Data walks

Data walk


What is a data walk?

In a data walk, small groups of city users or city makers follow a route in an urban environment, accompanied by a Centre for BOLD Cities researcher. In our data walks, inspired by the ‘data walkshops’ that Alison Powell organises at the London School of Economics, we set out to discover what a wide range of participants knows and thinks about the presence of data in their everyday environment.

During these walks, we continuously ask our participants the following questions:

Which data hubs do we see?
What do we know about these data hubs?
What happens with the collected data?
What form of democratic control do we need; how are/can we be involved?

Through these questions, we collect information that serves two purposes: data literacy and research development. By taking our participants on these walks, we engage in raising public data awareness and enhancing data literacy. Simultaneously, participant input during the data walks informs our (participatory action) research on citizen engagement and data empowerment in the data-driven city.

Why do we organise data walks?

We conduct our data walks in the context of research about citizen engagement in smart cities and urban big data. While researchers and policymakers alike often speak about the necessity to involve citizens in the development of the smart city and the usage of urban big data, it is much less clear how to achieve such engagement, to what end and with which ‘citizens’.  A significant part of the problem at play is that many smart applications and data usage in the city data usage are literally invisible, or have blended into the surroundings. Hence, both knowledge and engagement are hard to bolster. 

The purpose of the data walks (along with other forms of participatory action research that we conduct) is therefore a) to raise awareness among several kinds of city users and city makers about smart applications and data usage in the city, and b) to find out the themes and repertoires these different groups use to think and talk about the smart city and urban big data.

Apart from the organised data walks, we also regularly give guest lectures on the concept and methodology. Following these lectures, students of various courses at Erasmus University, Erasmus MC and Delft University of Technology have conducted their own data walks.

We also invite citizens and civil servants to go on data walks themselves. In order to facilitate this, we have recorded an instruction video.

Publications on data walks

Seeing more than you think - a data walk in the smart city (article)
Liesbet van Zoonen, Fadi Hirzalla, Jiska Engelbert, Linda Zuijderwijk and Luuk Schokker

Datawandelen door de slimme stad (article, in Dutch)
Liesbet van Zoonen and Fadi Hirzalla

What does that grey device do? (blog post)
Vivien Butot