Tag Archives: data

New book: Data and the City

data and the cityA new book – Data and the City – edited by Rob Kitchin, Tracey Lauriault and Gavin McArdle has been published by Routledge as part of the Regions and Cities series.  The book is one of the outputs from a Progcity workshop in late 2015.

There is a long history of governments, businesses, science and citizens producing and utilizing data in order to monitor, regulate, profit from and make sense of the urban world. Recently, we have entered the age of big data, and now many aspects of everyday urban life are being captured as data and city management is mediated through data-driven technologies.

Data and the City is the first edited collection to provide an interdisciplinary analysis of how this new era of urban big data is reshaping how we come to know and govern cities, and the implications of such a transformation. This book looks at the creation of real-time cities and data-driven urbanism and considers the relationships at play. By taking a philosophical, political, practical and technical approach to urban data, the authors analyse the ways in which data is produced and framed within socio-technical systems. They then examine the constellation of existing and emerging urban data technologies. The volume concludes by considering the social and political ramifications of data-driven urbanism, questioning whom it serves and for what ends. It will be crucial reading for those who wish to understand and conceptualize urban big data, data-driven urbanism and the development of smart cities.

The book includes chapters by Martijn De Waal, Mike Batty, Teresa Scassa, Jim Thatcher and Craig Dalton, Jim Merricks White, Dietmar Offenhuber, Pouria Amirian and Anahid Bassiri, Chris Speed Deborah Maxwell and Larissa Pschetz, Till Straube, Jo Bates, Evelyn Ruppert, Muki Haklay, as well as the editors.

Data and the City is available in both paperback and hardback and is a companion volume to Code and the City published last year.

New paper in Geoforum – The praxis and politics of building urban dashboards

Rob Kitchin, Sophia Maalsen and Gavin McArdle have a new paper published in Geoforum titled ‘The praxis and politics of building urban dashboards’.  It is open access with this link until early Dec.

Abstract: This paper critically reflects on the building of the Dublin Dashboard – a website built by two of the authors that provides citizens, planners, policy makers and companies with an extensive set of data and interactive visualizations about Dublin City, including real-time information – from the perspective of critical data studies. The analysis draws upon participant observation, ethnography, and an archive of correspondence to unpack the building of the dashboard and the emergent politics of data and design. Our findings reveal four main observations. First, a dashboard is a complex socio-technical assemblage of actors and actants that work materially and discursively within a set of social and economic constraints, existing technologies and systems, and power geometries to assemble, produce and maintain the website. Second, the production and maintenance of a dashboard unfolds contextually, contingently and relationally through transduction. Third, the praxis and politics of creating a dashboard has wider recursive effects: just as building the dashboard was shaped by the wider institutional landscape, producing the system inflected that landscape. Fourth, the data, configuration, tools, and modes of presentation of a dashboard produce a particularised set of spatial knowledges about the city. We conclude that rather than frame dashboard development in purely technical terms, it is important to openly recognize their contested and negotiated politics and praxis.

Call for paper: 4S/EASST track on Data-driven Cities? Digital urbanism and its proxies

We are organising a track for the 4S/EASST conference this year in Barcelona. Please consider submit an abstract to our track on Data-driven cities? Digital urbanism and its proxies. Deadline for submission is 21 February 2016, so there is still time! More details about the track and how to submit:

Short description
The track explores the digital, data-driven and networked making of urban environment. We welcome contributions in various formats: presentations, audio, video and photographic accounts, as well as performances and live demonstrations of public interfaces and software tools for urban analysis.

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, enrollment and appropriation take place?

Contemporary urban environments are characterised by dense arrangements of data, algorithms, mobile device, networked infrastructures. Multiple technologies (such as smart metering, sensing networks, GPS, CCTV, induction loops, mobile apps) are connected with multiple processes (such as institutional data management, data brokering, crowdsourcing, workflow management), aiming to provide sustainable, efficient, integrated city governance and services.

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.

