Tag Archives: Data Analytics

CFP After the smart city? The state of critical scholarship ten years on

CFP: AAG Annual Meeting, New Orleans, USA, April 10-14 2018: deadline October 6th.

 ”After the smart city?: The state of critical scholarship ten years on”

Today, the smart city imaginary is a recurring theme within critical urban geography and implies a particular set of rationalities. While it tends to centre upon digital technologies as a means to solve complex urban problems, it is also an entrepreneurial branding and boosting technique for cities. The implementation of smart city strategies transforms how cities operate and has resulted in an array of well-documented critiques around control, privacy, and technological determinist or solutionist visions of the urban.  Furthermore, these data and software-driven solutions are often instrumental: merely treating symptoms, while failing to address the underlying problem. This has led to the idea that smart technologies are a solution looking for a problem.

This session seeks papers that explore approaches, policies, and practices that actively invoke and negotiate these issues, while also situating the smart city within wider, ongoing debates in and beyond urban geography. Thus, this session is not prescriptive and welcomes scholars interested in the smart city, data and digital transformations, digital infrastructure, technocratic and algorithmic governance, and the political economy of cities. In particular, we are interested in thinking through the ‘place’ of smart cities today: what have critical investigations of the topic achieved and where do we go from here?

Areas of potential interest for research papers may include, but are not limited to:

  • The nexus between governance, policy, technological innovation, and power;
  • How smart city initiatives are placed upon existing urban infrastructure and service provisions and the resulting consequences.
  • The role of the smart citizen.
  • The splintering effects of digital technologies.
  • The effects of technologies on everyday processes and environments.
  • Urban entrepreneurialism and the Smart City.

Please send titles and proposed abstracts (250 words max) to Aoife Delaney (Aoife.delaney@mu.ie) and Alan Wiig (alan.wiig@umb.edu) no later than Friday 6 October 2017.


Data and the City workshop, Session 5 videos

The final set of papers in the Data and the City workshop were a great way to end to a fantastic event. The full catalogue of videos are listed on our Project Videos page and can be found through our Vimeo account. Thanks again for all the attendees for making this year’s workshop such a resounding success.

Data Issues

Smart City, Surveillance City: human flourishing in a data-driven urban world

David Murakami Wood, Associate Professor, Canada Research Chair (Tier II) in Surveillance Studies, Department of Sociology and Cross-Appointed in the Department of Geography, Member of the Surveillance Studies Centre, Queens University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada

‘Smart cities’ are characterized by pervasive and distributed sensor networks generating big data for forms of centralized urban management, drawing together such previously unconnected infrastructural systems as video surveillance, meteorological stations, traffic lights and sewage systems. Although presented as largely civic, corporate and managerial, these schemes have a parallel history in military strategic thinking and policing, from crime mapping and predictive policing models, to new forms of urban warfare involving forms of distributed sensor platforms, and computer analytics, to enable forces to get a ‘clear picture’ of the complexities of the urban landscape and its inhabitants. In some cases, these have come together in overt ways, for example in the new ‘Domain Awareness’ initiatives in Oakland, California, and in New York which extends existing port security projects way beyond the military maritime ‘domain’ into the surrounding city and its governance.

Drawing on work in philosophy, science and technology studies, geography and surveillance studies, this paper considers the smart city as the archetypical urban form of the data-driven ubiquitous surveillance society. The paper considers the place of human rights in a broad sense, not simply privacy but also equity, access to services and justice, and ultimately, after Spinoza and Deleuze, the capacity of diverse human beings to flourish, in cities in which people are increasingly monitored, categorized and managed as logistical flows. It suggests some directions from the practices of bottom-up, citizen-centered city hacking initiatives and maker-spaces, but cautions that such practices are already subject to corporate capture and rebranding. The paper concludes that if smart cities are to be a way that big data can serve human flourishing, they need to be detached from narrow techno-economistic purposes and more truly refounded in social-ecological thinking, and this means dismantling many of the surveillance logics that underpin smart cities.

Michel Foucault and the smart city: power dynamics inherent in contemporary governing through code

Francisco Klauser, Assistant Professor, Faculté des lettres et sciences humaines Institut de géographie, Neuchâtel University

Drawing upon Michel Foucault’s approach to power and governmentality, the paper explores the regulatory dynamics inherent in contemporary data-driven forms of regulation and management-at-a-distance of urban systems. More specifically, channelled through Michel Foucault’s concept of ‘security’, the paper portrays ‘governing through data’ not only as fundamentally reality-derived, relative and plural in scope and scale, but also as inherently flexible and fluid in aim and functioning. This in turn raises a series of critical questions with regard to the novel possibilities of differentiation and prioritisation, the actual adequateness, and the very implications of contemporary governing through data.

