I was recently at the Dutch Design Conference visiting the DataStudio event in Eindhoven, a town that’s on the cusp of a journey towards a Smart City destination.

The discussion was around data.

Particularly around data consent, citizen awareness and participation in how it’s collected. The emphasis was on the delicate balance between collecting data for social good vs mostly for business growth. Two polar opposite scenarios.



There was talk about how we get to the first one; through open dialogue with the people from whom the data is collected.

How we get to the latter one is by creating technology, making decisions on what data is being collected with no participation from citizens.

Manchester’s approach is different…

My work with the team at FutureEverything has already given me an insight into the subject of citizen data. It’s the team that began with Daniel & Vimla, and one that has continued to use tools from human-centred design to develop the approach to UK’s Smart City Demonstrator project, CityVerve.

We’re building conversations with citizens through community engagement workshops, co-creating Community Key Performance Indicators (what innovations would citizens like to experience, in exchange for their data), and using Art to stimulate a conversation about Data.

In the UK, Manchester is following in the footsteps of many cities around the world that are adopting a Smart City approach via IoT technology. And as it continues to develop in other cities worldwide, such as Eindhoven, it’s bringing to the forefront the conversation about data.

The right question about data can shape our society.

Often the question asked at events and in conferences is that of “How do we collect data.” Or, more often even, “What kind of data do we collect?”
At the DataStudio Conference, Chris Sigaloff said that the starting point isn’t about what kind of data do we collect, but what kind of society do we want to live in.”

That stuck with me.

Maybe it stuck with me because as I flew over to the conference, I read that somewhere in the world, there are plans to collect citizen data to categorise people in a bigger way, one that will affect individual lives massively. One that will shape society in a completely new way.

And (let’s face it) we’re already being categorised by the digital data we share daily. Here, however, we’re taking the conversation to the next level. Because with the development of Smart Cities, we as citizens are not just sharing our browser history, but our daily interactions and physical activities.

Data gives us the opportunity to build connections as it also gives us the means to exclude groups. Data is all around us, it’s being collected, used to shape our identity and shared (in the case of Facebook, and other sites — sold for profit).
It’s such a big conversation that it’s impossible to know where to start, other than with a question:

“What kind of society do we want to create?”



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