Tag Archives: civic hacking

New paper: Living Labs, vacancy, and gentrification

Paolo Cardullo and Rob Kitchin have published a new working paper: ‘Living Labs, vacancy, and gentrification‘ on SocArXiv. It was prepared for the ‘The New Urban Ruins: Vacancy and the Post-Crisis City’ workshop, 1-3 March 2017, Trinity College Dublin.

This paper evaluates smart city (SC) initiatives in the context of re-using vacant property. More specifically, we focus on living labs (LL) and vacancy in general, as well as on their potential role in fostering creative economy-fuelled gentrification. LL utilise Lo-Fi technologies to foster local digital innovation and support community-focused civic hacking, running various kinds of workshops and engaging with local citizens to co-create digital interventions and apps aimed at ‘solving’ local issues. Five approaches to LL are outlined and discussed in relation to vacancy and gentrification: pop-up initiatives, university-led activities, community organised venues/activities, citizen sensing and crowdsourcing, and tech-led regeneration initiatives. Notwithstanding the potential for generating temporary and independent spaces for transferring and fostering digital competences and increasing citizens’ participation in the SC, we argue that LL largely foster a form of participation framed within a model of civic stewardship for ‘smart citizens’. While presented as horizontal, open, and participative, LL and civic hacking are often rooted in pragmatic and paternalistic discourses and practices related to the production of a creative economy and a specific version of SC. As such, by encouraging a particular kind of re-use of vacant space, LL potentially contributes to gentrification pressures within locales by attracting the creative classes and new investment. We discuss these approaches and issues generally and with respect to examples in Dublin, Ireland.

Key words: vacancy, property, gentrification, living labs, civic hacking, creative class, regeneration

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New paper on frictions in civic hacking

Drawing on postcolonial technoscience and particularly the notion of ‘frictions’, Sung-Yueh Perng and Rob Kitchin analyse how solutions are worked up, challenged and changed in civic hacking events. The paper is published in Social & Cultural Geography and is entitled Solutions and frictions in civic hacking: collaboratively designing and building wait time predictions for an immigration office. There are still eprints available for free via the link: http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/SSWBCcCech3hezdgIFZp/full. For more details about the paper, the abstract is pasted below.

Abstract: Smart and data-driven technologies seek to create urban environments and systems that can operate efficiently and effortlessly. Yet, the design and implementation of such technical solutions are full of frictions, producing unanticipated consequences and generating turbulence that foreclose the creation of friction-free city solutions. In this paper, we examine the development of solutions for wait time predictions in the context of civic hacking to argue that a focus on frictions is important for establishing a critical understanding of innovation for urban everyday life. The empirical study adopted an ethnographically informed mobile methods approach to follow how frictions emerge and linger in the design and production of queue predictions developed through the civic hacking initiative, Code for Ireland. In so doing, the paper charts how solutions have to be worked up and strategies re-negotiated when a shared motivation meets different data sources, technical expertise, frames of understanding, urban imaginaries and organisational practices; and how solutions are contingently stabilised in technological, motivational, spatiotemporal and organisational specificities rather than unfolding in a smooth, linear, progressive trajectory.

Call for paper: Data driven cities? Digital urbanism and its proxies

We are organising a special issues on data-driven cities. You can find more details below and we look forward to your proposals.


Tecnoscienza. Italian Journal of Science and Technology Studies



Guest editors:

Claudio Coletta (Maynooth University)

Liam Heaphy (Maynooth University)

Sung-Yueh Perng (Maynooth University)

Laurie Waller (Technische Universität München)

Call for papers:

In the last few decades, data and software have become an integral part of urban life, producing a radical transformation of social relations in cities. Contemporary urban environments are characterised by dense arrangements of data, algorithms, mobile devices, and networked infrastructures. Multiple technologies (such as smart metering, sensing networks, GPS transponders, CCTV, induction loops, and mobile apps) are connected with numerous processes (such as institutional data management, data brokering, crowdsourcing, and workflow management), in order to provide sustainable, efficient, and integrated city governance and services. Accordingly, big data and algorithms have started to play a prominent role in informing decision-making and in performing the spatial, material, and temporal dimensions of cities.

