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This paper presents an analysis of interviews, focus groups and workshops with employees in the technical administration in the municipality of Copenhagen in the year after it won a prestigious Smart City award. The administration is inter- preted as a ‘most likely’ to succeed in translating the idealised version of the smart city into a workable bureaucratic practice. Drawing on the work of Orlikowski and Gash, the empirical analysis identifies and describes two incongruent ‘technological frames’ that illustrates different ways of making sense of data and the smart city within this single organ- isational unit. One is called the experimentalist’s credo and it is characterised by inspiration from the development of an Internet of Things as well as a readiness to learn from the open source community in software development. The other is called the data-owners vocation and it is characterised by a more situated approach that interprets data as strategic and political. It is argued that the existence of these frames provides two insights relevant for the literature on smart cities. First, they illustrate that one should be careful not to reify the smart city as a phenomenon that can be criticised in generic terms. Second, they suggest that even if there exists a transition toward the implementation of a technocratic smart city paradigm across public administrations, this paradigm is not unique in its focus on markets and evidence in governance. Keywords Smart city, technological frames, Big Data, sense-making This article is a part of special theme on Knowledge Production. To see a full list of all articles in this special theme, please click here: http://journals.sagepub.com/page/bds/collections/knowledge-production. Introduction emergence of the new knowledge economy, in which The concept of the ‘smart city’ has gained traction app development is used to spur innovation. within academia and urban planning. On one hand, it Proposals for smart-city projects often include has spurred dreams of new and more eﬀective modes of images of data-analytics centres, where data across urban governance (Harrison et al., 2010). On the other organisational units are cross-fertilised on real-time hand, it has been criticised for being yet another neo- dashboards (Marvin et al., 2015). Such dashboards liberal utopia blueprint (Hollands, 2008; Zook, 2017), have become paradigmatic illustrations of the smart and a form of new public management (Przeybilovicz city, as they are believed to empower city planners et al., 2018) that is blind to the urban ecologies in which (and potentially citizens) with new technologies to it is situated (Colding and Barthel, 2017). Even though no standard deﬁnition of a smart city exists, projects Aalborg University Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark falling under this category focus on how information and communication technology (ICT) can improve Corresponding author: urban governance. Kitchin (2014) argues that such Anders Koed Madsen, Aalborg University Copenhagen, A.C. Meyers improvements are related either to developments in Vænge 15, Copenhagen 2450, Denmark. Big Data and real-time city planning, or to the Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Creative Commons CC-BY: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License (http:// www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/) which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/open-access-at-sage). 2 Big Data & Society enhance insight and control (Shelton et al., 2015). Even organisational unit in one city. Furthermore, the though they rarely exist in practice, their future exist- paper contributes to literature on smart cities by ence often is assumed in the literature. For instance, arguing that these discovered incongruences challenge Kitchin (2014: 6) argued that ‘over the next decade, the argument that the smart city is characterised by the real-time city is likely to become a reality’. This injecting market logics and evidence-based decision- new reality is believed to aﬀord new modes of govern- making into the urban bureaucracy. Rather, the two ance (Flyverbom et al., 2017) that involve a combin- frames share a perspective on these elements, while ation of market-based logics, data-driven evidence and interpreting them diﬀerently. technologies of control. Conversely, critical literature on the smart city has elicited important discussions Technical administration in Copenhagen about, e.g., epistemology of data, the use of data to control populations, links between business and gov- In 2014, the municipality of Copenhagen won the pres- ernment, and privacy issues. Each of these discussions tigious World Smart Cities Award at the Smart City has challenged important assumptions within the Expo in Barcelona. The winning project was titled smart-city paradigm and has enriched the debate over ‘Copenhagen Connect’, and it exhibited many of the what data-driven governance practices could be imple- aforementioned characteristics of an idealised smart mented if smart cities were realised. city. It linked the development of ICT to improved However, this paper takes a diﬀerent analytical urban planning, promoted the use of new forms of route. Rather than critically examine assumptions sensor data to understand the city and provided a about data and governance that are explicated in pres- plan to integrate third-party app developers into a entations on smart-city strategies, it expands on a sug- newly developed, crowd-sourced market that seeks gestion from Shelton et al. (2015) on how to understand data-based solutions to problems such as traﬃc jams. the ‘actually existing smart city’. This deliberately con- Furthermore, the project was promoted through ideas trasts with the idealised – but often unrealised – vision for a dashboard-equipped ‘control room’, like the one that dominates the social imagination. Whereas the shown in Figure 1. critical deconstruction of this ideal is a good strategy After winning the award, Copenhagen Solutions for exposing a certain epistemological and political nai- Lab (CSL) – a new unit within the technical adminis- vete across a broad range of smart-city projects, it also tration – was assigned the task of coordinating the real- risks reifying the smart city. Discussions of the pros and isation of the project. As a new unit within the cons of a generic paradigm risk losing track of the way established system, its employees had to resolve the smart-city ideals are situated and integrated into exist- meaning of smart city with existing employees across ing constellations of urban governance in speciﬁc cities. the municipality, as well as within their own adminis- Accordingly, this paper focuses on