Work package 1: Transdisciplinary Study of the Digital Episteme


       To implement an ESR doctoral training programme that explores digital culture and digital techniques of knowledge creation from multiple disciplinary standpoints, paying particular attention to how existing debates in the digital humanities and Digital Studies approaches can feed into the critique of existing conceptualisations of the smart city, and inform the theorisation of ‘real’ and ‘really’ smart cities.

–       To explore the relationship between contemporary technological environments, suffering, proletarianisation and decapacitation, and to consider the ways in which participatory digital technologies in ‘real smart cities’ could facilitate ‘living well’ and ‘living better’.

       To reconsider the meaning and import of ‘smart’ and ‘social intelligence’ in relation to historical conflicts and geopolitical hierarchies (colonisation, globalisation, imposed development, urban planning, gender and race). How can the digital ‘episteme’ be expanded to reflect the epistemic diversity of different cultures and intercultural debates within cities? How can universally available digital technologies be brought into local dialogue with the ancestral knowledges specific to the singularity of each city?

       To coordinate the design, implementation and delivery of a set of transdisciplinary Digital Studies methods to contribute towards the outcomes of the (Real Smart City) ReaLsMs project. These methods will necessitate functional literacy in pf relevant debates in fields of knowledge including neuroscience, psychoanalysis, social psychology and linguistics, as well as philosophy, theoretical sociology and anthropology, and technology studies.

       To evaluate how appropriate analysis tools may be used to address and describe technical protocols and infrastructure in order to inform and extend a philosophical understanding of the ‘economy of contribution’ within the Data City and the emerging space in which knowledge is collaboratively developed and shared.

–       To offer complementary skills training in methodologies of data capture and annotation to ESR and ER secondees from across the network in an international and intercultural environment.

Description of Work and Role of Specific Beneficiaries / Partner Organisations:

T.1.1:  Development of the Problematic: Training through research at Durham as the host organisation (M1-M24). Through institutions like the Centre for Humanities Innovation (CHI, soon to be renamed the Centre for Cultural Ecologies), Digital Studies research group and hub for research in the digital humanities, Digital Humanities Durham, Durham University boasts internationally recognised expertise in the politics of digital security (eg., Prof Louise Amoore), urban environments (Prof Mike Crang), the relationship between biology, ecological niche construction and digital culture (Dr Gerald Moore) and social media and contributive technologies (Dr Mariann Hardey). Building on this institutional specialism, Durham will host 4 ESRs working on the development of Data City expertise, as well as hosting ERs for Workshops and Research Innovation and Exchanges events. These 4 visiting ESRs will work alongside the ESRs in Durham who are currently working on the development of Digital Studies, understood as the theoretical approach that analyses how humans are constituted through the technological ‘reinvention’ (exaptation) of our evolved physiology. WP lead Gerald Moore will host a monthly interdisciplinary research seminar on Digital Culture, Digital Knowledge and the Data City. Against a thematic backdrop that interrogates what we mean by ‘the digital’ and digital society, each session in the eighteen-long series will examine the impact of digital technologies on a different aspect of human social life (eg., education, health, politics, security, resource allocation). Beginning from the ‘pharmacological’ principle that digital technologies (pharmaka) can be both curative and toxic, we will specifically consider the potential of Digital Studies methodologies to cast critical light on the impact of the digital episteme on human life. Alongside local and internationally invited speakers, each seconded ESR and ER (including Paolo Vignola (UA), Sara Baranzoni (UA), Vincent Puig (IRI) and Noel Fitzpatrick (DIT)) will be expected to give a research paper, engaging with such defining questions as: Will the delegation of decision-making to smart city algorithms ‘liberate’ citizens to develop alternative, life-enhancing skills, or further marginalise their role in the construction of society? If the latter, how might digital contributive research be harnessed to increase participation and cultivate new modes of agency? How might citizens make use of smart city data to develop their own community-led projects within the context of an economy of contribution? The two ER from UA will focus on how real smart city technologies might be used to bring citizens to engage with the ‘megadiversity’ of Ecuador’s environment.  Subsidiary to these seminars, Moore will also lead a fortnightly transdisciplinary reading group for ESRs to present and discuss material encountered through the seminars.