Smart city initiatives undertaken globally are characterised by highlighting the purported benefits of partly automating management of public services, new forms of civic engagement enabled by digital infrastructures, and the potentials for innovating policy and fostering economic development.

Yet, contributions within STS, Critical Data Studies, Geography, Sociology, Media Studies and Anthropology have contested the neutral and apolitical nature of (big) data and the ahistorical, aspatial, homogenizing vision of cities in favour of an understanding that recognizes the situated multiplicity of actual digital urbanism. The politics of data, data analytics and visualizations perform within specific urban and code assemblages embodying specific versions of real-time and anticipatory governance. At the same time, these studies highlight the risks of dataveillance as well as the corporatisation of governance and technocratic solutionism which, especially coupled with austerity regimes, seem to reinforce inequalities while influencing people’s lives out of the public grasp. Within this context, vested interests interact in a multi-billion global market where corporations, companies and start-ups propose data-driven urban solutions, while public administrations increasingly delegate control over citizens’ data. Also, public institutions and private companies leverage the efforts of open data movements, engaged civic communities and citizen-minded initiatives to find new ways to create public and economic value from urban data.

The aim of this special issue is therefore to encourage critical and transdisciplinary debates on the epistemological and ontological implications of actual data-driven urbanism: its uncertain, fragile, contested, conflicting nature; the different forms of performing and making sense of the urban environment through data and algorithms; the different ways to approach the relationship between data, software and cities; the urban and code assemblages that are produced.

To what extent cities are understandable through data? How do software and space work in urban everyday life and urban management? How do data and policies actually shape each other? What forms of delegation, enrolment and appropriation take place?

We welcome theoretical and empirical contributions critically addressing the following (non-exhaustive-list-of) topics:

- urban big data, city dashboards;

- data analytics and data brokering;

- IoT based urban services;

- predictive analytics and anticipatory governance;

- civic hacking, open data movements;

- privacy, security and surveillance in data-driven cities;

- crowd, mobility and traffic management;

- sensors, monitoring, mapping and modelling for urban facilities;

- digitization of built environment.


Deadline for abstract submissions: June 30th, 2016

Abstracts (in English) with a maximum length of 1000 words should be sent as email attachments to redazione@tecnoscienza.net and carbon copied to the guest editor at datadrivencities@tecnoscienza.net. Notification of acceptance will be communicated by July 2016.

Deadline for full submissions: October 15th, 2016.

Submissions (in English with a maximum length of 8000 words, including notes and references) can be made via the Journal’s submission system at www.tecnoscienza.net and an electronic copy of the article should be sent to redazione@tecnoscienza.net. The papers will be subject to a blind peer refereed review process. The special issue is expected to be published in 2017.

For further information about the special issue, contact the guest editors at datadrivencities@tecnoscienza.net.

For further information about the Journal please visit the Journal’s web site at http://www.tecnoscienza.net.

Claudio, Liam, Sung-Yueh and Laurie

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.


New paper: Solutions, Strategies and Frictions in Civic Hacking

A new paper by Sung-Yueh Perng and Rob Kitchin – Solutions, Strategies and Frictions in Civic Hacking  – has been published on SSRN as Programmable City Working Paper 10.  The abstract runs thus:

Through the development and adoption of technical solutions to address city issues the smart city seeks to create effortless and friction-free environments and systems. Yet, the design and implementation of such technical solutions are friction-rich endeavours which produce unanticipated consequences and generate turbulence that foreclose the creation of friction-free city solutions. In this paper we argue that a focus on frictions is important for understanding civic hacking and the role of social smart citizens, providing an account of frictions in the development of a smart city app. The empirical study adopted an ethnographically informed mobile methods approach to follow how frictions emerge and linger in the design and production of a queuing app developed through civic hacking. In so doing, the paper charts how solutions have to be worked up and strategies re-negotiated when a shared motivation meets differing skills, perspectives, codes or designs; how solutions are contingently stabilised in technological, motivational, spatiotemporal and organisational specificities rather than unfolding in a smooth, linear, progressive trajectory.

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