Empirically speaking, the paper focuses on the study of two high-profile pilot projects in Switzerland in the field of smart electricity management: iSMART and Flexlast. Both projects rely on massive efforts of data generation, interconnection and analysis, thus allowing the critical investigation of the rationales and problems inherent in the management of urban systems through data.

Crime Data and Analytics: Accounting for Crime in the City

Teresa Scassa, Canada Research Chair in Information Law, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa

Crime data are a record of incidents of crime. Such data are routinely compiled by police forces and feed into regional and national crime statistics. Crime data are relied upon in various narratives of crime in society. They are made selectively publicly available as open data and are also increasingly used in visualizations such as urban crime maps. Yet the nature of these data makes uncritical reliance upon them problematic. This paper explores the limits of crime data 21 the constraints on open data as crime data, and the deficiencies of visualizations of crime based on this data. It considers some of the practical, legal and institutional challenges of both expanding and improving these data.

New paper: Locative media and data-driven computing experiments

Sung-Yueh Perng, Rob Kitchin and Leighton Evans have published a new paper entitled ‘Locative media and data-driven computing experiments‘ available as Programmable City Working Paper 16 on SSRN.


Over the past two decades urban social life has undergone a rapid and pervasive geocoding, becoming mediated, augmented and anticipated by location-sensitive technologies and services that generate and utilise big, personal, locative data. The production of these data has prompted the development of exploratory data-driven computing experiments that seek to find ways to extract value and insight from them. These projects often start from the data, rather than from a question or theory, and try to imagine and identify their potential utility. In this paper, we explore the desires and mechanics of data-driven computing experiments. We demonstrate how both locative media data and computing experiments are ‘staged’ to create new values and computing techniques, which in turn are used to try and derive possible futures that are ridden with unintended consequences. We argue that using computing experiments to imagine potential urban futures produces effects that often have little to do with creating new urban practices. Instead, these experiments promote big data science and the prospect that data produced for one purpose can be recast for another, and act as alternative mechanisms of envisioning urban futures.

Keywords: Data analytics, computing experiments, locative media, location-based social network (LBSN), staging, urban future, critical data studies

The paper is available for download here.

Data and the City workshop, Session 4 videos

We’re back again with another set of papers from The Programmable City’s Data and the City workshop. These videos formed a wonderfuld opening session for the second day of the event.

Data Models and the City

Service Oriented Design and Polyglot Binding for Efficient Sharing and Analysing of Data in Cities

Pouria Amirian, Big Data Project Manager and Data Science Research Associate, University of Oxford

Nowadays successful and efficient management of a city depends on how data are collected, shared and transferred within and between various organizations in the city and how data analytics are used for extracting actionable insights for decision making. Since each organization use different platforms, operating systems and software for the above mentioned tasks, data sharing mechanisms should be provided as platform independent services. This platform independent services can then utilized by various users for different purposes. For example for research purpose of universities, for business purposes of industry and commercial companies, for improving the existing services by city council and related organizations and even for facilitating communication between people and policy makers. Platform independency is necessary quality of services for providing interoperability from technical point of view. The interoperability at various levels is an important requirement and vision for public services and it is well defined in initiatives like European Interoperability Framework (EIF) and many national interoperability frameworks. Based on the mentioned frameworks, exchange of data is an ultimate enabler for sharing information and knowledge between organizations.

In addition to platform independency, in order to make the services as resourceful as possible the services need to be designed based on certain principles. The principles for designing services are dependent on the type of applications and users of those services. This paper first describes the concept of service orientation and then explains three different approaches for sharing data and analysis in a city. Finally the paper suggest an architecture (Organizational Service Layer) to implement polyglot binding for flexible, scalable and interoperable implementation of services in a city.

Data About Cities: Redefining Big, Recasting Small

Michael Batty, Professor, Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA), University College London

In this paper, we argue that the development of data with respect to its use in understanding and planning cities is intimately bound up with the development of methods for manipulating such data, in particular digital computation. We argue that although data volumes have dramatically increased as has their variety in urban contexts largely due to the development of micro devices that enable all kinds of human and physical phenomena to be sensed in real time, big data is not peculiar to contemporary times. It essentially goes back to basic notions of how we deal with relationships and functions in cities that relate to interactions. Big data is thus generated by concatenating smaller data sets and in particular if we change our focus from locations to interactions and flows, then data has faced the challenges of bigness for many years. This should make us more careful about defining what is ‘big data’ and to illustrate these points, we first look at traditional interaction patterns – flows of traffic in cities and show some of the problems of searching for pattern in such data. We then augment this discussion of big data by examining much more routine travel data which is sensed from using smart cards for fare-charging and relating this to questions of matching demand and supply in the context of understanding the routine operation of transit. This gives us some sense of the variety of big data and the challenges that are increasingly necessary in dealing with this kind of data in the face of advances in digital computation.

