Doing Data Together: Intervening In Urban Planning With Digital Methods


One year ago researchers from TANTLab and employees from GEHL architects decided on pursuing an experiment together. Driven by a shared interest in bringing social issues into the technical paradigm of ‘the smart city’ we set ourselves the task of making the diversity of Copenhagen’s social infrastructure legible through digital traces from Facebook. One result of the experiment was this interactive website:
Based on interviews and video-footage from the experimental process, this paper critically discusses how the experiment intervenes in the existing ‘professional vision’ (Goodwin, 1994) of the architects. With inspiration from the pragmatism of Pierce (1878) and Dewey (2018) – as well as Don Ihde’s (2000) notion of ‘epistemology engines’ -the paper will argue that choices about operationalizations and interaction with datascapes are empirical moments that stimulates specific explications of normativities and assumptions on part of all parties engaged.
This will be exemplified by diving into two tensions that emerged between the existing professional vision of the architects and the affordances of digital methods during the experimentation. The first concerns the commitment of architects to a physical conceptualization of space whereas the other concerns the professional commitment to demographic categorizations of social groups. Since digital traces are vague on both parameters, the concrete data experiments forced reflection on the importance of these commitments and the extent to which it is desirable that new modes of datafying the city bring with them new urban ontologies. The paper discusses the experiment with reference to the STS-native method of ‘participatory data design’ (Elgaard et al., 2017).
Dewey, J. (2018). Logic-The theory of inquiry. Read Books Ltd.
Elgaard, T. et al. (2017). ”Participatorisk data design: En ressource for capacity building”. I H. K. Krogstrup (red.), Fremtidens offentlige organisering: udvikling gennem samskabelse og capacity building København: Hans Reitzels
Goodwin, C. (1994). Professional vision. American anthropologist, 96(3), 606-633.
Ihde, D. (2000). Epistemology engines. Nature, 406(6791), 21.
Pierce, C. S. (1878). How to make our ideas clear (selected excerpts). The age of analysis: 20th century philosophers, 143-153.


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Contributed date

May 28, 2020 - 4:29am

Critical Commentary

This is an abstract for the EASST/4S 2020 open panel "Digital Experiments in the Making: Methods, Tools, and Platforms in the Infrastructuring of STS".