the work tration. Their task was to translate a smart city existing involved in turning a smart-city strategy into an mostly on slides and in strategy documents into actual actual workable practice in a speciﬁc organisational workable data practices. unit. Through interviews with public servants within After the award ceremony in Barcelona, I began Copenhagen’s technical administration, the analysis attending meetings and workshops related to this pro- identiﬁes two radically diﬀerent modes of sense- cess. Furthermore, I conducted interviews and focus making around data that challenge the ideal of a groups with individuals who either voluntarily showed smooth translation from ideal to practice. One is up to the workshops or occupied an organisational pos- called the experimentalist’s credo, which is characterised ition in which they controlled some of the data that were by inspiration from the development of the Internet of central to realising the project. This work forms the pre- Things (IoT), as well as a readiness to learn from the sent study’s empirical background, but the speciﬁc ana- open-source community in software development. The lysis below is restricted to three interviews, one focus other is called the data owner’s vocation, and it is char- group and one workshop that included employees in acterised by a much more situated approach that inter- the city’s technical administration. The reason for prets data as strategic and political. this methodological choice is that I interpret this organ- Drawing on Orlikowski and Gash (1994), these two isational unit as being what Bent Flyvbjerg (2006) modes of sense-making are conceptualised as distinct would call a ‘most likely case’ to succeed in translating ‘technological frames’ that mobilise diﬀerent ideas an idealised smart-city strategy into a workable practice. about the nature of data, as well as its proper use in The reasons for this interpretation are the following: public administration. The paper identiﬁes incongru- First, Copenhagen is a city with a relatively high ences between these frames with the purpose of illus- degree of digital inclusion (Roy, 2017) in a country trating concrete challenges in translating an existing where citizens have a history of trusting public servants smart-city strategy into practice even within a single with their personal data (Pedersen, 2011). This means Madsen 3 Figure 1. Dashboard illustrating the potentials of Copenhagen Connect (The picture can be found at https://www.dailyscandinavian. com/copenhagen-connecting/). that people share data, use apps and are accustomed to assumption. Therefore, this paper’s research strategy balancing privacy concerns with a functional welfare was to look for incongruences in a place where the exist- state. Second, Copenhagen’s top management in 2014 ence of such incongruences would indicate some funda- decided that each administration was obliged to deliver mental challenges in realising smart cities. Rather than data to what ultimately would become the dashboard- discussing assumptions about data and governance in equipped control room. Accordingly, organisational the idealised vision that won the award in Barcelona, the pressure was exerted to make the transition work. goal was to identify and describe the challenges involved Third, the technical administration was pioneering the in ﬁtting such ideals into existing constellations of urban project from the start, and it was working with the governance (Shelton et al., 2015). least-sensitive data sources. Compared with, e.g., person-sensitive data in the administration of children Technological frames and youth, the technical administration managed data on items such as cars and trash cans. This research strategy motivated the choice of a theor- The logic of the ‘most likely’ case selection goes as etical lens that could help explicate diﬀerences between follows: If the translation of the idealised version of the modes of sense-making around data in the administra- smart city into a workable practice is challenged by rad- tion. The connection between sense-making and organ- ically diﬀerent interpretations of data in this speciﬁc isational change, of course, has a rich theoretical administration, then the problems of translation most history in organisational theory. For instance, Karl likely would be even worse in other administrations. Weick (1995) introduced psychological theories of While much literature on smart cities starts from the sense-making as an alternative to explaining organisa- assumption that the realisation of a ‘real-time city’ will tional forms with reference to demands in their envir- happen within years, such a ﬁnding would question that onments (e.g., Lawrence and Lorsch, 1967). Rather 4 Big Data & Society than looking at how organisations ﬁt themselves into in the sense that I used coloured markers to underline external forces, he focused on the ways in which organ- quotes that exhibited these two aspects of technological isations ‘enact’ themselves by promoting speciﬁc prac- frames. For instance, if and interviewee voiced assump- tices and crafting narratives that make these practices tions about the ontology of data or indicated prefer- understandable and legitimate. Every act in an organ- ences for speciﬁc epistemological positions, I would isation (e.g., the decision to link data across adminis- code it as pertaining to the nature of data, whereas trations on a dashboard) will be met by a response comments about consequences of speciﬁc analyses (which could, e.g., be compliance or silence), and it is within the municipality would be coded as pertaining between such acts that a collective interpretation and to the use of data. I thereafter looked at the highlighted mutual commitment to a shared organisational form quotes with the aim of identifying incongruences that (e.g., an agile smart city) are even possible. However, would reveal diverse ‘expectations around the role of this outcome is dependent on whether employees within technology in the organisation’ (Orlikowski and Gash, the organisation can justify this commitment with 1994: 180). I deliberately organised my material to iden- respect to their existing standards on what constitutes tify juxtaposing positions because explication of incon- proper fulﬁlment of their organisational roles. gruences can increase our understanding of potential Collective sense-making is – on this account – a process conﬂicts when new technologies – such as data infra- situated in speciﬁc organisational contexts and realised structures – are introduced into organisations. with references to existing standards or structures. Furthermore, since technological frames are social This paper follows this tradition in the sense that it and embedded in interactions, I