Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR)

Safeguarding long-term stakeholdership in Smart Cities

Programme group Political Sociology

Since the 90s, notions of society have become intertwined with expectations of the possibilities of the internet. All over the world, companies, government institutions, and citizens work on realizing so-called Smart Cities.

Although this concept is ambiguous, the core vision is that of a future city in which flows of people, products, traffic, communication and services are finely tuned to each other and receptive of local, context-specific needs. Uniquitous data-processing technologies are allotted a key role in orchestrating this.

Value orientation

Since the revelations on large-scale spying practices by secret services, facilitated by Internet corporations, and in response to hierarchical architectures and assymetric power relations embedded in Smart City designs, the EU framework  Horizon 2020 has set the task to build future Smart Cities in ways that are true to democratic values in general and to citizen participation in particular.

A Smart City platform

Unfortunately, the cluster of guiding visions attached to the idea of the Smart City - promising greater efficiency, more citizen participation, better health, etc. - offers no clues as to how to organize Smart City innovation according to this principle of stakeholder equality. In the past decades, different networks and individuals have worked on partial solutions, yet no platform exists that succeeds in bringing these divergent efforts towards responsible Smart City innovation together in such a way that these can translate into corporate practice, government policy and public participation simultaneously. Nor are the existing proposals both flexible and robust enough in the context of constantly evolving techno-social systems.

Research aim

The ambition of this research project is to provide just that: informed by insights from the field of philosophy of technology, anthropology and ethics, it brings together (critical) engineers, public awareness partners, technical and management staff from Smart City corporations, educators and artists, and a wide variety of publics in order to pioneer and prototype  

  1. an ethical framework for collaborative design on Smart City innovation projects,
  2. a format for translating ethical values into technological design,
  3. a format for a communication strategy that brokers these to different publics and
  4. a certification tool that will be visibly embedded in Smart City systems and that will co-evolve along with the constant transformations of these systems.

Funding: NWO Maatschappelijk Verantwoord Innoveren (MVI)

Period: March 2015 - 2018

Published by  AISSR

10 July 2015