Tag Archives: Dublin

Ulysses Workshop “Reshaping Cities through Data and Experiments” – Introduction

[This text is the introduction to the "Reshaping Cities through Data and Experiments" workshop held in Maynooth University, 30th of May, which was the first part of an Ulysses research exchange between researchers from the Centre de Sociologie de l’Innovation (i3-CSI) at the École des Mines in Paris, and the researchers from MUSSI-NIRSA in Maynooth University, Ireland. UPDATE: The videos of the presentations are now available as the following separate posts: session 1, session 2, session 3]

Introduction: Why smart cities, why data and experiments

Claudio

Our aim is to advance the understanding of the contemporary cities in relation to urban data and experimentation, creating a link between “The Programmable City” (Maynooth) and “City Experiments” (“CitEx”, Paris). In particular, we want to initiate a transdisciplinary discussion on the theoretical, methodological and empirical issues related to experimental and data-driven approaches to urban development and living. This conversation is vital in a time when cities all over the world – from Singapore to San Francisco, Medellin and Dublin, as we shall see – are increasingly turning into public-private testbeds and living labs, where urban development projects merge with the design of cyber-infrastructures to test new services and new forms of engagement for urban innovation and economic development. These new forms of interaction between algorithms, planning practices and governance processes raise crucial questions for researchers on how everyday life, civic engagement and urban change are shaped in contemporary cities. Our approach is to study smart cities as the unstable and uncertain product of ongoing interactions of data and experiments.

There is a pragmatic reason, indeed. In many cases, being responsible for tax payer’s money, city administrations need to spend their budget very carefully while thinking about possible futures. It brings us to a problem of skills, knowledge and expertise: what do the public bodies know about available technologies and state of the art? How to procure them? How to test them? Once procured and tested, how to know that the adoption of a specific technology would work in the actual urban settings? Which knowledge do data allow and shadow? How to maintain the rolled out service in time?

Thus, experimentation and data become a way to engage with new actors, with new kinds of expertise and skills that enter into the public so as to test projects before committing to large scale rolling out.

But the pragmatic reason is deeply connected with a theoretical and methodological one. Sociologists of science and technology use to saying that the laboratory is now the world: it does not mean that the world should be treated as a mere copy of a laboratory. Rather, it is an invite to expand and unfold the idea of laboratory from an organizational, technical and political perspective. In terms of the smart city discourse, it involves at least three intertwined issues. There is a problem related to the organizational processes and rationalities (how data and experiments interact with organizational change), there is a problem related to technological rationalities (data and experiments are not neutral), and there is a problem related to political rationalities (which are the implication for democracy), all combined and making the smart city discourse complex and undetermined.

Experiments represents a unique place of encounter between theory and practice, which allow us to observe smart urbanism in the actual making, looking at the dynamic apparatus of practices, infrastructures, knowledge, narratives, bodies, etc. and to possibly try distinguish between good ways to combine data and experiment and bad ways to combine data and experiments.

This is where our work in Maynooth University and in the Programmable City project on big data assemblages (Kitchin 2014), algorithmic governance (Coletta and Kitchin 2017), smart city development processes (Coletta, Heaphy and Kitchin 2017), hacktivism and civic engagement (Perng and Kitchin 2016) matches the work that David and his colleagues are doing at CSI.

David

I shall start with a remark: compared to what has been done by colleagues here, at MUSSI-NIRSA in Maynooth, about cities and data, we actually did a very few. Actually, we have been involved in projects on cities and urban settings only recently. As you might know, the CSI is well known in science and technology studies (STS), especially for its contribution to the early laboratory studies. And our CitEx project clearly draws on this background, notably what we consider as two important results.

In Laboratory Life, Bruno Latour and Steve Woolgar (1979) examined in minute details scientists working at the bench, performing experiments, discussing results, and writing publications. What is interesting for us here is to consider the laboratory as a peculiar place, both as a controlled environment configured to conduct experiments and to envision their replication and dissemination, and a site designed to elaborate new knowledge and to perform some demonstrations. Yet the laboratory is not the only significant site to be investigated. As Michel Callon and his colleagues (1988) clearly emphasized in La science et ses réseaux, scientific facts would be nothing without the crucial part heterogeneous networks take place in their production and dissemination. What we learned here is the various ways in which the results of experiments are not only tightly linked to economic networks, but also contribute to perform some political orderings. To put it roughly, these are the two main arguments on scientific experiments we started with to elaborate our CitEx project; these are our basics, so to speak.

