The growing significance of hackathons is currently developing in a mutually informing way. On the one hand, there is an increasing use of hackathons to address issues of city governance – Chris Vein, US CTO for government innovation has described them as ‘sensemaking’ tools for government, encouraging agencies to make use of hackathons and “let the collective energy of the people in the room come together and really take that data and solve things in creative and imaginative ways” (Llewellyn 2012). On the other, regular hack nights appear as creative urban space for citizens to discuss problems they encounter and which are not necessarily considered by government, and produce solutions to tackle these issues.
In this paper, we explore potential opportunities and tensions, as well as excitement and inattentiveness, emerging as solutions are proposed and pursued. Through this, we reflect upon how such processes translate the city and transform ways of living in places where the solutions are applied. We further ask whether the positive discourse surrounding hackathons is justified or whether there are limits to their ability to deal with the complexity of urban issues.