took notes on whether actively looks for incongruences that challenge collective they were justiﬁed with respect to the environment (e.g., sense-making in the technical administration. More spe- the smart-city paradigm and the tech industry) or re- ciﬁcally, it identiﬁes such incongruences with inspiration negotiated with reference to existing situated standards from Orlikowski and Gash’s (1994) concept of ’techno- for good bureaucratic practice. This helped me get a logical frames’, which similarly proposes understanding sense of the ways in which diﬀerent references were organisational forms with roots in the psychology of mobilised to make a speciﬁc framing legitimate and interpretation and sense-making. The concept of understandable. technological frames originally was introduced to inves- tigate interpretive processes related to information tech- Two technological frames: The nology (IT) in changing organisations, and the authors experimentalist’s credo and the data deﬁne it broadly as ‘[...] assumptions, knowledge and owner’s vocation expectations expressed symbolically through language, visual images, metaphors and stories’ (Orlikowski and The analysis below describes two distinct technological Gash, 1994: 176). They suggest that such frames will frames that illustrate diﬀerent methods of interpreting inﬂuence the way in which an ideal (such as the smart data and smart cities in the technical administration. city) is translated into actual work practices in a speciﬁc These frames should be read as ideal types, with each setting (e.g., the technical administration). having its own ways of translating the idealised version Orlikowski and Gash (1994) suggest that techno- of the smart city into workable practices. Even though logical frames are composed of three elements, of these ideal types are written up to highlight diﬀerences, which this paper discusses two. First, they oﬀer views they are, to a large extent, rooted in units within the on the nature of technology, which refers to the ways in administration. The ﬁrst technological frame is the which people imagine the capabilities and functional- experimentalist’s credo, and it is mobilised primarily ities of a speciﬁc technology (Orlikowski and Gash, in a speciﬁc sub-section of the technical administration 1994: 183). In our case, this manifests itself as onto- called ‘development’, which is where CSL employees logical assumptions about what data are and epistemo- are located in the larger organisational structure. logical assumptions about the role they can play in producing knowledge and decision-making. Second, Frame I: The experimentalist’s credo technological frames include thoughts about techno- logical use, which refers to people’s understanding of When it comes to the nature of data, this frame evokes actual consequences associated with its use. In our case, distinct expectations. First, data are conceptualised with this might entail, for example, expectations about the reference to the paradigm of IoT (Atzori et al., 2010; Jin ways in which new data infrastructures ﬁt into existing et al., 2014), which suggests that the cheap availability of work practices and thoughts about what potential sensors and Radio-Frequency Identiﬁcation (RFID) implementation problems/beneﬁts might be. chips means that movements potentially can become These concepts guided the analysis of the transcribed data points mapped according to their latitude and lon- empirical material. The coding strategy was deductive gitude. This assumption often is connected with dreams Madsen 5 of pervasive and ubiquitous computing (Saha and what people can get out of something that nobody saw Mukherjee, 2003), which is an aspect of the smart-city any relevance in. Just getting more eyes on the data and paradigm with obvious roots in the technology industry. start comparing it [with other data sets]. I believe that In the empirical material it is argued that pervasive com- we can use it in so many ways that we never puting will lead to a situation in which our imaginations thought about when we collect it in the ﬁrst place – rather than data and technology – will set the limits for (Workshop 1, pp. 7–8) governance solutions: At other times, this belief in the crowd-sourced market [...] You can ﬁnd out where bikes are if they are stolen, of analytics is manifested with reference to the ﬁrst where the trash cans are, where the material possessions results of the CSL’s own attempts to make data avail- of the municipality are – because [the chips] are so able to third-party actors: cheap, it is only the imagination that sets the limit. (Focus Group 1, p. 5) I have seen data sets that we have made part of our open strategy, where citizens have given feedback with This quote rests on the assumptions that data are corrections. This is very cool. For instance, they say: objective mirrors of the world and that algorithmic pro- ‘Wait, there is no parking lot there anymore – it’s been cessing of this data can produce an endless variety of removed’ [...] There is a basic value in having more insights on top of this data. It is the imagination – not eyes on a problem (Focus Group 1, pp. 4–5). the data infrastructure – that sets the limits. This also entails that a relevant task for CSL is to ensure that Analysis here is interpreted as a process of turning raw every new infrastructural development in the munici- data into actionable insights, and the assumption is that pality integrates the production of new forms of data this process is fertilised by enabling ‘many eyes’ to by making room for sensors. Data production is viewed explore patterns – and spot noise – across data sets. as a goal in itself, even though its beneﬁts may not be The nature of data is such that patterns and noise can obvious from the beginning: be detected if data are used correctly. One interviewee from CSL contrasts this open philosophy with what Well, Brønshøj was the ﬁrst neighbourhood where all could be termed ‘silo analysis’: city lights had to be changed, and this became the place where we had the possibility to insist on making the This idea that data is made openly available in a sys- poles empty – without even knowing what to use it for. temised fashion – that it is [removed] from the silos and drawers [in the sub-units] is, in my opinion, a huge This way of understanding the nature of data and data advantage for a municipality the size of Copenhagen. infrastructures is accompanied by a crowd-based under- [However], the IT-department [wants all data stored in standing of the proper use of data. The argument goes as speciﬁc environments]. The result is that the agile follows: Because data will, in the future, be produced in approach we would like to champion goes down the massive amounts without any clear idea