Touring with the research game

29 11 2018

In the past two months, we have taken our research game on the road to a load of academic events and festivals. We did a sneak-preview for our key network of the municipality which has funded this project more than generously and at the Rotterdam festival for the university and the city in late september. We launched officially on September 29, together with the Minister of Education, Culture and Science and then we spent a weekend in the Amsterdam Science Museum Nemo, for the National Weekend of Science. Respons and game-play quickly rose after  items on Dutch television, for respectively the elderly (omroep Max, at 8 min 20) and the young (in the Dutch Jeugdjournaal with a starring role of our co-researcher Els Leclercq ), but we also did some more serious lecture stuff for the BOLD Cities Netwerk in Delft; at the 60 years anniversary of the International Housing and Urban Studies Institute in Rotterdam (November 6); and for the some 60 civil servants of the municipality of Rotterdam (November 13). Project leader Emiel Rijshouwer did a silent podcast around the game at the InScience Festival in Nijmegen (November 12) and co-leader Luuk Schokker showcased the game together with BOLD Cities at a festival of the Ministry of the Interior in Apeldoorn (November 14, with our trainee Merlina Slotboom) and at the Digital Society Conference of the Dutch Association of Universities (VSNU, 27 november). Respons has risen as a result and we are currently at about 2000 finished game-plays. Below a photo-impression of being on the road:



Citizens in the smart city

6 11 2018

Today, I will deliver a short keynote speech at the 60-year anniversary event of the Institute of Housing and Urban Development Studies (IHS) of Erasmus University Rotterdam. I will critically discuss the current mantra that citizens need to be engaged in the smart city, and suggest that it is a discourse rooted in the practices of social and community work, but much less in the democratic practices of representative politics. Our BOLD Cities participatory research projects (data walks, data dialogues, data game) are therefore aimed at raising awareness and (political) agenda building. A take away question for the audience is which model of democracy they would like to apply to the smart city. Slides can be found here: link to slides


17 10 2018

Last week , on October 12, our graduate school organised an afternoon about #metooacademia. We had a play made based on real life experiences in the Dutch universities. The Erasmus Pavillion was packed and in the panel discussion afterwards, panel members and audiences shared experiences and stressed the need to address this as a collective issue of victims, bystanders and institutional culture, and not only throw more councillors and psychologists in the mix (however helpful they are). A full report of the event is here (in Dutch):

BOLD Cities in the Science Weekend

1 10 2018

I am thrilled to announce that our BOLD Cities team has been selected to develop this year’s national public research project for the Weekend van de Wetenschap (Science Weekend), 6-7 October. In Jouw buurt, jouw data (Your neighbourhood, your data), participants play an online game, in which they show what they know and how they feel about collecting (personal) data in public spaces.

Still from Jouw buurt, jouw dataThe game

Jouw buurt, jouw data is set up as a ‘gamified survey’, an innovative research approach that combines low-key gameplay with survey questions that can be used for research. In the game, players go on a ‘virtual data walk’ in a fictional town. With a combination of questions, assignments and mini games in various parts of this town, players reveal what they know about smart technologies and data collection, while other parts of the game ask participants about their opinions and actions. In doing so, players compose a ‘privacy profile’, which is shown to them at the end of the game and provides them with feedback on the ‘data points’ they encountered along the way. Jouw buurt, jouw data therefore contributes to public awareness and data literacy, as well as providing the BOLD Cities research team with valuable information on how the general public perceives the topic of (personal) data collection. This information will be used to conduct further research.

Working together with the Weekend van de Wetenschap offers the Centre a valuable and unique audience across the country. While the Weekend’s activities only take place on 6 and 7 October, the game will remain playable throughout the year.

The research game is now available on


New article: Excluding citizens from the European smart city: The discourse practices of pursuing and granting smartness

12 09 2018

In this article we approach the European smart city as an assemblage of peripheral smart city network practices and central smart city project practices. Both practices are primarily geared towards the pursuit of ‘smartness’, a prestigious urban adjective that, in the European context, often means receiving an award or large grant from Europe. This article focuses on smart city projects that received European funding, and explores why, how and with what effect for citizen participation these projects are shaped by specific visions for European cities in general, and for European smart cities in particular. It does so by situating these ideas within the intersecting political-economic ambitions of those able to grant ‘smart’ (European Research and Innovation Schemes) and those needing to pursue it (post-crisis municipalities). It then illustrates how this political economy results in a discursive production logic that explains why so many smart city projects, that were or want to be successful in European grant applications, tend to exclude the perspective and interests of citizens. The article consequently proposes that politicians, city makers and scientists, who so laudably (cl)aim to position and treat citizens as key stakeholders in European smart cities, reflect more explicitly on their own roles in preserving and challenging this production logic.

Engelbert, J., Van Zoonen, L. & F. Hirzalla (2018). Excluding citizens from the European Smart City: the discourse practices of pursuing and granting smartness. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, available online first :

More about the data walks

9 09 2018

“An old fashioned stroll through the city might be the best way to show citizens and city managers what it means to live in a smart city”. This is how Fadi Hirzalla and I opened our recent article in Sociale Vraagstukken, presenting more info about our data walks with civil servants. We are walking quite a bit actually, and have written about it earlier in English on the Bang-the-Table website. There is now a Dutch version as well:

In English:

In Dutch:

Datadromen in het sociale domein

4 09 2018

Sociologie Magazine publiceerde een eerste rapportage van ons onderzoek naar het gebruik van big data om de dienstverlening aan uitkeringsgerechtigden te verbeteren, ruimhartig gefinancierd door ZonMW. Een cruciaal onderdeel van die studie is de vraag naar ervaringen van uitkeringsgerechtigden zelf, vooral met betrekking tot de manier waarop gemeentes hun gegevens gebruiken. De uitkomsten zijn nogal onthutsend en geven vooralsnog weinig vertrouwen in de kwaliteit van de ‘big data’ die de gemeenten over hun uitkeringsgerechtigden verzamelen en koppelen. Methodologisch gezien is er een probleem met validiteit, menselijk gezien een probleem met zorgvuldigheid en respect. Het hele artikel is in Sociologie Magazine te lezen, helaas nog geen online versie.

Van Zoonen, L. (2018). Datadromen in het sociale domein. Sociologie Magazine, juni 2018, p. 20-22.