T.1.2: New Methods of Digital Studies. Durham-led training in collaboration with other academic partner, Ecuador’s Universidad de las Artes, which, through Vignola and Baranzoni, has already pioneered the use of digital annotation and categorisation tools for contributive teaching and learning (M6-M12). While T1.1 is designed to ground ESRs in interdisciplinary approaches to and theories of the digital, this complimentary seminar series will focus on developing digital tools that respond to identified weaknesses in digital culture – for instance, tools to enhance citizen participation, developed with the context of an economy of contribution. The modes of analysis explored will include standardised methods of digital humanities and computational methodologies from computational linguistics, and in a second phase develop new forms of annotation and layering of interpretation (Digital Hermeneutics). In addition to Moore, Baranzoni and Vignola (organisers in DU and UA, respectively), contributors to six half-day workshops will include ERs Puig (IRI) and Fitzpatrick (DIT), as well as ESRs on secondments arranged by Durham. Interventions will address research questions such as: How do existing digital tools offer possibilities for ‘recapacitating’ scholars and citizens who have hitherto used digital technologies predominantly to consume, rather than create? How do digital technologies for the annotation and categorization of big data facilitate the creation of 1) critical distance on existing digital practices, and 2) new possibilities of knowledge and experience?


T.1.3: The Implementation of Digital Studies Methodologies. Training in collaboration with academic partners (M18-M24). Moving into the final phase of WP1, Durham, in conjunction with UA Ecuador, will arrange for ESRs to focus on the development of individual implementation plans for the methodologies developed over the course of T.1.2. Our emphasis will be on how knowledge surrounding contributive, digital hermeneutical techniques might be transferred and integrated into the territorial experimentations being undertaken in Durham (Virtual Open World), Dublin (DCC), Plaine Commune and Guayaquil, Ecuador.


T1.4: Tool Kit development Training during Research and Innovation Focus (RIF) week, part of network-wide training (M10). In collaboration with their partners from UA, Durham organises one RIF week with a focus on Digital Episteme and Transdisciplinarity. Two hosted ESRs and local ERs will be responsible for the practical organisation of the RIF week and all ESRs and ERs will collaborate intensively on technologies and transdisciplinarity, exchange their knowledge, and transfer their skills. This training week will focus on the methodological contribution of Digital Studies to the critical analysis of smart city projects, and on upskilling participants to use digital tools for citizen-led, amateur contributive research. The week will result in the development of a Tool Kit for Digital Studies Methodologies, comprising the development of simple methodologies for overcoming some of the inherent biases from standard quantified, statistical, data driven methods, such as biases within the data collect, biases within the analytical tools, addition modes of introducing the human back in the loop by adding layers of criticality and interpretation.

Description of Deliverables

D.1.1 and D.1.2. The output for T.1.1 and T.1.2 will be a special edition a peer-reviewed journal on the Real Smart City, coedited by Moore, Baranzoni and Vignola, and comprising worked up versions of M10 RIF week interventions (see D.1.4, below). D.1.1-1.2 will be ready for submission in M15 and will include:

– At least two articles will focus on the integration of public data into transdisciplinary studies of the Data City, with an emphasis on the critique of political issues related to citizenship, participation, privacy immanent in data-capture regimes.

– At least two articles will focus on the privacy and commercialization of public data (smart city data) within the EU space.

– Other articles will incorporate perspectives on smart and real smart cities from multiple disciplinary perspectives, including, eg., one by Moore on the risks posed by smart cities to human capacities for environmental niche construction, and the potential of new digital tools to recapacitate niche construction.

 D.1.3. In line with UA’s performance and implementation of public artworks, or interactos, UA’s Baranzoni will coordinate the creation of two independent, high international standard artworks, both of which will harness digital methods to generate reflection on the DATA CITY (M20).

D.1.4. Toolkit Research and Innovation Focus Transdisciplinary Study and the Digital Episteme, to be published as the second part of the special edition of a peer reviewed journal outlined in D.1.1-1.2 (M15).