Putting Out Data Fires; life with the OpenStreetMap DWG

Jo Walsh, Registers of Scotland

OpenStreetMap is a collaborative map of the world, being made on a voluntary basis, and the Data Working Group is its dispute resolution service. Edit wars and tagging conflicts are not frequent, and are often dealt with on a community basis, but when they escalate unbearably, someone calls in the DWG. The DWG operates simultaneously as a kind of police force and as the social work arm of the voluntary fire service for OpenStreetMap. I have had the honour of serving on the DWG since November 2014, and will discuss how consideration several cases of active conflict in different cities worldwide, sheds some light on the different forces at work involved in putting together a collaborative map, and the ways in which people are personally affected. The tone of the paper will owe a little to Bruno Latour’s classic infrastructure detective story, “Aramis”.

Data and the City workshop, Session 3 videos

This set of videos make up the final session from the first day of the Data and City workshop. All of the videos from the event are available through our Vimeo account.

Data Analytics and the City

Improving the Veracity of Open and Real-Time Urban Data

Gavin McArdle, Researcher, National Centre for Geocomputation, Maynooth University, Maynooth, Co. Kildare, Ireland

Within the context of the smart city, data are an integral part of the digital economy and are used as input for decision making, policy formation, and to inform citizens, city managers and commercial organisations. Reflecting on our experience of developing real-world software applications which rely heavily on urban data, this article critically examines the veracity of such data (their authenticity and the extent to which they accurately (precision) and faithfully (fidelity, reliability) represent what they are meant to) and how it can be assessed in the absence of quality reports from data providers. While data quality needs to be considered at all aspects of the data lifecycle and in the development and use of applications, open data are often provided ‘as-is’ with no guarantees about their veracity, continuity or lineage (documentation that establishes provenance and fit for use). This allows data providers to share data with undocumented errors, absences, and biases. If left unchecked these data quality issues can propagate through multiple systems and lead to poor smart city applications and unreliable ‘evidence-based’ decisions. This leads to a danger that open government data portals will come to be seen as untrusted, unverified and uncurated data-dumps by users and critics. Drawing on our own experiences we highlight the process we used to detect and handle errors. This work highlights the necessary janitorial role carried out by data scientists and developers to ensure that data are cleaned, parsed, validated and transformed for use. This important process requires effort, knowledge, skill and time and is often hidden in the resulting application and is not shared with other data users. In this paper, we propose that rather than lose this knowledge, in the absence of data providers documenting them in metadata and user guides, data portals should provide a crowdsourcing mechanism to generate and record user observations and fixes for improving the quality of urban data and open government portals.

Blockchain City: Spatial, Social and Cognitive Ledgers

Chris Speed, Chair of Design Informatics, University of Edinburgh

City dashboards are typically representations of a city’s accounts, manifest according to values set by the stakeholders. The currency of the data within a dashboard is typically reduced to an assessment of the performance of services largely derived from quantitative sources. As a consequence, dashboards cannot describe many of the transactions that take place between people, nor can they make explicit the values that are brokered between the myriad of city occupants. Whilst such information displays may be useful for mayors to report on the performance of a local government, or use it to set targets that lead to penalties or bonuses, the city dwellers that are complicit in the production of data are not able to convert the information back into a currency that can inform their actions and transactions.
This paper explores the barriers that current representations of data present for building new currencies through which value may be mediated at the level of the city dweller. By reflecting on the potential of technologies such as a ‘block chain’, the paper asks: if you change the representation of value, can it change the values that you can represent?

The blockchain is a public ledger of all of the transactions that have ever taken place using the Bitcoin currency. The ledger is constantly growing in a linear manner as ‘blocks’ are completed through the recording of transactions. A copy of the blockchain exists not in one place like the transactions of a traditional bank, but across the network of nodes in the Bitcoin system. This decentralised framework offers not only a form of transparency to prevent fraud but also a potential platform through which different values can be represented.

