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Responsible Smart City Design NWO Project: Smart Culture - Creative Cities


Project information

The growing municipality of Amersfoort – which is already home to 155,000 residents – stands on the brink of major change. Its main issues revolve around sustainability, smart technology and democratic participation. How can you give substance to these developments and ensure that the interests of various groups in the “smart” city are all represented?

project partners

background project

It is a commonly heard term in policy documents and the social media posts of city officials: the “smart city”. The messages are optimistic and emphasise the fact that a smart city utilises modern technology and new forms of collaboration to improve urban facilities and the quality of life in the city.

Smart city theories are not immune to criticism, however; mainly because of the use of the loaded term “smart” (who decides that?) and because of the belief that the smart city is mainly supported by officials, scientists and engineers and less so by the residents themselves. This research project seeks to make a critical and positive contribution by putting people first and bringing together the interests of all stakeholders in the smart city.

smart city collaboration platform

How can we achieve this? We are developing an architecture for a smart-city collaboration platform. It supports the role division between partners in the so-called “quadruple helix” (government-citizens-academics-industry).

The exact nature of this platform – online, offline or a combination of the two – will be decided by the partners together. The goal is for the platform to encourage stakeholders to give substance to their smart city using the latest technological developments and a degree of ownership.


Our focus is on the role that design and the creative industry can play in the realisation of effective collaboration in the quadruple helix. We identify the keys to success and possible obstacles on the road. This responsible design approach – which involves all stakeholders in the dialogue – offers a fresh perspective on the design of smart cities.

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CommunicationManaging informationResearch and analysisProject and task managementTeamworkCommitment to qualityProfessional behaviourSocial responsibilityContinuous learningEntrepreneurialDesigningCollaborationAcademic excellencePerformance managementCustomer focusAmbitiousInnovativeCreativeHigh Tech, Human Touch

My project updates

24 May 2019

Join us for a 'Tosti Talk' on Smart Cities

Tosti Talk: Smart Cities
28 May 2019 | 12:45 - 13:30
@ DesignLab University of Twente

Curious about preliminary outcomes of our research, or responsible smart city design in general? Join us for a discussion in an informal setting next Tuesday 28 May, at DesignLab University of Twente. If you have any burning questions about this topic, here's your chance to discuss them with us first-hand!  

more info

More details can be found on the website of DesignLab and our Facebook event

Registration isn't required - just drop by, grap a 'tosti' and join us for the talk! Hoping to see you there.

Kind regards,
Julieta Matos Castano
Anouk Geenen

7 May 2019

Smart city dreams.... and their drawbacks! Workshop at Future City Foundation on April 5th, 2019

It seems that smart cities will help us to address our most urging challenges: traveling faster wherever we want to go, targeted services whenever we need them, better air quality thanks to sophisticated sensors. And many more! Policymakers, companies, and other organizations dream of desirable futures and work on the implementation of technology in our cities to achieve them. However, what do people dream of when thinking about technology and cities? What can of issues would people want to address with technology?

Last April 5th, 2019, we held a workshop session at the Future City Foundation in Amersfoort. Together with one of our project partners, Design Innovation Group, we developed a workshop approach to encourage participants to think about their smart city dreams… and the potential drawbacks these may have (in a “be careful what you wish for” fashion). By surfacing the dreams and associated nightmares of smart city projects, we wanted to deepen into smart city controversies.

The 40 workshop participants came from a very diverse background, allowing us to have a representation from stakeholders of the quadruple helix. Our preliminary analysis indicates that the use of technology in smart cities aims at fulfilling wishes about what we want our society (and its members) to be, do and feel. We dream of using technology to help us feel happy and healthy, adopt more sustainable habits in our energy consumption, or be supportive of others. Smart cities enable citizens and organizations to undergo major transformations towards becoming safer, healthier, or more efficient. However, achieving these goals has drawbacks, and challenges our values in ways that are difficult to anticipate.

Apart from the “usual suspects” that tend to appear in debates about the use of technology in smart cities (i.e. privacy, security), the concerns that participants mentioned more often related to (1) control of technology, (2) justice, (3) autonomy, and what we call (4)“un-bubbling”.

1. Control of technology: who determines what “being in need”, “quality of life”, “sustainability” mean? This black-box and imbalance of power can lead to situations in which people that need help are not part of the system (hence, not being helped).

2. Justice: optimizing urban processes entails evolving towards a more standardized society where being different and not fitting in might be punished; leading to exclusion.

3. Autonomy: the convenience and comfort provided by technology in smart cities might lead to deep changes in how autonomous we are individually and as a collective.

4. “Un-bubbling”: staying in our own bubble can potentially lead to polarization and isolation. Society comprises stakeholders from multiple spheres having diverse perspectives that enrich the city.

Our preliminary thoughts after the workshop? Fulfilling certain wishes entails transformations that put public values under pressure. These tensions lead to controversies. To tackle controversies, stakeholders should debate and anticipate how these transformations occur, and how our interactions with the city and within the city evolve. Encouraging constructive dialogue to anticipate the effect of technology is essential to make an inclusive use of it.

We would like to thank our project partners for the nice collaboration and the workshop participants for their enthusiasm and input! 

On May 29th we will have a second workshop that will provide more results. We will keep you posted on our next steps!

If you are interested to know more details about these preliminary results, please send a message to Julieta Matos Castaño ( or Anouk Geneen (

15 Apr 2019


Smart City projects generate large amounts of data. However, to what extent does this data help to achieve the goals that the project intended to fulfill? How can we ensure that the collected data fits the purpose of the project? Our research partner Aerovision helps us to answer these questions. Interested in their perspective on this research project? Keep reading!

