From 2015 – 2018 I was a postdoctoral researcher in the NWO-funded project Safeguarding long-term Stakeholdership in the Smart City.

How can democratic values be built into technological designs for smart cities that require citizens to share data with each other as well as with commercial companies and governments? In this project, together with Merel Noorman, Tsjalling Swierstra and Justus Uitermark I explored how democratic values can become part of designs for the Smart City. This was done in close collaboration with (ethical) engineers, representatives of neighborhood organizations, local councils, corporations and other interested individuals and groups.

The Smart City

In the future the majority of the world population will be living in cities. Many European governments and companies, therefore, stress the importance of creating smarter cities through the use of information technology. In these so called Smart Cities, tiny computers – embedded in streets, houses, cars, clothing and even on the bodies of city dwellers – gather data about traffic flows, consumer behavior, energy consumption and many other activities. A variety of applications that automatically analyze and use these data will make the city a large, efficiently organized and streamlined, comfortable living environment.

Unequal distribution of power

However, in view of the growing concern about the safety of information networks and the unequal distributions of power built into digital platforms, many European governments now strive to ensure that we create future smart cities based on democratic values. This challenge is the starting point for this project.


The research was done in the context of a broad network of researchers, designers, ethical hackers/critical engineers, programmers, marketing professionals and representatives of particular neighborhoods.

See here for a full description of the project.