Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR)

From data subjects to data producers: negotiating the role of the public in urban geo-information data

Programmegroup Governance and Inclusive Development (GID)

This research aims to bridge the gap between technical experts and citizens, and to provide a roadmap towards a new social contract for geo-information between data producers, intermediaries and users.

Funded by: NWO

Period: 01/09/2014 until 01/09/2015

Geo-information is a fundamentally important tool in the democratic management of urban space. Formerly, citizens were data subjects and city authorities were data producers and users.

However, with the evolution of new data sources such as mobile phones, internet applications and sensor technologies, these roles are shifting and citizens are becoming data producers, users and subjects simultaneously. Today we emit spatial data about our movements and activities - often involuntarily - that will increasingly be used to supplement and even replace traditional modes of datagathering.
Under programs such as the City-API (developed by the Waag Society) and Melding Openbare Ruimte (used by the City of Amsterdam as a feed-back mechanism for service provision), spatial data now flows bidirectionally, from citizen to city and city to citizen. Given these changes, a new social contract is necessary to balance the interests of urban authorities with those of citizens in terms of data sharing, privacy and participation. 

This research aims to bridge the gap between technical experts and citizens, and to provide a roadmap towards a new social contract for geo-information between data producers, intermediaries and users.  Taking Amsterdam as our focus, focus will be on the boundaries between volunteered, observed, and inferred data, with the aim of clarifying the kinds of permissions and sharing that should be attached to each type.

In order to produce an idea of how new sources of data will change urban data infrastructures and governance over the next five years, scenario-building is used on different kinds of data production, conducted with expert collaborators (private sector, policymakers, academic and technical experts). Interviews will be conducted among four focus groups with different types of Amsterdam citizens (university and hogeschool students, city commuters, retired people, schoolchildren, private and public sector employees), sampled purposively based on those infrastructure and governance scenarios, to gain an in-depth understanding of their perceived privacy preferences, and how these relate to the technical solutions currently available (e.g. privacy by design; participatory procedures for informed consent; updateable consent, etc.).

Research outputs will be used as an analytical framework, a white paper and a policy forum for the discussion of the project’s findings: the longer-term outcomes are aimed to produce a new, accessible and inclusive dialogue between citizens and the city about geo-data sharing and democratic participation. 

Published by  AISSR

30 November 2015