This paper speculates on the implications for the city of the near future as services begin to adopt blockchain technology. The paper reflects on the activities of the technology startup community who have an understanding of the principles of blockchain technologies through their adoption of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. Via studies of various applications of blockchain technology across these groups, the paper will examine how emerging practices could transform our existing conceptions of value and money. The paper foresees the opportunities for the blockchain to change the way that value flows across the city, and hence lead to new economic and social models for city services.

Beyond quantification: a role for citizen science

Muki Haklay, Professor of Geographic Information Science, Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering, University College London

When approaching the issue of Smart Cities, there is a need to question the underlying assumptions at the basis of Smart Cities discourse, and especially to challenge the prevailing thought that only efficiency, costs and productivity are the most important values. We need to ensure that human and environmental values are taken into account in the design and implementation of systems that will influence the way cities operate and governed. While we can accept science as the least worst method to accumulate human knowledge about the natural world, and appreciate its power to explain and act in the world, we need to consider how it is applied within the city in a way that does leave space for cultural, environmental and religious values. The paper will argue that a specific form of collaborative science – citizen science and community science – are especially suitable for making smart cities meaningful and democratic.

Data and the City Workshop

The Programmable City Project is hosting a two day invite-only workshop on the relations between data and the city.  The Data and the City Workshop will take place on August 31st and September 1st 2015 and will bring together 20 invited experts in the field and the ProgCity team.  A description of the workshop and the agenda are below with links to some of the papers to be presented that are already available online:

There is a long history of governments, businesses, science and citizens producing and utilising data in order to monitor, regulate, profit from, and make sense of the urban world.  Data have traditionally been time-consuming and costly to generate, analyze and interpret, and generally provided static, often coarse, snapshots of phenomena.  Recently, however, we have entered the age of big data with data related to knowing and governing cities increasingly become a deluge; a wide, deep torrent of timely, varied, resolute, and relational data.  This has been accompanied by an opening up of state data, and to a much lesser degree business data, and the production of volunteered geographic information.  As a result, evermore aspects of everyday life — work, consumption, travel, communication, leisure — and the worlds we inhabit are being captured as data and mediated through data-driven technologies.   This data revolution has produced multiple challenges that require critical and technical attention — how best to produce, manage, analyze, and make sense of big and open data, data infrastructures and their consequences with respect to urban governance and everyday life. The workshop will examine such critical and technical issues across the five thematic areas of: critically framing data, data infrastructures and platforms, data models and the city, data analytics and the city, ethical and political issues.

 Data and the City Workshop Agenda

 31st August 2015

Session 1/Welcome


Moderator: T. Lauriault

1.1 Rob Kitchin, Introduction & Data-driven, networked urbanism

Session 2

Critically Framing Data


Moderator: T. Lauriault

2.1 Jim Thatcher & Craig Dalton – Provenance and Possibility: thoughts towards a schema for urban data

2.2 Evelyn Ruppert – Where are data citizens?

2.3 Jo Bates – Data cultures, power and the city

Session 3

Data Infrastructures & Platforms


Moderator: L. Evans

3.1 Till Straube – Situating Data Infrastructure

3.2 Martijn de Waal – Understanding the City Through Urban Data

3.3 Tracey Lauriault – Ontologizing the City, From Old School National Cartographic Infrastructure toward a Rules Based Real-World Object Oriented National Database

Session 4

Data Analytics and the City


Moderator: S-Y. Perng

4.1 Gavin McArdle & Rob Kitchin – Improving the Veracity of Open and Real-Time Urban Data

4.2 Chris Speed – Blockchain City: Spatial, Social And Cognitive Ledgers

4.3 Muki Haklay – Beyond Quantification: A Role For Citizen Science And Community Science In A Smart City

1st September 2015

Session 5

Data Models and the City


Moderator: L. Heaphy

5.1 Pouria Amirian- Service Oriented Design and Polyglot Binding for Efficient Sharing and Analysing of Data in Cities

5.2 Mike Batty – Data about Cities: Redefining Big, Recasting Small

5.3 Jo Walsh – Putting Out Data Fires; life with the OpenStreetMap DWG

Session 6

Data Issues


 Moderator: C. Coletta 

6.1 David Wood – Smart City, Surveillance City:  human flourishing in a data-driven urban world

6.2 Francisco Klauser, Till Paasche, Ola Söderström – Michel Foucault and the smart city: power dynamics inherent in contemporary governing through code

6.3 Teresa Scassa – Crime Data and Analytics: Accounting for Crime in the City

Session 7


Moderator: R. Kitchin

7.1 Discussion/Wrap-up