In the last few months, two Utrecht University special interest groups were awarded, of which I am the lead:
- Special interest group “Inclusion in the Datafied City“, as part of the Utrecht University focus area “Governing the Digital Society“.
- Special interest group “Playful Cities“, as part of the Utrecht University focus area “Game Research“.
More info about both below:
1) Inclusion in the datafied city
Modern cities are datafied cities. The Special Interest Group Inclusion in the Datafied City researches how data can contribute in strengthening civic participation and public values in the smart city.
THE KEY ROLE OF DATA
Data, and the more visible manifestations on platforms and apps, play a key role in commercial interactions, public policies and social interactions. The proliferation of (big) data is spurring a research and design agenda that aims to improve the management of so-called ‘smart cities’. Less research has so far been done on the relationship between data, local governance and social equity; the fair, just and equitable distribution of public services.
The nature of datafied systems, the power relations and the values embedded in various urban systems have a major impact on the inclusiveness of the city. A key challenge therefore is to make sure that datafication in practice does not promote the interests of the few but peoples’ collective interests to fully participate in (urban) society.
THREATS TO CIVIC INCLUSIVENESS
It has been noted that processes of datafication tend to go hand in hand with mechanisms like commodification and (social) selection. Oftentimes, the uses of data tend to promote the specific interests of some stakeholders at the expense of other people, or societal interests at large. Hence, the ongoing datafication of city life poses a range of urgent threats to civic inclusiveness.
How can data aid in strengthening civic participation and public values in the smart city? How can the use of data lead to more equitable outcomes for citizens? This Special Interest Group Inclusion in the Datafied City wants to map such processes. It will explicitly also include cities from the global south.
2) Playful Cities: Towards playful urban futuring
Motivation and Impact
Under the label of “playful city” an emerging interdisciplinary field is currently addressing playful citizen creativity and engagement in future city policies. Various UU researchers currently work on these issues and wish to consolidate their efforts. On May 1 2019, a delegation from different UU departments met to discuss shared interests and collaborations. We unanimously agreed that collaboration thrives around tangible activities and outcomes. Our proposal makes this concrete by focussing on the theme of “playful urban futuring”.
As our planet is rapidly urbanizing, “smart city” visions gain considerable traction. In the wake of “creative city” policies, smart city agendas aim to improve services and livability through ICTs and supporting infrastructures. A key challenge in those visions and policies is how to involve people living in these cities in meaningful ways in co-shaping the future of their city. To address this, the notion of a “playful city” has been proposed as a research and design agenda aiming to deploy play and games to harness citizen creativity in city-making (similar terms include “playable city”, “gameful city”, “ludic city”). The SIG The Playful City promotes a people-centric view of the smart city in which citizens themselves learn, negotiate and create innovations through play and games. As Maarten Hajer (Urban Futures Studio) argues, shaping our urban future is a challenge of the imagination rather than a technological challenge. To be serious about our planetary urban future, we need imaginative gameful tools and playful interventions for “playful urban futuring”. How can games and play be used to foster a smarter civic engagement towards a resilient urban future? How can we design gameful tools and playful interventions to accomplish this, and how can we stage these in such a way that they effectively invite participation?
- Co-organizing the Media Architecture Biennale in November 2020, themed “Futures Implied”.
In Fall 2020, the large international event MAB20 (www.mab20.org) is organized in Amsterdam and Utrecht. As MAB20 co-organizer, this SIG contributes by exploring how play and games may serve as methods for futuring: imagining and experiencing possible alternative trajectories.
- Joint publication on Playful Urban Futuring
The SIG aims to compile an Open Access publication, to appear after the MAB20 event (est. 2021/2022). This deliverable could also involve a public dissemination activity, e.g. a lab for stakeholders.
- Michiel de Lange [urban interfaces] research group, dep. of Media & Culture Studies, Faculty of Humanities.
- Joske Houtkamp Department of Information and Computing Sciences, Faculty of Science.
- Astrid Mangnus Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, Faculty of Geosciences.
- Peter Pelzer Dep. Human Geography & Spatial Planning, Fac. Geosciences; Urban Futures Studio.
- Sigrid Merx [urban interfaces] research group, dep. Media & Culture Studies, Faculty of Humanities.
- Nanna Verhoeff [urban interfaces] research group, dep. Media & Culture Studies, Faculty of Humanities.
- Remco Veltkamp, Department of Information and Computing Sciences, Faculty of Science