Tag Archives: urban science

New paper: Urban science: a short primer

Rob Kitchin has published a new Programmable City working paper (No. 23), ‘Urban science: a short primer‘, on SocArXiv.

Abstract: This paper provides a short introductory overview of urban science. It defines urban science, details its practioners and their aims, sets out its relationship to urban informatics and urban studies, and explains its epistemology and the analysis of urban big data. It then summarizes criticism of urban science with respect to epistemology, instrumental rationality, data issues, and ethics. It is concluded that urban science research will continue to grow for the foreseeable future, providing a valuable means of making sense of cities, but that it is unlikely it will become a new paradigm, producing an integrative approach that replaces the diverse philosophical traditions within urban studies.

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New paper: The ethics of smart cities and urban science

A new paper by Rob Kitchin has been published in Philosophical Transactions A titled ‘The ethics of smart cities and urban science’ in a special issue on ‘The ethical impact of data science’.


Software-enabled technologies and urban big data have become essential to the functioning of cities. Consequently, urban operational governance and city services are becoming highly responsive to a form of data-driven urbanism that is the key mode of production for smart cities. At the heart of data-driven urbanism is a computational understanding of city systems that reduces urban life to logic and calculative rules and procedures, which is underpinned by an instrumental rationality and realist epistemology. This rationality and epistemology are informed by and sustains urban science and urban informatics, which seek to make cities more knowable and controllable. This paper examines the forms, practices and ethics of smart cities and urban science, paying particular attention to: instrumental rationality and realist epistemology; privacy, datafication, dataveillance and geosurveillance; and data uses, such as social sorting and anticipatory governance. It argues that smart city initiatives and urban science need to be re-cast in three ways: a re-orientation in how cities are conceived; a reconfiguring of the underlying epistemology to openly recognize the contingent and relational nature of urban systems, processes and science; and the adoption of ethical principles designed to realize benefits of smart cities and urban science while reducing pernicious effects.

The paper is behind a paywall, so if you don’t have access and you’re interested in reading email Rob (rob.kitchin@nuim.ie) and he’ll send you a copy.

New paper: Data-driven, networked urbanism

A new paper, ‘Data-driven, networked urbanism’, has been published by Rob Kitchin as Programmable City Working Paper 14.  The paper has been prepared for the Data and the City workshop to be held at Maynooth University Aug 31th-Sept 1st.


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.

Key words: big data, data analytics, governance, smart cities, urban data, urban informatics, urban science

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