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Department of Spatial Planning
Summer semester 2022

F 02 - Who owns the city? Digital Planning and Data Sovereignty

Outline on the topic of just city and digitalisation © F-Projekt SoSe2022

More and more cities are becoming "smart" and want to drive digitization forward. Of course, this also affects urban planning and us as planners. Promoting participatory planning and decision-making processes, supported by digital technologies to foster democratic urban development, is often one of the goals of many smart city strategies.

The project group will investigate what this means for planning and participation processes and actor constellations that influence planning decisions and which backgrounds, drivers, causes and effects of digitalization play a role in this. This requires a deeper understanding of what digitization of planning processes means and what role individual aspects such as data standardization, software development, but also political decisions and contexts at all administrative levels and ultimately economic interests play.

With reference to the latter, the idea of digital sovereignty of cities is gaining more and more importance. Thus, it is important to gain a deeper understanding of the concept of digital sovereignty and to work out connections with planning processes, decisions and actor constellations. In particular, the role of citizens in this context needs to be questioned, as it varies from passive "prosumers" to "rebel-citizens" in smart city strategies that want to increasingly involve the urban population digitally in such processes. So the question is, who actually decides how the urban future and built environment should look and how these decision-making processes are influenced by digitalization?

Since the signing of a memorandum of understanding with Cisco in 2014, the city of Hamburg is also on its way to becoming a smart city. Planning has also changed since then. The nationwide decree that all plans must be created in the XplanGML standard - i.e., digitally - by 2023 has been in effect since 2017 and has already been fully implemented in Hamburg. Both external software for formal participation processes and a tool called "DIPAS" (Digital Participation System), which was specially developed in cooperation with Hafen City University, are also used to handle participation processes, and are or will be connected to the administrative program "DiPlanung" via interfaces. Within the framework of an EU-funded research project in cooperation with the Swedish city of Helsingborg, a Participatory Data Standard (PDS) was developed in order to create a comparability of participation procedures and to be able to examine interrelationships. Furthermore, Hamburg is a member of the Cities Coalition for Digital Rights, an alliance of over 50 cities worldwide, whose goal is to demand and promote human rights in the digital space, especially in urban contexts. One focus here is on technological sovereignty with regard to data and services.

Thus, Hamburg offers a vivid example to explore the question "Who owns the city?" already widely discussed in planning literature from a current perspective and to examine through the lens of digitalization with reference to planning, for example, who owns urban data, citizen data and technical infrastructures and who shapes them.

The group can choose its own content focus, if necessary, and develop an appropriate research design with the support of the supervisor. Conceivable methodological approaches include systematic literature analysis, document analysis, actor or stakeholder analysis, qualitative expert interviews, or surveys.

A large part of the literature is written in English. Therefore, participants should have a good command of English and the group can decide whether the project work and academic achievements will be in English or German. Own field research in the context of an excursion to Hamburg is possible, but of course depending on the pandemic development.