This being said, some works on city and urban settings have already taken place at the CSI, and they directly inspire our ongoing CitEx project. Obviously, the book Paris, the invisible city (Latour and Hermant 1996), which is focused on the heterogeneous infrastructures that make Paris works and stands as a city on a daily basis, is particularly relevant in this regard. Contemporary experiments in urban settings are based on exiting infrastructures, dedicated to urban mobility or to data processing and storage, or to both — as it is often the case. The study of subway signs in Paris as an immobile informational infrastructure designed and maintained everyday in order to ease riders fluidity is particularly telling: by shaping both some users’ positions and some particular conditions of a public space, subway signs participate in the enactment of a specific political ordering (Denis and Pontille 2010). But some experiments may also be focused on the infrastructure itself. This is what we investigated more recently, examining the introduction a fleet of 50 electric cars as part of a car-sharing system without fixed stations (Laurent and Tironi 2015). Not only sociotechnical instruments were mobilized to explore social and technical uncertainties and to produce public demonstrations, but also what was actually tested eventually changed during the project.

The CitEx project has been elaborated at the crossroad of STS and Urban studies because, we argue, experiments are a stimulating research site. Tightly coupled with the production and use of data, experiments constitute a particular entry point to explore how part of contemporary cities are currently constituted as laboratories to test various new technologies and infrastructures, as well as forms of urban assemblages and modes of government.

This is why we believe the collaboration with Claudio and his colleagues involved in “the programmable city” project will be fruitful and stimulating.

Claudio Coletta and David Pontille

Acknowledgement

We are grateful to the IRC, Ambassade de France in Ireland and the Maynooth University Social Sciences Institute for their generous support and for making possible this event.

References:

Callon M (1989) La science et ses réseaux: genèse et circulation des faits scientifiques. Éditions La Découverte.

Coletta C and Kitchin R (In press) Algorhythmic governance: Regulating the ‘heartbeat’of a city using the Internet of Things, Big Data and Society, Special Issue on “Algorithms in Culture”. Pre-print available at https://osf.io/bp7c4/

Coletta, C., Heaphy, L. and Kitchin, R. (2017) From the accidental to articulated smart city: The creation and work of ‘Smart Dublin’. Programmable City Working Paper 29 https://osf.io/preprints/socarxiv/93ga5

Denis J and Pontille D (2010). The Graphical Performation of a Public Space. The Subway Signs and their Scripts, in G. Sonda, C. Coletta, F. Gabbi (eds.) Urban Plots, Organizing Cities. Ashgate, pp. 11-22.

Kitchin R (2014) The data revolution: Big data, open data, data infrastructures and their consequences. Sage.

Laurent B and Tironi M (2015) A field test and its displacements. Accounting for an experimental mode of industrial innovation. CoDesign 11(3–4): 208–221.

Latour B and Woolgar S (1986) Laboratory Life: The Construction of Scientific Facts. Princeton University Press.

Latour B and Hermant E (1998) Paris: Ville Invisible. Éditions La Découverte.

Perng SY and Kitchin R (2016, online first) Solutions and frictions in civic hacking: Collaboratively designing and building a queuing app for an immigration office. Social and Cultural Geography.

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.

Abstract
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

Download the paper

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.

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

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.

Sung-Yueh

Dublin as a smart city?

The soft launch of Smart Dublin, a website showcasing the city’s foray into becoming a smart city, was launched in October.  It has been accompanied by the four local authorities actively collaborating on a Smart Dublin strategy and the coordination of various smart city initiatives.

The Smart Dublin vision consists of a mix of data-driven, networked infrastructure, fostering economic growth and entrepreneurship, and citizen-centric initiatives, with a particular focus on creating more efficient city services, improving transportation flows, tackling flooding, attracting inward investment and encouraging indigenous start-ups and SMEs, and opening data and encouraging civic engagement.  Initiatives concerning security and policing, which are more prominent in UK and US cities where terrorism is seen as more of a threat, are less of a priority.

Beyond the ambition and rhetoric of Smart Dublin, to what extent is Dublin already a smart city?  An audit of the four Dublin local authorities (Dublin City Council, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, South Dublin County Council, Fingal County Council) reveals a relatively large number of mainstreamed smart city initiatives (see Table 1).

