage in relation to how data flows interact with spatial flows;
  • Smart Districts: this work follows an emerging project that seeks to harness the large-scale urban developments in the Dublin Docklands as an exemplar for trialling smart technologies. This will look at how smart technologies become part of urban masterplanning in the context of a large urban development with many actors involved in planning and decision-making.

These two projects will examine real-world examples of transduction and translation; how the city interacts with code, each continually reshaping the other. In the case of RTPI, this is concerned with how code and physical movement interact, and in the case of Smart Districts, how urban space is co-configured with smart technologies.

Together, these projects will seek to unpack Dublin as an emerging ‘Smart City’, following how the concept itself takes form through the interplay of new technologies and new ways of procurement. Also, they will look at how urban big data are tested and used to regulate and shape the temporal and spatial dimension of urban space, as well as social relations.

Claudio Coletta, Liam Heaphy


(1) SD report “Local authority challenge identification workshops” (2015, unpublished).



Robinson Crusoe dreams of big data

I’ve just come across a very nice passage from Michael Tournier’s 1967 novel, Friday; or, The Other Island (a retelling of the Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe), which seems to capture perfectly the desire of big data projects and I thought worth sharing:

I demand, I insist, that everything around me shall henceforth be measured, tested, certified, mathematical, and rational. One of my tasks must be to make a full survey of the island, its
distances and its contours, and incorporate all these details in an accurate surveyor’s map. I should like every plant to be labeled, every bird to be ringed, every animal to be branded. I
shall not be content until this opaque and impenetrable place, filled with secret ferments and malignant stirrings, has been transformed into a calculated design, visible and intelligible to
its very depths!

I discovered it in Anne Galloway and Matthew Ward’s piece: Locative Media as Socialising and Spatialising Practices: Learning from Archaeology.