of their use, it is drain. (Interview 1, p. 1) necessary to have as many minds as possible working on translating those pervasive data sources into insights and This quote paints a clear contrast between data improvements in urban planning. This is talked about as infrastructures that cater to agility and creativity – a potential market of analytics: e.g., open data and hackathons – and those that do not – the silos. The prevailing norm of keeping data The culture has so far been that we have had employees in dedicated organisational units until they are clean sitting and collecting data with very speciﬁc purposes in enough to tell perfect stories does not match the mind [.. .] in order to make sure that their own little agile experimentalist’s credo. The contrast between project succeeds. [What we want to explore is the] kind these two uses of data is exempliﬁed further by a dis- of solutions the market can produce if we make this cussion about the ‘precautionary principle’ as a data freely available. (Workshop 1, p. 9 & 11) guideline for data use: This belief in a distributed market of solutions is some- I am still exposed to the precautionary principle [.. .] thing that CSL employees repeatedly express, and it is this is a bit annoying [I think we need] a shift in culture, often legitimised with reference to ‘best practices’ of a paradigm shift – another way to think about [our] open-data projects in other cities: data. (Workshop 1, pp. 14–15) [...] The choice seems to be that we want to ensure [...] There are so many indications [...] that people are the quality so we know it is 100% correct [...] just creative in their re-use [.. .] It is utterly impressive But that is never going to happen! So why not release 6 Big Data & Society it in the – probably great – quality that we have now? dashboard with all their KPIs [key performance indi- (Workshop 1, pp. 4–6) cators] exhibiting the goals the municipality had set for themselves. This meant that the citizens could follow Rather than understanding data as something scarce the progress toward meeting these goals almost in real that needs to be cultivated and reﬁned to be useful, time [...] I found this approach extremely trustworthy these quotes call for understanding data as pervasive [...]. (Interview 1, p. 11) and good enough to release to a crowd of developers who can build insights on top of the data. Using data The quote advocates for showing the ‘state of the within a ‘zero-failure culture’ that is driven by a fear of union’ to the citizens and illustrates that the experimen- drawing incorrect conclusions is an obstacle to the talist’s assumptions about the nature and use of data kinds of iterative solutions that would be possible if are linked to epistemological, as well as democratic, the municipality would risk working with censor data concerns. in real-time: Frame II: The data owner’s vocation Today, we do these things with [.. .] historical data and hunches and say ’OK, this is how it must be’ and then When the so-called ‘data owners’ in the municipality we ﬁgure out that there is a daily traﬃc jam on talk about the smart city, they propose much diﬀerent Aboulevarden, and then we go back and redo the ideas about the nature and use of data than the ones models, implement them and wait half a year to outlined above. In the technical administration, ‘data do evaluations. It would be really cool to be able owners’ is the name used for people who are respon- to see, in real time, how a given solution works. sible for producing, storing and analysing data used to (Workshop 1, p. 4) maintain the city’s daily functions. This could be, for instance, data about trash or traﬃc ﬂows. The data This quote draws a distinction between measurements owners typically belong to the administration’s main- and models that indicates something important about tenance unit, which diﬀers from the developmental the use of data in the experimentalist’s frame. Models unit, as it focuses strictly on the bureaucracy’s more work by sampling data from strategic points and, sub- mundane daily workings. sequently, model the whole city based on assumptions. We call the frame emerging from this unit the data For instance, Copenhagen measures traﬃc at a few owner’s vocation. It is explicated by interviewee 2, who intersections and roads, then makes city-wide traﬃc challenges the assumption that data are a raw resource models based on assumptions about the way people that can fuel neutral algorithmic and crowd-sourced drive at speciﬁc times on certain days of the week. analyses. Rather, his daily task of working with data According to the experimentalist’s credo, this method from the garbage system entails interpreting data as of using data exhibits an unproductive balance something crafted for a speciﬁc task in a speciﬁc con- between, on one hand, prioritising perfectly crafted text. The production and circulation of the data points models, and on the other hand, prioritising fast inputs he works with are often the result of heavily detailed for solutions. Spending half a year building models for agreements between the municipality and subcontrac- a fast-changing and unpredictable city is viewed as an tors hired to solve a speciﬁc practical problem obstacle to a more responsive and agile mode of (e.g., sorting garbage). From his perspective, it is prob- regulation. lematic to decouple it from its original context of Finally, the experimentalist’s frame contains an production: assumption about data use that – unlike the ones just discussed – is not directly related to ﬁnding solutions to [This idea that] data is free, and we can trust a crowd of city problems. Rather, it concerns the democratic value people to analyse it, is kind of a big leap for me because of being a transparent administration. Once again, I get a lot of data [.. .] that is on the verge of being building on references to ‘best practices’ in other company secrets. [Data from garbage-sorting facilities] cities, an interviewee from CSL expresses the hope can tell competitors about what is done to the garbage that early release of data and collective discussions [...] It reveals the eﬃciency of the technologies that about analytical procedures can increase the demo- [a facility has invested in]. (Interview 2, p. 2) cratic legitimacy of regulations that the municipality proposes, approves and enforces: The argument that data are contextual and situated is made here with reference to lived experiences of very It makes the municipality more trustworthy when we mundane data transactions between a data owner and a can say that we are open and transparent. We saw a subcontractor. The interviewee knows the structure of fantastic example from [a city] that had a giant the data well enough to foresee that freely combining