However, the making of digital and data-driven urbanism is uncertain, fragile, contested, conflicting. The track intends to stimulate the debate on: 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.

We welcome theoretical and empirical contributions critically addressing the following (non-exhaustive-list-of) topics:
- urban big data, dashboards, data analytics and brokering;
- IoT based urban services and 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.

To Submit:
Go to the webpage of the track, click on “Propose paper“, and you will be directed to the abstract detail and submission page.

Paper proposals should include: a paper title (no more than 10 words); author/co-authors; a short abstract (maximum 300 characters including spaces) and a long one (up to 250 words). The long abstract will be shown on the web and the short one is what will be displayed in the conference programme.

For more details about submission, please visit http://www.sts2016bcn.org/call-for-papers/

Claudio Coletta (NIRSA, Programmable City), claudio.coletta@nuim.ie
Liam Heaphy (NIRSA, Programmable City), liam.heaphy@nuim.ie
Sung-Yueh Perng (NIRSA, Programmable City), sung-yueh.perng@nuim.ie
Laurie Waller (TUM, MCTS), l.waller@tum.de

If you have any question about the track, please do not hesitate to contact us. We look forward to receiving your abstracts!

Data and the City workshop, Session 2 videos

The second set of videos from The Programmable City’s recent workshop, Data and the City focus on Data Infrastructures and Platforms.

Situating Data Infrastructures

Till Straube, Researcher, Workgroup Boeckler, Department of Human Geography, Goethe University Frankfurt

In this paper I seek to critically engage with ICT – specifically digital infrastructures (like programming languages, database software, data formats, protocols, APIs, etc.) – on their own terms: by closely reading documentation materials, technical specifications, and code. I will outline a possible mode of inquiry that avoids relegating digital technologies to mere mediators of the social, or resorting to other grand abstractions. The entry point here is the problem of space: how can we account for the overflowing of spatial frames of reference by digital technologies without resorting to notions of immateriality? The approach set out insists on the metaphysical nature of the digital/physical dichotomy (among others) and proposes a radically materialist first analysis of ICT. In a next step, the problems of space and context are explored through an analytic lens building on assemblage theory, following the methodological principles of symmetry and free association. Taking further cues from science and technology studies (STS), the possibility of a topological reading of digital phenomena is explored, and in a final step extended by reading it against a diverse set of additional texts and brief examples.

Understanding the City through Urban Data

Martijn De Waal, Researcher ‘Citizen Empowerment’ Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences; Assistant professor Media Studies University of Amsterdam

The data revolution (Kitchin, 2014) has brought us an enormous increase in the production of all sorts of data about all kinds of aspects of urban life, assembled, reworked and published (or kept secret) by various actors, from state bureaucracies and companies to citizens. One of the promises of the potential availability of these data is that they are to empower citizens in the process of ‘city making’. Data about all kinds of urban processes, so goes the rationale, will give citizens more insight into salient issues. These insights can lead to either knowledge about opportunities to act upon or they can be used in political negotiations with other actors, e.g. local governments or companies in for instance debates about air or noise pollution. As such it could lead to an increase of ‘ownership’ (De Lange & De Waal, 2013), a sense of belonging to and responsibility for one’s social and spatial structures. Alternatively, these data can be understood as a new public sphere, or at least as ‘accountability technologies’, instruments to be used in the process of urban governance by both citizens and institutions (Offenhuber & Schechtner, 2012;2013).

However, as amongst others Bates (2012) and Dawes and Helbig (2010) have pointed out, data by itself doesn’t automatically produce such a new public sphere. Accessibility of data is an issue, but also the organization and structure of the data are important aspects, as well as issues of data literacy.

In this contribution I would like to explore the relationship between urban data and the urban public sphere further. To what extent and under what circumstances can we understand urban data as a contribution to the urban public sphere? I will explore this question from a theoretical perspective, illustrated by the experiences in our own currently running research through design project The Hackable City. Collaborative Citymaking in Urban Living Lab Buiksloterham.

