Feb 6, 2015: Predicting the City: (new) science and technology in the governance of urban risk

Governing cities has long depended on technologies of knowing and organizing populations and territories in the name of societal improvement.

In the past 30 years, urban governance – in some places more so than in others – has increasingly drawn on digital technologies to produce cleaner, safer and healthier cities  more cheaply, efficiently and/or transparently. Walls, gates, prison cells and police barricades, floodplains, dikes, water reservoirs, and population census tables are more established materials of socio-technical infrastructures supporting urban security in the face of various risks, dangers and crises.

In this workshop we want to discuss modes of governing the urban environment and people through risk management by focusing on the temporal logic embedded in technologies. We are specifically interested in the predictive and preventive capabilities afforded by recent digital socio-technical assemblages under labels such as “Municipal spatial data infrastructure,” “Big Data,” “Smart Cities”.


09:00-09:30 Doors open

09:30-12:00 Keynote speeches by Dr. Laura Forlano, Dr. Gabe Mythen and Dr. Austin Zeiderman

12:00-13:00 Lunch

13:00-17:00 WorldCafe style discussion of main questions & plenary session

Possible discussion questions include:

  • How do newer versus older socio-technical assemblages deal with the measurement, prediction, and prevention of risk in urban governance?
  • How does the vision of predicting and preventing risk implemented through new digital technologies influence which actors are included or excluded in urban governance?
  • What new or old methodological approaches allow us to “see” the temporal logics embedded in technologies, and to understand how these re-shape the governance of urban risk?

About the lecturers

Dr. Laura Forlano

Laura Forlano is an Assistant Professor of Design at the Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology. From 2009-2011, she was a Postdoctoral Associate in the Interaction Design Lab in the Departments of Communication and Information Science at Cornell University. Forlano’s research is on the role of information technology in supporting open innovation networks in urban environments with a specific emphasis on the use of mobile, wireless and ubiquitous computing technologies to support collaboration. Her current project “Design Collaborations as Sociotechnical Systems,” which is funded by the National Science Foundation, is an international comparative study that focuses on the role of technology in supporting networks of designers in New York, Barcelona and Brisbane.

Dr. Gabe Mythen

Gave Mythen is an acting Director of Research and Knowledge Exchange at the School of Law and Social Justice, University of Liverpool. Over the last two decades he has been studying the impacts of risk on everyday life across a range of domains, including national security, crime, politics, welfare, work, the environment and consumption. During the course of his career he has been keen to explore the ways in which social dangers are socially constructed and symbolically represented, how risks are perceived by different cultural groups, the ways in which risks are politically managed and the modes of regulation deployed by government and criminal justice agencies seeking to control risks. He has established an international reputation in the field of risk research, delivering lectures and papers in Europe, North America, South America, Asia and Oceania.

Dr. Austin Zeiderman

Austin Zeiderman is an Assistant Professor of Urban Geography at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He’s an interdisciplinary scholar who specializes in the cultural and political dimensions of cities and urban life, with a specific focus on Latin America. He holds a PhD in Anthropology from Stanford University as well as a Master of Environmental Science degree from Yale University and a bachelor’s degree in Economics from Colgate University. Austin’s research adopts an ethnographic and historical approach to contemporary forms of urbanism. He is particularly interested in how cities are planned, built, governed and inhabited in anticipation of uncertain futures.


Admission is free. Please register before the 15th of January 2015. Limited seats are available.

For registration go to, http://urbanstudies.uva.nl/events/item/predicting-the-city.html. 


Pakhuis de Zwijger

Piet Heinkade 179

1019 HC Amsterdam