Table 1: Smart Dublin

Smart  economy

Dublinked

Provides access to city datasets, including some real-time data feeds

Digital Hub

Cluster of digital content and technology enterprises; provides space, infrastructure and support services for digital tech companies

Startup commissioner

Advocates for tech start-ups; organises events and support schemes

NDRC

Provides support and capital investment for start-ups; runs/sponsors hackathons

Greenway

Cleantech cluster supporting and developing the green economy

Smart
government

Fix-your-street

A website and app for reporting issues (e.g. vandalism, dumping, potholes) to local authorities

Public realm operations map

An interactive map that reports scheduled public works

CRM workflow

Customer relations management system used to interface with the public and undertake workflow planning

Library digital services

A suite of library apps for various services

Smart mobility

Intelligent transport system

A suite of different technologies including SCATS (transduction loops at junctions), CCTV, ANPR (automatic number plate recognition cameras), detection of breaking red lights at Luas (tram) lines, feeding into a centralised traffic control room

Eflow road tolling

Automated roll tolling/billing using transponders

Fleet management

GPS tracking of local authority fleets and route optimisation

Leapcard

Smart card access/payment for trains, buses and trams.

Real-time Passenger Information

Digital displays at bus and tram stops and train stations providing information on the arrival/departure time of services

Smart parking

Transponder payment system; park-by-text; display around city; API feed

Information
display signs

Traffic (crash/delay) alerts; speeding display signs

Bliptracker displays

Bike counters; car parking spaces counters; airport queue counters

Dublin Bikes

Public hire bike scheme

Smart
environment

Sensor flood monitoring

Use of sensor network to monitor river levels by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and local authorities

Air pollution monitoring

EPA network of pollution sensors

Public building energy use

Real-time monitoring of energy use in local authority buildings; publicly displayed on screens

Big Belly Bins

Networked compactor bins that use sensors to monitor levels; waste collection route optimisation

Smart living

Street CCTV

Network of digital interactive CCTV cameras (alter direction/zoom)

Community CCTV

Network of CCTV in public places (e.g. parks); provides SMS alerts; can communicate through speakers in lampposts

Sonitus sound sensing

Network of sound sensors monitoring noise levels

Monitored sheltered housing

Remote monitoring of movement sensors and panic buttons in sheltered homes

Smart Stadium

Sensor network monitoring different facets of stadium use

Smart people

Dublin Dashboard

Comprehensive set of interactive graphs and maps of city data, including real-time data, as well location-based services

Fingal Open Data

Local authority open data sets

Map Alerter

Real-time alerts for weather and flooding

CIVIQ

Consultation and deliberation tool for planning and development

Citizenspace

Consultation and deliberation tool for planning and development

Tog

Civic hacking meetups

Code for Ireland

Civic hacking coding meetups

This table only includes operational, rolled-out initiatives procured or co-developed with local authorities, plus selected citizen initiatives.

Unlike other places, where smart cities are being built from the ground up, the Smart Dublin initiatives in Table 1 are building on top of legacy infrastructure and many decades of social and economic programmes.  As such, smart city initiatives and technologies have to be layered on top of long-standing systems and schemes, and be accommodated within or replace existing organisational structures.

Beyond the initiatives in Table 1, there is a whole raft of smart city apps available; some provided/commissioned by local authorities (e.g. Art Trax, Heritage Walks, Mindmindr), others developed by citizens and commercial enterprises (e.g. Hit the Road, Parkya, Walk Dublin).  Moreover, there are a range of ongoing research and pilot projects that have yet to be mainstreamed, and others that ran for a handful of years before terminating. Further, beyond the economic development organisations listed in Table 1, there is a fairly well developed ecosystem of ‘university-industry-local government’ smart city research centres and collaborations (including ‘The Programmable City’ (implications of creating smart cities), ‘Innovation Value Institute’ (business models for smart city technologies), ‘Insight’ (data analytics for smart cities), ‘CONNECT’ (networking and comms for smart cities), ‘Future Cities’ (sensor, communication and analytical technological solutions for sustainability), ‘Dublin Energy Lab’ (smart grids and meters) and some industry centres (e.g. IBM’s smart city global research team) and test-beds (especially relating to the Internet of Things).  Organisations such as Codema and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) undertake smart energy/grid projects and provide advice and guidance.

In short, Dublin can lay claim to being a nascent smart city, rather than simply trying to become one.  However, it is very much at the start of realising the ambition of the Smart Dublin strategy and the form of smart city it will become is still very much open to influence.

Claudio Coletta, Liam Heaphy, Rob Kitchin