The Making of Digital Urban Twins: Perspectives into the Blackbox of Software Development in Hamburg

CDC Research Colloquium

04. Jun

Johanna Fischer and Michelle Renz (HafenCity University Hamburg)

"Is a twin a model or is a model a twin?" (BaQy 2021: 2132). This provocative question, posed by Michael BaQy, challenges the term and understanding of the new phenomena of digital twins. In practice, this philosophical inquiry takes a back seat to the experimental progress in the twin development. As we delve deeper into the field of digital twins, a central aspect of discussion are representations: to what extent can a city, as complex, socially entangled and multi-layered open system, be represented digitally through code and models? Insights from the field show that instead of one holistic, all-representing twin, there is a wide range of different twin projects, from technical asset representation, to social representations and processes. Since technology, code and models are never neutral and socially constructed, Kitchin calls to investigate how digital technologies are developed, "the ways in which software is socially created; the nature of software itself; how discourse, practices, and knowledge get translated into algorithms and code" (Kitchin 2011: 946). Consequently, it is crucial to understand how a functional digital twin comes into being, and thus to analyse paths of development on how, where and by whom the twin's code, models and feedback are developed. In addition, processes of (re)production of knowledge and knowledge cultures shift in the process of twinning (Knorr 2002; Kitchin 2016).

With backgrounds in urban design and sociology, we aim to understand the emergence of digital urban twins. We seek to explore practices, processes and actors inherent in urban software and technological development. With a profound understanding of twin creation in Hamburg, we conduct our empirical research on the case study of the Connected Urban Twin (CUT), one of the largest twin projects in Europe. Our documentation of the development processes provides a rich empirical source to analyse software development in urban twinning from an STS perspective.

  • 04.06.
  • 12-2pm
  • C40.320


  • Ina Dubberke