Madsen 7 data sources might reveal company secrets and thereby made comprehensible through references to the data violate the trust between the municipality and the owner’s mundane daily experiences. subcontractor. However, the quote above also formulates an epis- This way of thinking about the nature of data as temological reason for having data owners present situated in speciﬁc transactions also leads to a less- when doing an analysis on top of data. They are not ambitious formulation about data-driven governance. just there to win a political battle. The quote contains In the case of garbage management, the interviewee the argument that ‘if you want to get the numbers explains that data often are used merely to calculate right’, you need to align with someone who knows simple summaries of garbage waste to determine what the context of data production – someone who has the municipality owes the subcontractor, or perhaps to ‘experiences from the ﬁeld’. Proper use of data requires conduct simple checks for anomalies that might indi- intimate knowledge of its production context. This cate something that needs urgent attention. For requirement is exempliﬁed in the following quote instance, a sharp rise in the garbage processed by a explaining problems involved in releasing data on card- facility might indicate that citizens are dumping illegal board waste to third-party analysts: garbage on the premises. In short, data owners see value in using data within the boundaries set by the We have carried out an experiment with the purpose original negotiations because derived use can cause of investigating how much extra cardboard we could problems. collect in an area of the city [.. .] such isolated experi- This tells quite a diﬀerent story about the use of data mental data is not necessarily ready to go on an than the one encountered above. Data are used here as a open data portal because they are born under these resource for planning and control, but they also are a strange circumstances that need careful explanation. medium through which trust between a municipality and (Interview 2, pp. 14–15) subcontractors is upheld. The consequence is a sugges- tion that the bureaucracy must design data infrastruc- Again, the important point is that data lose value as they tures that balance these functions. Good design should gets de-coupled from the situations in which they are be evaluated not only on its ability to ﬁnd quick solu- produced. Because data often are an outcome of speciﬁc tions to problems in the city, but also on its ability to experiments (in this case, allowing certain types of gar- underpin fair procurements and maintain lasting rela- bage to be sorted together), they are born with such a tions with important partners to solve these problems. complex context of production that it would take Another use of data that illustrates its situated and detailed explanations in the metadata before any third- contextual nature can be found in a story about the way party analysts could use them properly in an open portal. data sets are used as political assets in discussions In the workshop, a data owner raises questions about among diﬀerent sub-units of the technical how necessary concerns about context and quality can administration: run counter to the hopes of crowd-based insights: We are located in a branch called ‘maintenance’, and To me, data is a tool that I use in my daily work [.. .]If we sit on a lot of data which is useful for the branch a journalist contacts me in order to get some data, I called ‘development’ when they make long-term plans. want to make sure that I tell him about all nuances of However, if we do not agree with them on the plans the data and make sure that I get to see the story they make, I have, on occasion, said: ‘Fine, if you want before it goes to print. This enables me to check for input from [our data], I need to be there in person. [.. .] potential errors. This has been my role – to check the you have to listen to my experiences from the ﬁeld if quality and ensure that the context is not forgotten. you want to get the numbers right’. [...] This (Workshop 1, p. 10) means that I show up, and I am part of the meeting. (Interview 2, pp. 13–14) What is implied here is that sometimes, it actually may be preferable for journalists and other interested third Data here are viewed as a key that provides access to parties to apply for access to data, rather than make strategically important meetings. The quote frames data available automatically. The push for transpar- data as political at their core, and the interviewee ency in the administration needs to be balanced with even talked about them as a ‘deck of cards’ that one other interests such as sensitivity, political processes will not willingly let others peek at. Once again, data and the risk of spurious conclusions produced on top are interpreted as a situated phenomenon – a valuable, of complex data. In other words, describing the nature strategic resource in a speciﬁc situation precisely of data as inevitably situated and political carries with because they are not distributed to many people. it much diﬀerent scenarios about the ways in which Again, this method of framing the use of data is data can be used. 8 Big Data & Society Ultimately, these thoughts about the contextual argued to be the ‘most likely case’ for translating the nature of data make the dream of the real-time dash- idealised version of the smart city into a workable prac- board a chimera. As stated by the owner of garbage tice. Even though it is perhaps not surprising that this data: ‘The ideal about real-time data... that’s impossible’ translation was met with resistance, it is still interesting (Interview 2, p. 8). Referring to the practical experience that the data owner’s vocation so clearly problematises of data as something that is situated in subcontracting core aspects of the smart city ideal as promoted by CSL. relations, experimental set-ups and other messy con- Whereas much smart-city literature, in the words of texts, it is argued that the smart city realistically Shelton et al. (2015), reiﬁes the smart city and focuses should view data as something counted in months – analytical power on critiquing the ideal, the analysis not seconds. Furthermore, even if data were available above spotlights critiques that already live inside the bur- – released with proper metadata and used to build an eaucracy. Rather than dissecting demonstration-cases actual working product – it would not be easy for a and de-constructing their assumptions, it seems relevant public bureaucracy to take advantage of it: to understand how divergent frames exist among employees who have the task of realising the data infra- The municipality is not geared to take advantage