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IM927 Digital Cities: Interdisciplinary Perspectives

Digital Cities

15/20 CATS
Module Convenors - Dr Tessio Novack, Dr. Zofia Bednarowska-Michaiel

The module is aimed at introducing interdisciplinary perspectives on current challenges faced by cities and urban science, in order to develop a critical understanding of the role of digital technologies, big data and urban analytics for promoting sustainable urban development in “smart city” initiatives worldwide.

This module will run as a series of convenor-led lectures and student-led presentations, which are accompanied by interactive seminars supported by the module’s reading list. The module will consits of ten 2-hour sessions. Weeks 1, 2 and 10 will consist of interactive lectures delivered by the module convenor. Weeks 3-9 will consist of an introduction to the topic delivered by the module convenor (30 minutes), a 45-minute student-led presentation (in groups), and an interactive seminar moderated by the convenor (45 minutes).

Indicative Syllabus

Week 1 – Introduction to Digital Cities: Urban Challenges, Urban Analytics and City Science

Introduction to the module and the programme of lectures for the following weeks, explaining their relationship with current debates and trends in city sciences, urban analytics and global urban agendas.

Week 2 – Urban Data: Affordances and Access, Critical and Ethical Perspectives

Cities are awash with data produced in a number of ways and having varying degrees of access. We look into how they enable glimpses into human activities and their contexts and reflect critically on the agenda and narratives behind data production and use within academia, businesses and services. We also reflect on ethical concerns and technical measures for avoiding pernicious effects of data-driven urbanism to people’s privacy and quality of life.

Week 3 – Methodological (Digital) Approaches to the Urban

An overview of quantitative methods within the realm of Urban Analytics is given with a focus on data visualisations, network methods, and Geographic Information Systems. We also look into how digitality, media, and city life are being conceptualized and articulated within Digital Humanities and Urban Geography to approach the urban and urbanization.

Week 4 – Urban Social Inequalities

How social inequalities materialize into and are propelled by urban spatial inequalities and digital divides? The lecture will discuss how city authorities and urban analytics researchers can take into account the needs of women, youth and children, people with disabilities, marginalized groups, older persons, indigenous people, among other groups, and ensure the rights of every citizen to benefit from what their cities can offer.

Week 5 – Digitally Enhanced Urban Mobility

We will discuss how the digital transformation and the availability of data is affecting urban mobility and access to urban services. It will be shown how actual initiatives currently under way change the ways passengers access public transportation, make navigation decisions and are supported in interactions with the city, for example, through place and route recommendation applications. Examples of data-driven urban transportation policy design will also be discussed.

Week 6 – Reading week

Week 7 – Sustainability, Wellbeing and Health in the Digital City

Most people live in cities which are places where energy comsuption and air pollutants emissions are highest. The lecture will discuss the role of digital technologies in supporting sustainable urban design and citizen behaviours, and in implementing measures that promote the mental and physical wellbeing of citizens and support active and healthy lifestyles.

Week 8 – Smart Cities, Smart Urban Governance and Citizen Participation

Cities are increasingly seeking to establish partnerships with businesses and civil society to find sustainable solutions to urban challenges. The lecture will discuss challenges for using digital technologies and urban analytics to foster citizen participation in urban governance and making decision-making processes more democratic and inclusive, whilst attending to inequalities and differential capabilities of different social groups.

Week 9 – The City of the Future

Digital technologies are changing how cities are managed and designed as well as the ways citizens socially interact and experience the urban space. As the world is increasingly urban, discussions of global impact, such as climate change and social inequality and exclusion are being articulated with life and modes of functioning of the city of the future. In this lecture, we look into the discourses, i.e. the actors, their agendas and proposed pathways, shaping the city of the next decades.

Week 10 – Module Wrap-up

This lecture will be dedicated to a recapitulation of the module as well as to interactive discussions on the topics for the student essays.


Each student will participate in a group presentation on one of the module's addressed topics. Also, each student will write an essay varying in length depending on the number of CATS the student wishes to complete: 2,000 words (15 CATS), or 3,000 words (20 CATS).

Illustrative Bibliography

Batty, M. (2013). Big data, smart cities and city planning. Dialogues in Human Geography, 3(3), 274–279.

Coaffee, J., & Lee, P. (n.d.). Urban resilience : planning for risk, crisis and uncertainty. Palgrave Macmillan UK.

Fraser, B. (2015). Digital Cities. London: Palgrave Macmillan UK.
Glaeser, E. L. (Edward L. (2011). Triumph of the city : how our greatest invention makes us richer, smarter, greener, healthier, and happier. Penguin Press.

LeGates, R. T., & Stout, F. (2015). The City Reader (Routledge Urban Reader Series). Routledge.

Marvin, S., Luque-Ayala, A., & McFarlane, C. (n.d.). Smart urbanism : utopian vision or false dawn? Routledge.

Sennett, R. (1996). Flesh and stone : the body and the city in Western civilization. W.W. Norton.

Townsend, A. M. (2013). Smart cities: big data, civic hackers, and the quest for a new utopia. WW Norton & Company.

Learning Outcomes

The module aims to encourage students to be able to:

  • Understand the main challenges faced by today's cities and critically reflect on the role of digital technologies and urban analytics to support sustainable urban development;
  • reflect on current urbanisation trends and challenges from a global perspective that takes into account the differential realities of cities across the global North and South;
  • understand different disciplinary perspectives and methods in research on cities and their relation to big data, urban analytics and digital technologies;
  • develop communication skills that allow them to take part in interdisciplinary discussions with their peers, academics from a range of disciplines, and practitioners from industry and government;
  • demonstrate a critical appraisal of the potentials and challenges for digital technologies, big data and urban analytics to tackle urban challenges within "smart city" projects.


  • Please be advised that you may be expected to have access to a laptop for some of these courses due to software requirements; the Centre is unable to provide a laptop for external students.
  • Please be advised that some modules may have restricted numbers and places are allocated according to availability.
  • Please note that a request does NOT guarantee a place on the module and is subject to availability.
  • Gaining permission of a member of CIM teaching staff or a member of staff from your home department or filling in the eVision Module Registration (eMR) system with the desired module does NOT guarantee a place on that module.
  • Requests after the specified deadline will not be considered.
  • Only after confirmation of a place from CIM PG Coordinator can students’ home departments confirm their registration on eVision/MRM. Registrations by students who have not received confirmation of a place from CIM will be rejected via the system.

NOTE – The above-mentioned deadline for registration includes for the optional modules running in Term 2 as well. Although, we accept registrations again in the first week of Term 2, this will be based on availability only.

We are normally unable to allow students (registered or auditing) to join/leave the module after the second week of it commencing.