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How does the big data explosion affect citizens?

Centre for BOLD Cities launches successfully at Urban Transformation Conference

On 17 May, the  Leiden-Delft-Erasmus Centre for BOLD Cities made its first public appearance at the annual Urban Transformation Conference in Rotterdam. The Centre for BOLD Cities addresses the challenges for citizens in the Big, Open and Linked Data city.

Liesbet van Zoonen, the Centre’s academic director, took part in the opening panel discussion. She grasped the moment to introduce the Centre for BOLD Cities and its particular approach. “We notice an increasing emphasis on data in different domains, including city governance,” she said. “Creative use of city data, especially when linked, can be very interesting, but comes with a great number of ethical issues. We look at these issues from the citizen’s perspective.” The Centre for BOLD Cities, she explained, will focus on citizen experience in the (smart) city, along with issues of privacy, data ownership and data literacy.

3D City

In a session on the 3D city, the ‘digital city of the future’, Jantien Stoter (TU Delft) presented her views on the potential of this topic. Stoter envisions the 3D city as a platform that can be continuously updated by companies, citizens and governments alike – providing a clear image of the city’s “current reality”, or even showing the forecasted impact of a proposed change in the city’s outlook. “Reality is often converted into 2D,” said Stoter. “The challenge is to embrace the technology and make sure that 3D serves a purpose for the city’s development.”

Meet BOLD minds

During the ‘Meet BOLD minds for future smart and social cities’ session, six of our researchers offered a sneak peek at their research on the citizen perspective in the smart city. Their presentations ranged from the redefinition and reinvention of self-sufficiency (Rebecca Moody, Erasmus University) to predictions of citizen participation through use of linked data (Gijs Custers, Erasmus University) and an exploration of how cities are not yet using big data in their carbon emission reduction policies (Sarah Giest, Leiden University).

Moderated by science journalist Geert Maarse, the session’s attendees shared their insights and concerns. The relevance of the BOLD Cities scope was further shown by presentations on open data – on safeguarding data protection in an open data world (Bastiaan van Loenen, TU Delft) and smart urban governance (Reinout Kleinhans, TU Delft) – as well as during the final presentation, on using data to examine the effect of financial incentives on single moms on welfare finding a job (Marike Knoef, Leiden University).


The ‘BOLD Cities route’ concluded with a talk on Nervousnet - a large-scale distributed research platform that will provide real-time social mining services as a public good. Nervousnet is an open and participatory platform, designed to be collectively built by citizens, for citizens. Dirk Helbing (TU Delft) is involved in the project, which focuses on the citizen perspective in this transforming society. Through Nervousnet, Helbing hopes to contribute to a form of digital democracy. Voicing both his concerns and elaborate plans to actively engage in finding solutions for the citizens involved, the German academic proved a worthy closing act for the public introduction of the BOLD Cities research perspective.

The Centre for BOLD Cities is a collaboration of Leiden University, Delft University of Technology and Erasmus University Rotterdam. Cities nowadays thrive on data of all kinds that help local government and business to plan, monitor and innovate. It is unclear, however, if and how people benefit from such Big, Open and Linked Data (BOLD) cities, where it seems their every feature, movement and behaviour is monitored. This citizen perspective leads the research in the Centre for BOLD Cities.


More information:
More information about the launch sessions