Digital Infomediaries and Civic Hacking in Emerging Urban Data Initiatives

  • Piyushimita (Vonu) ThakuriahEmail author
  • Lise Dirks
  • Yaye Mallon Keita
Part of the Springer Geography book series (SPRINGERGEOGR)


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 types of organizations are identified within these four groups.

We align these nine organizational types along five dimensions that account 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.


Digital infomediaries Civic hacking Urban Big Data Open data Text mining 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Piyushimita (Vonu) Thakuriah
    • 1
    Email author
  • Lise Dirks
    • 2
  • Yaye Mallon Keita
    • 3
  1. 1.Urban Studies and Urban Big Data CentreUniversity of GlasgowGlasgowUK
  2. 2.Urban Transportation Center, University of Illinois at ChicagoChicagoUSA
  3. 3.Department of Urban Planning and PolicyUniversity of Illinois at ChicagoChicagoUSA

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