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

Tracey P. Lauriault, Assistant Professor, Critical Media and Big Data, Communication Studies, Department of Journalism and Communications, Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

A Programmable City case study is ongoing and being conducted with Ordnance Survey Ireland (OSi) as part of Work Package 2 which is about How are digital data (and software) materially and discursively supported and processed about cities and their citizens?

OSi is undergoing a revolutionary technological transformation. OSi is discontinuing its tile or layer based digital cartographic mapping infrastructure and is moving toward and is operationalizing a seamless, scale independent object oriented model. It is also moving toward developing a national real-world spatial data platform. The nation’s framework geography has been re-engineered, ‘databased’, reclassified and re-modelled. A new infrastructure is being deployed, new capture data work flows are being institutionalized, new maps will soon be generated and clients, which include utilities, private sector companies and government departments at all levels will be interoperating with this new technology as the old process is phased out.

This paper will therefore discuss the methodology by which this case study is being conducted, the two frameworks structuring the research, namely the Kitchin Assemblage Framework which guides the study of the OSi’s national mapping infrastructure, the Modified Hacking Framework of Making up Spaces which provides an approach to interrogate the material implications of the data model, and a method to assess if the change from the cartographic mapping classification system to the real-world feature objected oriented database transforms how space is conceptualized and imagined and if so what are the material outcomes, not only operationally and procedurally with the actors involved, but assessing if this changes spatial practices?

In addition, a specific set of iconic ‘things’ in the city of Dublin were selected in consultation with member of the OSi, and these ‘things’ will be examined across time and space within the Prime cartographic classification system and the new Prime2 data model, and across old and new software systems. These ‘things’ will be situated within their specific socio-technical contexts and assemblage. The re-modelling of the nation’s mapping infrastructure did not happen overnight and the data-model was not constructed in vacuum. Data modelling can be said to have started in the late 1960s, while specific discussions for the OSi began in the mid to late 1990s with Ordnance Survey UK and NI, and potentially the technological trajectory may have been set with the long term adoption Oracle databases. For the OSi and official starting point can be said to be just prior to the launch of the competitive bidding process which started somewhere in early 2001.

In order to better understand the evolution and the construction of the data modelling process, a genealogy of the constructed real-world feature database will also be carried out. It is thought, that the mixed method approach to this case study will allow for a multi-scalar and a nested analysis of the infrastructure, the knowledge and space producing aspects of the classification systems and the data modelling process itself.

Preliminary and intensive data collection began in the spring of 2015, interviews have just been transcribed, documents have been assembled and are being recorded to facilitate qualitative analysis, and the collection of digital objects for Dublin has begun. Analytical work is scheduled to begin in the fall and winter of 2015-2016. An iterative approach to this research will be ongoing in collaboration and consultation with the OSi and the Programmable City PI for the next three years. This paper will not be able to discuss results, however it is hoped that an engaged discussion about the methodology and the preliminary description of the research can be had with participants.

Data and the City workshop, Session 1 videos

Thank you to everyone who attended our 2015 workshop Data and the City in early September. It was a fantastic event. Over the next few days we will make the video recordings of the presentations available online.

Here is the introduction to the workshop and the first session, Critically Framing Data.

Opening talk

Data-driven, networked urbanism

Rob Kitchin, NIRSA, Maynooth University

For as long as data have been generated about cities various kinds of data-informed urbanism have been occurring. In this paper, I argue that a new era is presently unfolding wherein data-informed urbanism is increasingly being complemented and replaced by data-driven, networked urbanism. Cities are becoming ever more instrumented and networked, their systems interlinked and integrated, and vast troves of big urban data are being generated and used to manage and control urban life in real-time. Data-driven, networked urbanism, I contend, is the key mode of production for what have widely been termed smart cities. In this paper I provide a critical overview of data-driven, networked urbanism and smart cities focusing in particular on the relationship between data and the city (rather than network infrastructure or computational or urban issues), and critically examine a number of urban data issues including: the politics of urban data; data ownership, data control, data coverage and access; data security and data integrity; data protection and privacy, dataveillance, and data uses such as social sorting and anticipatory governance; and technical data issues such as data quality, veracity of data models and data analytics, and data integration and interoperability. I conclude that whilst data-driven, networked urbanism purports to produce a commonsensical, pragmatic, neutral, apolitical, evidence-based form of responsive urban governance, it is nonetheless selective, crafted, flawed, normative and politically-inflected. Consequently, whilst data-driven, networked urbanism provides a set of solutions for urban problems, it does so within limitations and in the service of particular interests.

