Introducing the ERC-funded Programmable City Project


The Programmable City project is investigating the relationship between networked digital technologies and infrastructures and urban management and governance and city life. In particular, it is concerned with how cities are increasingly being translated into code and data, and how these code and data are being used to transduce how we understand, manage, work, and live in the city and to produce ‘smart cities’.


We seek to uncover specific processes of translation and transduction – how particular technologies are conceived, developed and deployed in practice and their consequence – yet also consider their wider effects and implications in terms of fostering data-driven, networked urbanism and the creation of smart cities.


Our case studies in Dublin and Boston cover the following:

  1. Smart city policy/programmes and municipal governance
  2. The political economy of smart cities
  3. The procurement and deployment of smart city technologies (waste management, smart lighting)
  4. Open data, real-time data, urban dashboards and city management (including the development of the Dublin Dashboard)
  5. The constitution and work of urban socio-technical assemblages
  6. Urban big data ecosystems and the production and use of urban big data and public administration data
  7. The ethics, data privacy issues and security vulnerabilities of smart cities and urban big data
  8. Public participation, civic hacking and hackathons
  9. The creation of smart city standards
  10. Social innovation and bike-share schemes
  11. Urban resilience and emergency management
  12. Smart grid technologies and new energy markets
  13. Wearable computing, locative social media and spatial behaviour
  14. Networked digital technologies and the changing nature of work practices
  15. Public administration homelessness data platforms and the construction of homelessness
  16. Socio-technological transformations from creation to implement of new object oriented data modelling in the Ordnance Survey Ireland
  17. Genealogy of the small area framework data file for Ireland


The project is actively contributing empirical and theoretical insights into big data (and urban big data specifically), ubiquitous computing, and smart cities – contributing to several academic debates across a number of disciplines concerning city governance and management, urban infrastructure and development, social innovation, civil society, openness and transparency, privacy and security, urban resilience, and work and labour practices.

As well as producing a range of refereed articles, book chapters, books, working papers and blog posts, the project team have delivered a large number of invited talks in several countries. In addition, the project has fostered the academic exchange of ideas and findings through a seminar series and five workshops (see Events).

The project is actively working to translate the research into policy interventions and to influence the thinking and work of public sector bodies. Members of the team have actively advised specific city initiatives with respect to smart city issues, urban governance, and open data, and have participated in their events, helped to organise workshops, and facilitated work programmes.

The project team have acted in an advisory capacity to Dublin’s four local authorities, attending the monthly steering group meetings of Smart Dublin and Dublinked and conducting scoping and case study research for them, and has provided an extensive public resource for the city, the Dublin Dashboard. In addition, it has advised the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in the development of the national open data programme, the Public Bodies Working Group on Open Data, the Government of Northern Ireland Open Data Program, Ordnance Survey Ireland on mapping, the Central Statistics Office and National Statistics Board on big data and official statistics, the Census Advisory Board and the Dublin Housing Regional Executive Research on homelessness data, and have supported civil society organizations involved in open data.

A commissioned report has recently been submitted to the Data Protection Unit of the Department of the Taoiseach (Irish prime minister’s office) concerning the data privacy, data protection and data security implications of smart cities and urban big data. We have also consulted with other bodies and cities in and beyond Ireland, namely, Cork City Council, Cork County Council, Cork Smart Gateway, Belfast, the Government of Northern Ireland, the City of Montreal, the City of Ottawa, Natural Resources Canada Mapping and Information Branch, and the Treasury Board of Canada Open Data Program.


The Programmable City project is funded by an European Research Council Advanced Investigator Award to Professor Rob Kitchin. The project runs from June 2013 through till 2018.
The ERC award has been supplemented by an award by Science Foundation Ireland to examine Real-time city analytics.