of all structures that are supposed to underpin the dashboards these innovative solutions [.. .] As soon as we build imagined in the demonstrations. some solution, it has to be accessible [...] for blind The analysis above takes the ﬁrst step in doing that, people, hearing impaired and so on. But this makes and the resulting ideal types challenge a tendency in the it very complicated [to recommend and take ownership literature to deﬁne the smart city as a mode of govern- of solutions] – and this is why it doesn’t happen. ance that increases the role of markets and evidence in (Interview 2, p. 9) public administration (Kitchin, 2014). In fact, both technological frames view markets and evidence as cen- These comments illustrate that even if the open-data tral elements in their version of how a data-driven city project resulted in high-quality apps, it would be diﬃ- should be designed. They are not incongruent because cult for the municipality to take ownership of them. the experimentalists focus on these elements, whereas The risk, then, would be a situation in which several the data owners do not. Rather, they mobilise quite apps were circulated, but were not updated because the diﬀerent versions of markets and evidence that need programmers lost interest in them. Such a situation to be understood to understand how the smart city, potentially could leave citizens more confused, instead in the words of Shelton et al. (2015), can be situated of helping them in their daily lives. Again, this way of and integrated into existing constellations of urban framing the potentials of data use is grounded in actual governance in this speciﬁc setting. mundane experiences in the bureaucracy. Markets and the smart city Incongruences with reference to In terms of the interplay between markets and urban literature on smart cities and Big Data planning, the experimentalist’s credo is rooted in a phil- The analysis above outlined two technological frames, osophy of markets and collective problem solving that illustrating diﬀerent ways of interpreting data and the can be traced back to 18th century utilitarianism, then smart city. As mentioned above, these frames are ideal all the way forward to modern theories of collective types in the sense that they are designed to dramatise intelligence. Starting with contemporary times, the diﬀerences. However, they are, nonetheless, mobilised by belief in, e.g., hackathons as innovative organisational speciﬁc interviewees who occupy speciﬁc positions in the forms echoes writers such as Shirky (2008) and organisation. The experimentalist’s credo primarily was Surowiecki (2005), who have argued for the possibility explicated by CSL employees who reside in the develop- of using crowd-sourced solutions to tackle complex mental unit, whereas the data owner’s vocation was for- social problems. These arguments are inspired by mulated by interviewees responsible for sub-contracting open-source developers such as Eric Raymond (1999), in the unit of maintenance. This section will discuss who famously called for solving problems more like a incongruences between the identiﬁed frames with respect bazaar, in which tasks are organised from the bottom to existing literature on smart cities and Big Data. up – instead of like a cathedral, which operates as a top-down organisation. The way the experimentalists interpret regulations on data access, as obstacles to ‘Critiques from within’ as an alternative to reify the bottom-up organisation of data, highlights this link, smart city and it becomes even more clear when the interviewees The ﬁrst relevant ﬁnding is that diﬀerent frames exist actually paraphrase Raymond’s famous slogan that even within the technical administration, which was ‘with enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow’. Madsen 9 This philosophy of problem-solving and organisa- two frames are incongruent in their approach to trans- tion is the foundation from which markets are under- parency in the public sector. As noted by Grasten and stood within the experimentalist’s credo. The market de Montoya (2009), the notion of transparency has here is understood as a place where anyone can present emerged as an organisational buzzword that acquires a product, and a crowd of users can react to it either by speciﬁc meanings depending on the interests of those choosing to use it or not. A working example of such a promoting it. In some contexts, the ‘transparent organ- market is the business strategy of social-media plat- isation’ is viewed as an arbiter of accountability and forms, whose APIs release data to third-party devel- control, whereas in other contexts, it is justiﬁed in opers, who then build plug-ins and other add-ons that terms of the eﬃciency it promotes or even merely on users may or may not employ (Vestergaard, 2017). its democratic merits. Therefore, when translated into Ultimately, this way of conceptualising market-based organisational practices, it can materialise in many dif- problem-solving can be traced back to economists like ferent ways. Examples are open-oﬃce environments Adam Smith (1950 ), who famously argued for (disclosing who is at work), sharable Outlook accounts free competition as an important organising principle in (making planning more eﬀective) or – as in our case – an economy, as well as utilitarian philosophers like calls for open-data repositories (making the public those of Jeremy Bentham (2001 ), who argued sector accountable to its constituents). that regulations must be judged on whether they The experimentalist’s credo calls for this latter organ- increase a nation’s overall happiness. The experimental- isational intervention, which thereby translates the ist’s credo arguably translates this tradition into a quest notion of transparency into a very speciﬁc practice of for a municipal bureaucracy that produces ‘solutions’ data management and storage. In doing this, it ﬁrst that work for the greatest number of people possible. draws on organisational principles from the open- Looking at recent literature on Big Data, this method source community, which is characterised by a ten- of connecting markets and governance shares many dency to release early and often (Neﬀ and Stark, traits with what Evgeny Morozov (2013) has critically 2004; Raymond, 1999). The underlying belief is that termed ‘solutionism’. This is a mode of planning that has early adopters will correct potential failures in early roots in the entrepreneurial spirit of Silicon Valley, releases if ‘enough eyes’ are exposed to them, a belief where promises of ‘algorithmic regulation’ recently often accompanied by an almost fundamentalist adher- have been championed (O’Reilly, 2013). Morozov sees ence to the ideal of ’transparency’. In Internet commu- this tendency as the latest