Emerging urban digital infomediaries and civic hacking in an era of big data and open data initiatives

Chapter by Thakuriah, P., Dirks, L., and Keita, Y. in Seeing Cities Through Big Data: Research Methods and Applications in Urban Informatics (forthcoming): “This paper assesses non-traditional urban digital infomediaries who are pushing the agenda of urban Big Data and Open Data. Our analysis identified a mix of private, public, non-profit and informal infomediaries, ranging from very large organizations to independent developers. Using a mixed-methods approach, we identified four major groups of organizations within this dynamic and diverse sector: general-purpose ICT providers, urban information service providers, open and civic data infomediaries, and independent and open source developers. A total of nine organizational types are identified within these four groups. We align these nine organizational types along five dimensions accounts for their mission and major interests, products and services, as well activities they undertake: techno-managerial, scientific, business and commercial, urban engagement, and openness and transparency. We discuss urban ICT entrepreneurs, and the role of informal networks involving independent developers, data scientists and civic hackers in a domain that historically involved professionals in the urban planning and public management domains. Additionally, we examine convergence in the sector by analyzing overlaps in their activities, as determined by a text mining exercise of organizational webpages. We also consider increasing similarities in products and services offered by the infomediaries, while highlighting ideological tensions that might arise given the overall complexity of the sector, and differences in the backgrounds and end-goals of the participants involved. There is much room for creation of knowledge and value networks in the urban data sector and for improved cross-fertilization among bodies of knowledge….(More)”