Public and private organizations acknowledge that to realize Smart City ambitions, accurate location-based information is required to make informed decisions about issues that require spatial solutions. What information fits our use? What is the best source of spatial information? What is the quality of data publicly available (Open Data)? How can the need for information be combined with other users? Answering these questions helps municipalities in decision-making and monitoring of smart city developments.

Climate challenges in urban areas are interesting in relation to smart cities and it is valuable to explore the role that geospatial data can play. For example, are our cities climate-proof? Can remote sensing data have an added value in providing a useful indication (index)? At the same time, municipalities must be assured that their information data service is mature enough to cope with smart city developments and the needs of their inhabitants.

In Aerovision, we assist organizations with defining their needs in smart city activities, based on their public or business goals. We help them to satisfy these needs by using smart sourcing strategies and investigating how geospatial data can have an added value to their projects. You may find an example of this process in the image below. 

We have 3 motivations to be part of this research project: (1) to create awareness of the potential of geospatial data in smart city projects, (2)  to learn more about the controversies that arise because of the use of technology in our cities (i.e.  privacy vs open data) exploring both social and ethical aspects, and (3) to develop concrete cases from stakeholders.

In this research project, our focus is on user needs elicitation. We will play an active role in user requirements elicitation with the relevant stakeholders, and the determination of relevant geo-information in smart city projects.  We hope to be the voice that tells you to ask yourself; why do I need data and is this really the data I need for that purpose?

24 Mar 2019

Getting to know our research partners: Marxman Advocaten

"Who is the owner of collected data?" and "what about the privacy of people who can be seen on camera's”? - Smart City projects pose new questions emerging from the use of technology in our cities. In our research project, our partners Marxman Advocaten help us to answer them. Below you may find their viewpoint of the research project.

It is getting busier and busier in our cities. Where in the past traditional solutions were used (e.g. creation of new parking spaces), nowadays there is often literally no room for them anymore. A city, therefore, needs to come up with smarter solutions. Think of shared parking spaces or the smart handling of visitor flows using smart cameras. A 'city' therefore becomes a 'Smart City' at a fast pace.


These projects often get off to a flying start. Marxman Advocaten, a law firm with its main office in Amersfoort, often experiences that attention is paid to legislation and regulations at a late stage. Challenges are then often greater than initially thought. Just think of the (often complicated) rules in the field of privacy law. As a result, Smart City-projects are delayed or even forced to come to a standstill.

Research partner Marxman Advocaten has been advising on Smart City-projects for several years now. From 2016, the firm holds the European "Smart Cities Law Firm" certificate. The activities of Marxman Advocaten in a Smart City-project differs. Organizations often ask for support at the start of the project, so that they will not be faced with legal surprises later on. Advice is also given on more concrete questions. Think of questions such as: "Who is the owner of collected data?" and "What about the privacy of people who can be seen on camera's"?

The role of Marxman Advocaten in the research project consists first of informing the research team about the most important laws and regulations. The aim is to increase knowledge and awareness and to explain the intentions of the legislator. The research team is also given concrete advice on projects to be carried out.

Together with the research team and the project partners, Marxman Advocaten is happy to come up with recommendations that will ensure acceptance and support for Smart City-projects.

More information about Marxman Advocaten can be found at

1 Nov 2018

Julieta starts postdoc research

On November 1st, Julieta joined the team as a postdoctoral researcher. Below she introduces herself to the community! Welcome!  


My name is Julieta Matos Castaño and I am the postdoctoral researcher working at the University of Twente. I am very excited to have joined this project!  

Prior to joining this project I have had experience in various countries and fields. Having a background in civil engineering, I decided to move to the Netherlands triggered by my interest in having international experience, and learning more about multi-stakeholder collaboration practices. In 2016, I obtained a PhD at the University of Twente, with a focus on stakeholder collaboration in complex infrastructure projects. In my research, I developed a collaboration tool to make the dilemmas of design and decision making explicit (called “the dilemma cube”). After my PhD, I worked as a change management consultant at multinational consultancy firm. During my consultancy time, I worked together with organizations to think and implement stakeholder engagement strategies throughout major change journeys.  

This postdoctoral position is an exciting opportunity to put in practice my previous experience, and creatively co-develop a collaboration platform with a very interesting group of stakeholders. I am particularly interested in supporting stakeholders to turn controversies into opportunities by making the implications of technology (at different levels) explicit.

The diverse nature of our project consortium, the relevance of the project to society, and the possibility of using creative approaches to achieve our project goals make this an incredible experience. I am looking forward to the upcoming 3 years!

1 Sep 2018

Anouk has started her PhD research

Anouk Geenen joined the project to start working on her PhD. Welcome, Anouk! Below you can find a message from her: 


My name is Anouk, and I will be working as a PhD on the project Designing for Controversies in Responsible Smart Cities.

I have a strong interdisciplinary background, with a BSc Liberal Arts and Sciences, and a MSc Theoretical Physics & Science in Society. Over the years I have had a growing interest in the societal and ethical aspects of technology. During my graduation project at the Rathenau Instituut I was able turn this interest into a research project, and I looked into the societal impact of the so-called Internet of Energy – where the energy transition and digitization meet.

With this project I have the opportunity to research and co-create a collaboration platform for the smart city Amersfoort. I will look at how to bring various stakeholders together in a meaningful way, in order to let them reflect upon the smart city technologies and co-create a future city together.

I am very excited about working with inspiring group of project partners in the coming years.