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The first-ever video-conference Digital Cities for Change (DC2) seminar brought together research students and academics to consider ethnographic approaches to infrastructure and impact. The series of seminars usually takes place at the Civil Engineering Building, at the West Cambridge Site of the University of Cambridge but the current pandemic led to the seminar taking place via Zoom.

Dr Timea Nochta, who leads the seminar series said: “Whilst moving the seminar online was necessitated by the coronavirus crisis, this new way of delivery has made it possible for more people to join. We were delighted to see more than 40 attendees dialling in to listen to the presentations.”

Speakers included Carolina Toczycka, a PhD student at the University of Edinburgh Business School, who studies decision-making through visual representations in infrastructure delivery, at the intersection of STS, interpretive accounting and organisation theory. Carolina presented her ethnography project on Tideway East where she explores the digitalisation of coordination, planning and control practices. She is also designing a methodology to measure and maximise the realisation of benefits from digital technologies.  Acknowledging that “a framework that evaluates digital must also be digital in spirit” Carolina suggested design principles for “a framework that isn’t over-prescriptive but instead open-ended and question-based: it is then continuously evolving, leading to unexpected insights and a catalyst for change”. Carolina’s presentation concluded by rethinking the value of governance asking: what supporting resources are needed to maximise benefit realisation; are the procedures around data insight appropriate; how tightly should a digitalisation initiative be controlled/codified/procedurally imposed; what unintended consequences are generated; and how does digitalisation affect the accountability relationships.

The second presentation by Dr Paul Cureton, from the Data Science Institute ImaginationLancaster at the University of Lancaster, provided an overview of the Lancaster City Information Model (LCIM), a project in partnership with Garsdale Design, Esri UK, Cyber City 3D and Bluesky International Inc. Paul spoke about the taxonomy of visions across the centuries to identify dominant factors before setting out the challenges in creating a city information model, including open-data, geo-design and co-designing urban systems: “we need better data and insights and to share our visions of cities”. Discussing digital twins and the requirement of a framework and (Gemini) principles as presented by the Centre for Digital Built Britain’s National Digital Twin Programme, Paul expressed the importance of open data to establishing a city information model in the journey towards a digital twin. Concluding the presentation Paul described four essential components of the Lancaster City Information Model as: open data; multi layered; virtualised; and collaborative.

Questions to the speakers and discussion followed the presentations covering a number of topics from the possibility of creating a city digital twin without building surveillance systems and the interpretation of governance to the mirroring of space and place.  

The next CSIC Digital Cities for Change (DC2) seminar will take place on 24 April from 1pm to 2.30pm. Speakers include: Dr Manu Sasidharan, Research Associate at the University of Cambridge whose research brings focus to the cross-cutting themes of engineering and economics to aid the smart operation of transport infrastructure; and Dr Sue Chadwick, Strategic Planning Advisor for Pinsent Masons LLP, a planning solicitor who will discuss digital technologies and their impact on the planning system. Join the seminar by requesting details from






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