Session 1: Critically Framing Data

Provenance and Possibility: Critically Framing Data

Jim Thatcher, ssistant Professor, Division of Urban Studies, University of Washington – Tacoma

‘Big data’s’ boosters present a mythology wherein it is perpetually new, pushing ever-forwards towards bigger and better representations of the world. Similarly, the vision of the “smart city” is inevitably an ahistorical imaginary of data-intense urban planning and coordination. Data sources, actually existing data, appear in the literature as uncritical, pre-existing, and decontextualized representations of the world to be exploited in service to a techno-utopian urban. The sources of data, its provenance, recede into a technical issue: one in a litany of hurdles to be overcome through austere, computational methodologies. Such technical approaches to provenance efface the intentionality of data creators. They leave out the inscription of meaning that goes into data objects as socio-technical, emergent indicators at urban scales and instead seats them as objective reality. Using a critical data studies approach, this paper connects and contextualizes the conditions of data’s production with its potential uses in the world. Data provenance, the where, how, and from whom data is produced, is intrinsically linked to how it comes to (re)present the world. This exploration serves as the first steps in developing a schema that includes mobile devices, municipal services, and other categories and tie that to the historical ideologies through which these technologies emerged in urban contexts.

Where are data citizens?

Evelyn Ruppert, Professor, Department of Sociology, Goldsmiths, University of London

If we increasingly know, experience and enact cities through data then we need to understand who are the subjects of that data and the space of relations they occupy. The development of the Internet of Things (IoT) means phones, watches, dishwashers, fridges, cars, and many other devices are always already connected to the Internet and generating enormous volumes of data about movements, locations, activities, interests, encounters, and private and public relationships. It also means that conduct is being governed through myriad arrangements and conventions of the Internet. What does this mean for how data subjects become data citizens? If indeed through the act of making claims data subjects become citizens how do we understand the spaces of this becoming? Challenging a separation between ‘real’ space and ‘virtual’ space, I define cyberspace as a space of social struggles: a space of transactions and interactions between and among bodies acting through the Internet. How these struggles are part-and-parcel of the constitution of the programmable city is the critical framing that I take up in this paper.

Unfortunately no video recording of this paper was made. Audio should be made available shortly.

Data cultures, power and the city

Jo Bates, Lecturer in Information Politics and Policy, Information School, University of Sheffield

How might we come to know a city through data? As citizens, policy makers, academics and businesses turn increasingly to data analytics in an effort to gain insight into and manage cities, this paper argues that rather than seeking to find the truth of cities in their data, we might better illuminate the flows of power and influence in the contemporary urban environment through close critical examination of these emerging, intersecting local data cultures and practices.

What value and relevance do local data cultures see in emergent data practices? How do they come to influence and shape them? What are their hopes, aspirations, concerns and fears? What tensions and struggles are emerging? Where and how do these local practices intersect with one another? How are they embedded within and responding to developments in national and transnational data practices, infrastructures and flows?

Through focusing on the complex and contested “assemblages” of political, economic, social and cultural processes that data production and flow are embedded in, and recognising local data practices as specific articulations of social relations situated within time and space, what can we learn about our cities and how they are situated within the global flows of capital and power in the early 21st century?

This paper will begin to address these questions using illustrative examples drawn from empirical research findings.

The remainder of the videos will be released on our website in coming weeks. If you just can’t wait, you can check them out now on our Vimeo account.

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