Podcast on data and area development

Cover picture podcast
Inge Janse - Podcast cover picture

Is data ‘just’ data or is it political? And when is using data in area development useful and when would it be better to just have a walk through the city and look around? In the podcast ‘Gebiedsontwikkeling voor alle leeftijden’ (Area development for all ages) a senior and a junior from the field talk about the role of data and technology in area development. In this podcast, academic director of the Centre for BOLD Cities, Prof. dr. Liesbet van Zoonen – the senior, talks to Walter Bokern (Chief Information Officer at Springco) – the junior, about these topics.

The role of data and technology

Inge Janse, deputy editor-in-chief of Gebiedsontwikkleing.nu and maker of this podcast, asks both guests how they see the role of data in area development. Is it useful or should we be more critical on the growing prominent role of data and technology in this field? According to Walter, the answer to this question is not black or white. The options are not either using a digital twin and developing area’s based on what data shows or not using data at all. It is the area in between these two options, that is interesting and that he believes to be valuable. Currently cities and companies tend to measure things as much as possible and only after that deciding what the data can be used for, in stead of doing this the other way around. It would be better to first decide what we want to know and what is relevant and then to decide what the best way to retrieve that information is, whether this is using data and technology or doing it in another way.

Data is a way of looking at the world, it is not the world.

Data is just an opinion

Liesbet points out that the prominence of data in this area has grown, due to the increase of available real-time data, which gives the perception of being able to grasp what is happening in the city, even though this is only partly true. These kinds of data suggest a clear portrayal of reality, which leads to ‘data-temptation’.  Another misconception is that data is just data and that it is objective. Rather, Liesbet states, data is just an opinion. It has to be interpreted. A good example hereof is the case of the noise pollution of Schiphol Airport. While this is something you can measure, some parties, such as people living in the area, may state that the airport causes noise pollution, while other parties may disagree. This shows that how something is defined and interpreted is more about politics and power, than 'just' about data. The fact that something is measured, that data is collected, the way that it is collected, how it is interpreted and how it is presented all add to the statement that data is not objective, Walter says. Data is a way of looking at the world, it is not the world.

This podcast, only available in Dutch, can be found via the link below.

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