Underneath the Promise of Safety and Security in a ‘Smart City’

An Ethnographic Study of Eindhoven’s Living Lab Stratumseind


  • Sofie Doorman University of Amsterdam
  • Brunilda Pali Institute of Criminology, KU Leuven




smart city, algorithmic governance, social sorting, security, living labs


In this article, we explore the promises of security that are embedded in the smart city technologies and algorithms and their potential implications for creating social inequality and discrimination. Our ethnographic case study is the Living Lab Stratumseind, a popular nightlife street in Eindhoven where smart technologies and algorithms are being tested with the aim of increasing security in the street. First, we introduce the context in which the Living Lab Stratumseind was developed and trace this development and the multiple forms of governance that characterise it and highlight the main ‘smart technologies’ that can be found there. Second, we focus our attention on the ways in which smart technologies and algorithms promise to enhance public security by directly and uncritically translating technological rationales and discourses into social domains. Third, we argue that the smart city technologies and algorithms risk to create, reproduce and reinforce social inequalities and discrimination, and that it is unclear who is responsible for these unanticipated consequences.

Author Biographies

Sofie Doorman, University of Amsterdam

Sofie Doorman recently obtained her master’s degree in Cultural and Social Anthropology at the University of Amsterdam. She also has a background in criminology at the KU Leuven and did an internship at the European Forum for Restorative Justice. After graduation, she worked as a junior lecturer in anthropology at the UvA. Her main interests are security studies, critical criminology, science and technology studies, urban anthropology, and philosophy.

Brunilda Pali, Institute of Criminology, KU Leuven

Brunilda Pali is a Post-doctoral Researcher in the Leuven Institute of Criminology at KU Leuven. She is co-editor of Restoring Justice and Security in Intercultural Europe and Critical Restorative Justice. Besides criminology, she has a background in psychology, gender studies, and cultural studies. She is also currently the Secretary of the European Forum Restorative Justice Board. She publishes on multiple themes, like restorative justice, critical criminology, security, social movements, gender, and arts.