Digital Technologies & the Symbolic Trajectories of Urban Neighborhoods (SYMTRA)

How do local residents, civil servants and visitors understand and use digital technologies in relation to the symbolic trajectories of urban neighborhoods? The city is a site of uneven development, which leads not just to an uneven allocation of resources and power imbalances, but to status differentiation as well. Some areas are able to “upgrade” symbolically, while others remain stigmatized, marginalized or undesirable. Through simultaneous processes of gentrification and shrinkage, this leads to the entrenchment of inequalities in urban spaces.

This research is related to the research line "With Citizens", which focuses on the design of urban data literacy and democratic legitimacy. Many citizens have never heard of ‘big data’ or ‘smart cities’. Civil servants have diverging and contending expectations. From the perspective of a SHARED smart city it is imperative that citizens can make informed choices about datafication and digitization of their city. 

This project focuses on conducting research situated in two urban neighborhoods with divergent “symbolic trajectories” to see how different groups use digital technologies to navigate and represent the city. Different cycles of economic and cultural (de-)valuation and (de-)appreciation attributed to urban neighborhoods (e.g. shrinking areas vs. gentrified parts) will be looked at, to understand how such developments are shaped by, and seen in relation to, digital practices and platforms.