- What value does data hold for different actors: municipalities, citizens, local and non-local businesses?
As we know, data are not given but taken. This process of taking data, and constructing a certain image of reality through data, I find very intriguing on an epistemological level. What kinds of knowledge does this foster, what cannot be known, what remains hidden from sight? Recently, I have explored this theme in a Critical Making workshop about urban data, which involved interdisciplinary teams of Humanities and Arts students and creative coders, working together on imagining the possible narratives behind data creation. Also, a yet untapped potential of using data for engaging citizens with their environment, and allowing them to have a say in the future of their cities. That is a longer-running programmatic theme I am interested in.
- What is left of the early-2000s Smart City idea? Has the corporate vision of the smart city, based on closed, proprietary data management services and solutions, prevailed?
Businesses seem to move away from the initial overblown promises of the smart city as technology-driven urban management, and instead appear to turn to practical applications built on the Internet of Things. However, I believe that civic discourses around the smart city have gained a solid foothold.
- There is still hope for the participatory, open-data smart city, then? What does it look like in the Netherlands and at the EU level?
Absolutely. This people-centric perspective is supported both in and outside of academia, by funding schemes, programs, organizations, researchers, artists, designers. For example, I am part of a recently awarded Creative Industries project called Designing for controversies in responsible smart cities, which is a collaboration between two Dutch universities, the municipality of Amersfoort (a mid-sized, centrally located city in the Netherlands), and various private partners.
- Can you predict any research outcomes of this project at this point?
In the next few years, we’ll investigate ways of engaging people with smart technologies by focussing on the frictions they engender. By involving a law office as a partner, legal questions about data ownership and proprietary vs. open data shall be addressed as part of our project. These are controversial issues that have not yet been adequately publicly discussed.