Report on Data Commons for Smart Cities workshop

People on the street with a bright sunlightbeam popping in.

Dr. Michiel de Lange, Assistant Professor in New Media Studies, Department of Media and Culture Studies and leader of the Special Interest Group ‘Inclusion in the Datafied City’ within the Governing the Digital Society (GDS) focus area, has written an extensive report on the workshop ‘Data Commons for smart cities’, which took place on 6 October 2022 at the Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society (HIIG) in Berlin.

Workshop approaches and contributions

In his report, Michiel examines the two approaches to the data commons discussed at the workshop: governance and regulation on the one hand, and increasing democratic civic participation and inclusion on the other. During the workshop the promises and pitfalls of these approaches were discussed with experts from various backgrounds.

Workshop participants were asked to present an example of a data-commons case from their research or practice and explain what made it a data/digital commons. One of the contributions was concerned with commons-based data governance in the smart city, highlighting positive externalities that can be derived from data and proposing the participation of the public in half of the profits of private actors.

Another participant discussed the Governing the Knowledge Commons (GKC) framework (which analyses issues associated with governing the commons), and the definition of value and who governs the commons. A third speaker presented their project on the long-term human rights risks of smart city technologies. Reflecting on these contributions, in the workshop report Michiel suggests that a situational and historical approach is required to understand data as a collective (common) resource.

Inclusive smart cities

Michiel also discusses the concept of smart cities, and how they can be designed to be more inclusive and accessible for marginalized communities. He highlights the importance of participatory initiatives and community involvement in creating successful smart cities, and how the use of technology should be tailored to meet the specific needs of different communities.

The report presents several case studies, including Amsterdam's living labs, and Rotterdam's ‘Donate Your Data’ project where speculative design interventions in public space is used to discuss more ethical and democratic uses of data. Michiel also reports on current research about ‘resource communities’ as an urban commons and how they can contribute to the social and ecological well-being of a community.

Read more

Are you interested in reading the full report? You can find all three parts on the website of the Utrecht University [urban interfaces] research group. Happy reading!