Data and governance
Preparing the fieldwork — exploring data, access, and social relations in local planning
October 17, 2012

I am preparing my PhD’s empirical study on the basis of my position paper, presented at Ubicomp’12 conference. In this study, I will work with Lancaster City Council planners.

I aim to deepen the understanding of information use and access as part of consultations in urban planning. I see planning as a proxy to understand the implication of digital-supported practices which affect the physical changes in cities.

While not everybody might be equally willing and interested to engage in debates on local topics, planning is critical in providing resources and tools for engagement. It is also critical in ensuring those who are affected by changes in the urban fabric are aware and able to contribute.

Another motivation from studying planners is the role plans play as collective documents. Plans are based on many pieces of evidence, that could be viewed as the data commons discussed in my position paper.

The position paper at Ubicomp’12 described the digital infrastructures that enable the “smart city”. Often those infrastructures have the potential to augment public discourse in often subtle and unnoticed fashion. Data collection and information sharing practices by various actors will contribute to the perceived transparency of our future digital data-enabled societies.

Where information is stored and how it is made accessible will likely emerge as a key challenge for the digital economy that needs to be faced. In this regard, Manovich’s citation in Baker et al. (2007) is quite indicative of the shifting paradigms, where he said that “the database is the cultural and technoscientific object of our times: as rich in its implementations as has been the cinema and the printed book”.

Data access and storage practices make critical resources such as data stores appear as an essential component of the emergent data landscape. The social implications for this emergent process of transformation and digitisation are poorly understood and planning making could be the place to find answers.