Martijn de Waal, Researcher ‘Citizen Empowerment’ Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences; Assistant professor Media Studies University of Amsterdam; co-founder TheMobileCity.nl , firstname.lastname@example.org, themobilecity.nl, martijndewaal.nl
The data revolution (Kitchin, 2014) has brought us an enormous increase in the production of all sorts of data about all kinds of aspects of urban life, assembled, reworked and published (or kept secret) by various actors, from state bureaucracies and companies to citizens. One of the promises of the potential availability of these data is that they are to empower citizens in the process of ‘city making’. Data about all kinds of urban processes, so goes the rationale, will give citizens more insight into salient issues. These insights can lead to either knowledge about opportunities to act upon or they can be used in political negotiations with other actors, e.g. local governments or companies in for instance debates about air or noise pollution. As such it could lead to an increase of ‘ownership’ (De Lange & De Waal, 2013), a sense of belonging to and responsibility for one’s social and spatial structures. Alternatively, these data can be understood as a new public sphere, or at least as ‘accountability technologies’, instruments to be used in the process of urban governance by both citizens and institutions (Offenhuber & Schechtner, 2012;2013).
However, as amongst others Bates (2012) and Dawes and Helbig (2010) have pointed out, data by itself doesn’t automatically produce such a new public sphere. Accessibility of data is an issue, but also the organization and structure of the data are important aspects, as well as issues of data literacy
In this contribution I would like to explore the relationship between urban data and the urban public sphere further. To what extent and under what circumstances can we understand urban data as a contribution to the urban public sphere? I will explore this question from a theoretical perspective, illustrated by the experiences in our own currently running research through design project The Hackable City. Collaborative Citymaking in Urban Living Lab Buiksloterham.