The start of this year is promising, with yet another PhD candidate commencing her BOLD Cities-related research. Sabrina Huizenga has started a project on the experimental city and unpacking big data and citizen engagement in urban health labs. Her research is supervised by Ronald Bal, professor of healthcare governance at Erasmus University, and Liesbet van Zoonen, the Centre for BOLD Cities’ academic director.
In a continuously urbanising world, the notion of the experimental city has become part of popular discourse. Local policymakers, politicians, companies and (semi-)public service providers and citizens are engaging in urban experiments to find local solutions for global problems, such as health inequalities, environmental degradation and a lack of social cohesion. Urban experiments hold the promise of creating alternative futures while dealing with current problems. However promising, experiments may not outlive their pilot phase. The ‘urban lab’ is therefore increasingly used as a site for experimentation in which knowledge production, learning and system change are key. Are urban labs actually able to give citizens more voice in decision-making, or do they amplify the voices of citizens that are already expressed through other channels?
The overarching aim of this PhD research is to explore whether urban labs can be viewed as a radically different, more inclusive mode of governance or the continuation of the status quo in a slightly altered form. To address this topic, the PhD student will study urban labs that focus on healthcare issues.