attempt by utopian techno- nities, we have, for instance, seen the coupling between crats to practice ‘politics without politics’ by hiding nor- transparency and good governance in movements such mative choices behind a belief in the existence of raw as Wikileaks (Sifry, 2011). The experimentalist’s credo data and neutral algorithms. By focusing on ﬁnding echoes this adherence to transparency in its philosophy eﬀective solutions in data patterns, this is a form of regu- of epistemology, as well as ideals of democratic lation and governance that eﬀectively bypasses import- legitimacy. ant epistemological and democratic dilemmas. In the The data owner’s vocation frames the issue of trans- words of Morozov, it promotes stressing the ‘what’ of parency in a more ambivalent fashion. It is an ideal that politics rather than the ‘how’. needs to be balanced with other concerns, such as the The data owner’s vocation mobilises a much more need to conceal information to maintain working rela- situated version of the market, which is exempliﬁed tions. We can see this as a form of ‘counter-transpar- by speciﬁc transactions with the municipality and sub- ency doctrine’ (Hood, 2006) that is mobilised as an contractors who already have existing solutions to sell. alternative organisational reality to the one promoted Rather than using a creative and collective force to by the experimentalist’s credo. The situation will deter- enable innovative solutions on top of data, the mine the right balance between what to reveal and what market here is a set of rules and agreements that to conceal. In making this argument, the framing build relations based on trust between actors. Such echoes recent theoretical work promoting the idea relations require work and maintenance that often that transparency has – in practice – more ambiguous involve regulations on potential third-party utilisation consequences than just increasing organisational of data. Part of the data owner’s vocation is to cultivate accountability (Flyverbom et al., 2015). Ideals of trans- these relations and ensure these concerns get priority in parency, themselves, are sources of power, as they con- a data-driven city. tribute to making people, objects, and processes knowable and governable in speciﬁc ways. When trans- parency is used to manage visibilities, it becomes a Transparency and the smart city mode of ordering that is just as strategic as other These diﬀerent methods of conceptualising the link modes of ordering (Flyverbom, 2015). The idea that between markets and governance also explain why the transparency is one among a competing set of 10 Big Data & Society organisational values is what is adhered to when the – but much faster – data inputs. To the extent that the data owner’s vocation touches upon the value of secrecy experimentalist’s credo can be said to insist on an evi- and trust in public administrations. dence-based mode of governance, it mobilises, at the very least, a very pragmatic version of evidence. Conversely, the data owner’s vocation mobilises a Evidence and the smart city much diﬀerent interpretation of evidence and know- In terms of the interplay between evidence and urban ledge. In a philosophical sense, this frame has roots planning, the experimentalist’s credo builds on a radic- that go back to Immanuel Kant’s (1998 ) initial ally empiricist approach in which data are considered to critiques of British empiricism. Kant’s fundamental be raw signals on top of which neutral algorithms can claim was that the organisation of sense perceptions ﬁnd useful patterns. Historically, this evokes classic was not a task for neutral minds. Rather, he argued positions from British philosophy, such as John that sense inputs are perceived and synthesised in Locke’s (2003 ) ‘tabula rasa’, which posits that ways that cannot be separated from the characteristics rules for data treatment emerge from interactions of the person doing them, i.e., there is no ‘tabula rasa’. with data. Data points are understood as imprints Variations of this idea since then have motivated dif- that make a mark on a passive and blank mind that ferent formulations of the epistemological claim that subsequently becomes active in processing and ﬁnding data and analysis are situated phenomena. The quotes patterns in these imprints. This is a model of perception about the role and value of data as something context- and thought that emphasises sense inputs, as well as ual echo this critical approach to evidence and logical procedures, for organising these inputs into knowledge. insights and understanding. It can be argued that the In recent debates about Big Data, we have seen the experimentalist’s credo translates this philosophy into a critique of the empiricist position translated into a body modern version in which sensor data replace sense of scholarly work that shares the claim that ‘raw data is inputs, i.e., algorithms replace the synthesising mind. an oxymoron’ (Gitelman, 2013). One line of thought is In recent debates on Big Data, the experimentalist’s represented by scholars such as Danah Boyd and Kate credo echoes the suggestion that behavioural data can Crawford (2012), who argue that data always are ima- be viewed as signals that are more honest than other gined with root-speciﬁc questions and world views. The moment of production is never neutral, and the idea of sources (Pentland and Heibeck, 2010), as well as the idea that algorithmic pattern-detection can foster a world with pervasive and honest data is a dangerous more neutral insights than analyses that originate chimera around which to build governance. This insist- from idiosyncratic human hypotheses and concepts ence on understanding production contexts is echoed in (Anderson, 2008). Furthermore, the suggestion that many of the quotes used above to illustrate the data- evidence should be judged by its practical eﬀects alludes owner’s vocation. Another relevant theoretical resource to an idea recently promoted by Victor Mayer- that highlights the importance of context is ‘critical Scho¨ nberger and Kenneth Cukier (2013). They argue algorithm studies’, which explicitly discuss the politics that Big Data should be evaluated according to each of algorithmic knowledge production (Gillespie, 2014). individual case, i.e., whether it is ‘good enough’ to For instance, they urge analysts who use algorithms to handle the speciﬁc purpose for which it has been guide their explorations of large data sets toward think- employed. This resonates with a critique of the muni- ing about the logical procedures and scripts involved as cipality as prioritising perfection and a zero-failure atti- being active in the sense that they make important tude in situations in which lower standards would be selections in deciding what’s