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. 

Big Data voor kwetsbare groepen

11 12 2017

Een van de belangrijkste doelen van ons BOLD Cities netwerk is om ‘big data’ en nieuwe data science technieken in te zetten om de positie van kwetsbare groepen in de samenleving te verbeteren. We doen bijvoorbeeld onderzoek naar de vraag of we met intelligente koppeling van CBS en gemeentelijke data in staat zijn om te voorspellen welke strategie voor welke uitkeringsgerechtigde het meest effectief is om weer aan het werk te komen. Marieke Knoef van de Universiteit van Leiden, en een van onze onderzoekers op dit project, gaf er een mooi interview over aan het vakblad voor leidinggevenden in het sociale domein. Lees het onder deze link: .

BOLD Cities: Show us the data award

30 11 2017

Tuesday November 28 marked the climax of the Centre for BOLD Cities’ Show Us The Data contest, in which designers and artists were invited to creatively contribute to the visibility of data in the city. Co-sponsored by Bouwend Nederland, the grand jury prize of €2500 was awarded to graphic design student Gianni Ritchie, whose ‘what-if’ concept My Data App was considered most impressive. See here for the full work: click

Second-prize winner Laurens Kolks surprised by entering a physical object; a Smart City Souvenir in the form of a mug that connects the digital to the physical city. Furthermore, two honourable mentions were given their deserved moment in the spotlight: Konstanze Winter and Ruben Smits participated with a video of a WiFi network name poem, and WE ARE DATA contributed by sharing their Mirror Room – an installation that is designed to immerse its participants in the overwhelming possibilities of data collection.

The Show Us The Data award ceremony was hosted by ScienceWorks at their conference on data-driven policy in The Hague. BOLD Cities’ academic director Liesbet van Zoonen awarded the prizes on behalf of her team, and promised all winners that their valued input may well be called upon by the Centre in the near future.

An impression of the entries on our shortlist can be found in this video (in Dutch): click here.


Building BOLD Cities

12 07 2017

BOLD Cities, the research center that the Universities of Leiden, Delft and Rotterdam (Erasmus) so generously funded last year, is thriving. We have developed a research agenda that combines our different expertise and which is focused on using ‘big data’ for pressing urban social issues. In all our projects we have a data science aspect and a data ethics aspects, which mostly means that apart from crunching massive and different kinds of data about people, we also involve these people in the research process and integrate their concerns in our outcomes. A first set of projects that I am really proud of concerns the usage and linkage of registration, survey and social media data to improve the municipal services to vulnerable groups in the city, in particular people on benefits, young NEETs (not in education, employment or training) and the working poor. We have received funding for these projects from two national funding agencies (ZONMW, NWA/NWO)and from the cities of Rotterdam and The Hague. A second set of projects is about the way people inhabit the digitized and datafied city. We focus on privacy as a situated and spatial experience in the city, and we also try to put data literacy and data empowerment on the agenda. We have taken several groups of civil servants on a walking tour through their city, and are currently developing a project aimed at children and adolescents. We do this in collaboration with grants and researchers of the city of Rotterdam, all channeled through the Knowledge Lab Urban Big Data.  Thirdly, we are developing work around the urban living labs hausse, interrogating both their practical and the discursive arrangements and questioning in which domains they can really make a difference for urban cohesion and inclusion. All in all, we currently have a group of 4 funded PhD candidates and 4 postdoctoral researchers in the Erasmus branch of BOLD Cities, and an increasing number of affiliated senior staff. It is a great score to start the summer break with.  For more details see: