[urban interfaces] research group at Utrecht University


Call for Manuscripts: Urban Civic AI: (Re)Imagining Public Values in Artificial Intelligence

As part of the Research Topic editorial board for the journal Frontiers in Human Dynamics, our core members prof dr. Nanna Verhoeff and dr. Michiel de Lange invite scholars to respond to their call on urban civic AI.

Artificial intelligence (AI) has been increasingly embedded in urban infrastructure and services. From predictive policing to public health control, from autonomous vehicles to social profiling and credit systems, the spread of machine learning (ML) and algorithmic decision-making (ADM) is set to profoundly transform urban life, administration, and the relationships between government, industry and civil society. It also points to the emergence of a future where governance and planning of cities are potentially conducted by intelligent algorithms, with humans largely ‘out-of-the-loop’.

This raises at least three serious concerns. First, lack of transparency about the steps adopted for training of models and deployment of AI across the city, as well as when interactions between citizens and AI may take place, thus compromising trust on the city’s management and decision-making processes. Second, lack of accountability due to overreliance on technology corporations to supply algorithms, data models and, more importantly, the computational infrastructure required to effectively process data gathered from the city. Finally, the combination of low trust and poor accountability risks dramatically compromising civic discourse and citizen democratic participation.

In this Research Topic in Frontiers in Human Dynamics, the editors particularly welcome Conceptual Analysis articles with a maximum of 8,000 words, discussing how the increasing pervasiveness of AI in cities challenges and redefines notions of civicness, and how fields like the Human-Computer Interaction, Design, Social Sciences, and Urban Studies might adapt in response. In doing so, we propose the articles to address one of three aspects below:

  1. Diagnostics: articles describing current tensions, frictions, controversies, and dilemmas posed by the use of AI in cities
  2. Re-prefiguration: articles imagining possible alternative futures for the use of AI in cities
  3. Methodologies: new design processes that could support the creation of those new futures where cities might be synergistically co-habited by humans and AI algorithms.

Reflecting the plural nature of civicness, authors are encouraged to approach those themes from the perspective of their respective fields. Articles may address a wide range of topics, including:

  • Facial tracking and recognition / predictive policing
  • Biometrics
  • Smart city sensors
  • Social media tracking
  • Recommendation systems
  • Chatbots
  • Urban robots / Autonomous urban systems
  • Explainable AI
  • Creative AI
  • Social credit systems

In addressing them, authors should discuss implications of AI to urban life, including ethics, democracy, civil discourse, citizen participation, or technological equity in cities.