relevant in data. Again, acceptable because it would increase the use-value of this is something that may be lost in the kind of data (e.g., by enabling faster analyses). crowd-based analytics advocated for in the experimen- The criticism of traﬃc modelling voiced in one of the talist’s credo, but it might be maintained in the ways in quotes above is also paradigmatic of this discussion. which the data owner’s vocation links analysis with ﬁeld First, it has been argued that models build on hunches, experience. which are easily translated into unfounded theories or vague assumptions in the sense of Anderson (2008). Conclusion The insistence on building these assumptions into models arguably runs counter to the promise of work- This paper presented an analysis of interviews, focus ing with raw data and neutral algorithms. Second, the groups and workshops with employees in the technical models are criticised for being too slow. They trade administration in the municipality of Copenhagen balance for perfection, which is not a sensible trade- during the year after winning a smart-city award. oﬀ if one believes that traﬃc regulations would perform This administration was chosen as a case study because better if they simply were grounded in slightly less valid it exhibited characteristics that made it ‘most likely’ to Madsen 11 succeed in translating the idealised version of the smart those slides into a shared understanding of the essence city into a workable bureaucratic practice. Drawing on of data and the smart city. Rather than crafting external the work of Orlikowski and Gash, the empirical ana- critiques of ideals, the analysis illustrates the potentials lysis aimed to identify and describe incongruent in problematising the smart city from inside the organ- ‘technological frames’ that could illustrate diﬀerent isation, which should realise it. methods of making sense of data and the smart city Second, the ﬁndings suggest that even if a transition within this single organisational unit. The outcome of toward implementation of a technocratic smart-city the analysis was a description of two distinct techno- paradigm exists across public administrations, this logical frames that shared a focus on links between paradigm is not unique because it proposes a role for markets, evidence and governance, but that had much markets and evidence in governance. Both techno- diﬀerent ways of making sense of them. logical frames identiﬁed in the analysis emphasised One frame was termed the experimentalist’s credo. It the need for such links, but diﬀered in how they were took inspiration from the IoT and exhibited a readiness created. In relation to the market, the interesting dis- to learn from the open-source community in software tinction was whether it was understood as an infra- development. Trademarks of this approach to organis- structure that enables collective intelligence to ing are beliefs in crowd intelligence, explorative-analysis produce solutions, or as a regulated space that makes transparency and agile processes. Its method of framing stable relations between partners possible. Regarding data and the smart-city primality rested in the develop- evidence, the important divide existed between the mental unit of the administration, and it was legitimised empiricist’s tendency to think of knowledge as a syn- with references to best practices outside the municipality. thesis of already existing data, or a more critical reﬂec- Its conceptualisation of markets and evidence was traced tion toward the way data and evidence are situated and back to 18th century British empiricism and arguably mobilised in diﬀerent contexts. held theoretical aﬃnities with contemporary theories Theoretically the paper drew on literature that about honest signals and theory-free analysis. stemmed from a speciﬁc reading of the sense-making The other frame was termed the data owner’s voca- paradigm. As Holt and Cornelissen (2014) have tion, and it was characterised by a situated approach to argued, there is a risk that such a theoretical move data. For instance, it was emphasised that all data must becomes overly anthropocentric because the predomin- ant unit of analysis is agents with linguistic, embodied have a production context that is both strategic and political. Accordingly, data must be interpreted and and cognitive capacities. The interview technique in this analysed with knowledge of this context present. paper ampliﬁes this risk as the identiﬁed frames are Furthermore, it was emphasised that organisational grounded in stories and descriptions, rather than values such as transparency and innovation must be observed practices. Future studies that build on this balanced against classic bureaucratic values such as paper productively could expand the theoretical and trust and control. This way of framing data in the con- methodological criteria by which ‘sense’ is understood text of the smart-city primarily was located in the main- and thereby explore how to make sense of data tenance unit of the administration, and it was beyond articulation. The kind of sense-making that legitimised with references to personal experiences occurs through everyday data use is an important line from existing mundane data practices in the municipal- of study that could provide the materiality of data infra- ity. Its conceptualisation of markets and evidence was structures with a more prevalent place in descriptions of traced back to 18th century critical idealism and argu- the contemporary smart city. ably held a theoretical aﬃnity with contemporary the- ories about the politics of data and algorithms. Declaration of conflicting interests It was argued that these ﬁndings contribute to litera- The author declared no potential conﬂicts of interest with ture on smart cities in two ways. First, they illustrate that respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of one should be careful not to reify the smart city being this article. analysed. Many critiques of the smart city delve into an idealised version of the phenomenon, which easily leads Funding to the isomorphic argument that public administration is The author received no ﬁnancial support for the research, headed toward a mode of governance that is shaped by authorship, and/or publication of this article. environmental factors, such as Silicon Valley trends. In the case of Copenhagen, one could, for instance, have Note made this argument by referring to the demonstration 1. Each interview lasted between 1 hour and 90 minutes and case that won the prize in Barcelona. 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Big Data & Society – SAGE
Published: Oct 3, 2018
Keywords: Smart city; technological frames; Big Data; sense-making
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