General Exam proposal


Urban planning has traditionally been a top-down process controlled by experts who operate behind closed doors, with only sporadic opportunities for the community to comment through public hearings. Over the past decade, many online platforms have emerged that promise to boost civic involvement by streamlining communication between citizens and government officials, but it is unclear that they actually facilitate meaningful engagement and collective decision-making. Sidewalk Lab’s Quayside Development in Toronto proposed innovative systems for the city, but the project was canceled in large part due to difficulty in creatively engaging with the public, and failure to build the level of trust necessary for community acceptance and approval(Green 2019). More effective platforms for collective design and community participation are arguably even more important than any technology embedded in such development projects.

Urban design is a complex and iterative process. Too often, important information is lost as the project evolves, both by designers and in the public presentation of the results. The community sees a coarse snapshot at discrete points in the process, and how one got there is lost when consensus is crutial in any techonological intervention.

Github, a social coding platform based on the distributed version control software Git, is often a place where people deliberate and build consensus on software development direction.

We see discussions about the similarities between the underlaying tool Git manages data and the blockchain’s data structure, which aligns with the anticipation that blockchain technology is applicable to support the process of governance. We see this trend directly in a form of DAO’s (decentralized autonomous organization)

I want to consider whether these attempts are helpful in the consensus-building process in the context of city planning. We believe that this tool for collaboration allows (1) consensus building where it depends on a single authority, (2) a transparent process with accumulated history (3) deliberation without division.

My research is aimed at developing this model as a real tool for urban design. In my prior work, I have shown how simple version control concepts a la Github can be applied to create families of related designs (Sakai and Tsunoda 2015) where the evolution can be traced, validated, and discussed.

The basis for this research is mastery of three areas: (1) public consensus and participation in modern urban planning and design, (2) technical support for machine- mediated consensus, discussion and governance, and (3) how we learn, build, and incorporate innovation, using techniques that align with governance using blockchain such as voting and remixing. In subsequent doctoral studies, I will build on this premise and consider ways to enable collaborative versioning with citizens about their city.



Researchers in the City Science Group have been inventing collective consensus building support tools mainly through the project called CityScope.

Within this collective effort, I have been developing and maintaining CityIO, a software layer that acts as an intermediary between simulations, physical tables, and the front end visualization.

The project have focused on developing various simulations, visualizations and with the help of tangible interfaces, creating an interactive data observatory tool to provide insight. Any community needs to be informed before making a decision.

An extension of this system could allow citizens to submit their design proposals, and vote for which one is appropriate. This requires archiving user input and save votes transparently, in order to express the communities will.

I will pursue methods to organize these examples while addressing concerns about the existing democratic process.

Ultimately, I contend that tools that help the city adopt and revise a master plan over time better reflects the needs of an agile, changing world. With sufficient community input, these plans will also come to better support the values of the residents as the community grows together.

Reader: Kent Larson



(Cugurullo 2021) (Yigitcanlar, Foth, and Kamruzzaman 2019) (So 1979) (Knotts and Haspel 2006) (Green 2019) (Galdon 2017) (Godwin 2018) (Sadik-Khan and Solomonow 2017) (Rubin 2019) (Roberts 2015) (Samuel, Servigne, and Gesquière 2020) (Bradner 1996b) (Bradner 1998) (Hardt and Lopes 2015) (Churchman 1967) (Tidball and Stedman 2013) (Irvin and Stansbury 2004) (Sennett 2012) (Antipov et al. 2017) (Aragón et al. 2017)

Reading List

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There are two perspectives from which I will explore the technical aspects of this idea. The first perspective lies in the scope of Distributed Consensus. There are a variety of consensus mechanisms that are being used in a variety of circumstances from auctions (which agree on value) to automated means that support a currency. These are formalizations of voting systems that are especially given that machine-based mediation can channel the noise of low-friction participation in potentially useful ways. The second perspective is knowledge of the technologies that support collaboration in the software industry, which is one of the most successful industry for collaboration currently taking place. These emerged as a combination of version control for software development and community participation in the evolution of a system.

Reader: Andrew Lippman


\newpage (Mueller and others 2003) (Laslier 2012) (Brams and Fishburn 1978) (Kahng, Mackenzie, and Procaccia 2021) (Urken and others 1995) (Arrow 2012) (Bradner 1996a) (Mamageishvili and Schlegel 2020) (Lamport 2019) (Ongaro and Ousterhout 2014) (Lamport, Shostak, and Pease 2019) (Coglan 2019) (Nakamoto 2019) (Gervais et al. 2014) (Buterin and others 2014) (Yakovenko 2018) (Haber and Stornetta 1990) (Hassan and De Filippi 2021) (DuPont 2017) (Weyl, Ohlhaver, and Buterin 2022) (Xie et al. 2019) (Buterin 2019) (Howard and Mortier 2020) (Sakai and Tsunoda 2015) (Chacon and Straub 2014) (Blum and Zuber 2016) (Jentzsch 2016) (Adams et al. 2021) (Lumineau, Wang, and Schilke 2020) (Kshetri and Voas 2018) (Kissner and Laurie 2009) (Lynch 1989) (Ali et al. 2016) (Archer et al. 2018) (Bünz et al. 2018) (Kiewiet and McCubbins 1991)

Reading List

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The act of creating something new by quoting and combining what others have done is not only essential to scientific pursuits, but is also found in a variety of cultural and creative activities. There are two reasons to explore this.

The first is to look for concepts that underpin collaboration in the other media mentioned above, and explore how they might apply to collaborative work in city and town planning.

The second reason is to confirm how these creative activities, which are premised on others’ intervention, can be established as a community and, by extension, a regional identity, and how this can affect each other in planning and thinking about the neighborhood.

Reader: Gesa Ziemer

Gesa Ziemer (Prof. Dr. phil.) is Professor for Cultural Theory and Cultural Praxis and Vice President Research at the HafenCity University Hamburg. She is currently a fellow of the Humboldt Foundation (Feodor-Lynen Program) at the Harvard Kennedy School, Cambridge, MA, USA. Her research foci are: the digital city, new forms of cooperation, urban public life, and artistic research. She holds a Guest Lectureship at the Lucerne School of Art and Design in Switzerland. She is a member of the Accreditation Committee of the Scientific Council of Germany. Moreover, she is a member of the Supervisory Committee of Hamburg Innovation, a community for the transfer of knowledge in Hamburg, and a member of the Advisory Boards of Lucerne School of Art and Design and the Choreography Centre PACT Zollverein Essen. She regularly serves as an evaluator, i.a. for the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, the Swiss National Science Fund, German federal ministries, and private foundations (e.g. Volkswagen, Robert Bosch).


\newpage (Lvi-Strauss 1966) (Rowe and Koetter 1984) (Arnstein 1969) (Cardullo and Kitchin 2019) (Lessig 2009) (Alexander and Manheim 1962) (Alexander 1964) (Panagiotopoulos and Elliman 2012) (Janssen and Helbig 2018) (Pollitt et al. 2004) (DeNardis 2014) (Malone 2018) (Manovich 2005) (Manovich 2007) (O’Neill 2007) (Lessig and others 2008) (Winner 1980)

Reading List

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Date: 2020-08-19 Wed 00:00