PhD position Designing for controversies in responsible smart cities

PhD position Designing for controversies in responsible smart cities

Published Deadline Location
16 Mar 20 Apr Enschede

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Job description

At the University of Twente, we continuously develop and apply new technology in domains such as smart interactive products, personalized medical devices, social robotics, autonomous cars and e-health applications. In all of these domains, design plays an important role. In considering design as the interface between innovative technologies and people, design research at the University of Twente aims for societal acceptance of such new technologies by taking in the views of various stakeholders. Moreover it recognizes that design adds value by contributing to economic and cultural progress, as well as by contributing to the empowerment of individuals and groups.

The University of Twente together with Utrecht University, the municipality of Amersfoort and 4 private partners has been granted a NWO-project in the Smart Culture Creative Cities program.

The project focuses on Designing for controversies in responsible smart cities. Dutch municipalities, in particular the municipality of Amersfoort, are at the brink of a series of transformations in areas of sustainability, smart tech, and democratic counselling. This project focuses on how to design these major transitions and allow the voices of various stakeholders to be heard. Aim is to contribute a critical and affirmative approach to a people-centric smart city by designing a collaboration platform that supports the definition and establishment of role divisions between partners in the quadruple helix, to empower all stakeholders to organise their city to their benefit with the help of new technologies, as well as to keep/acquire agency of the use of their city. Departing from the established concept of socio-technical controversies, the focus will be on identifying and further developing the contribution of design to government-citizen-academic-industry collaborations for realising smarter cities, exploring the mechanisms of such collaborations, and identifying key enablers and barriers. This ‘designing for controversies’ approach entails creating responsible smarter cities that strike an optimal chord between civic engagement and technological innovations, while supporting all stakeholders’ needs. Envisioned outcome of the project is a verified architecture for a smart city collaboration platform.

In this project we open two positions at the University of Twente:

  • a PhD position (4-years, 1.0 fte, starting May/June 2018)
  • a PostDoc position (3-years, 0.5-1.0 fte, starting November/December 2018).
These positions will be hosted by the chair on Human Centred Design of the Faculty of Engineering Technology in collaboration with the chair on Philosophy of Technology and the DesignLab.

Within the Faculty of Engineering Technology, the Department of Design, Production & Management focuses on research, education and application of the broad industrial design process, ranging from the analysis of context and users to the realization of products and product service systems. The chair on Human Centred Design develops new design approaches and tools for eliciting user needs, anticipating product use and accessing the use related expertise of stakeholders by actively involving them in development and change processes. Overall aim of the chair on Human Centred Design is to support the development of products and services that meet the needs and wishes of all stakeholders. Through the design approaches and tools we develop, designers are supported in eliciting actual user needs. Acknowledgement of the use related expertise of each stakeholder is key to this elicitation process. Scenario-based and participatory design approaches and tools are developed that facilitate cross-disciplinary and level knowledge exchange between stakeholders and the design team. Techniques as workshops, gaming and virtual reality are frequently part of these design supports.

The Department of Philosophy, located in the Faculty of Behavioral, Management, and Social Sciences, focuses on the philosophy of technology, in relation to scientific practice, ethics, and human-technology relations. The Philosophy of Human-Technology Relations group studies how technologies reconfigure various dimensions of human existence and society, ranging from public space to human identity and from normative frameworks to political engagement. The work of the group is strongly related to the DesignLab, connecting theoretical analyses of the role of technologies in human existence to practices of innovation and design.

DesignLab is a creative and cross-disciplinary ecosystem, connecting science and society by way of applied design research. It fosters an entrepreneurial mind-set; contributes to delivering new global citizens of tomorrow, focuses on societal challenges and finds excellence in forging new and effective combinations. Talented, engaged and highly motivated students & researchers from engineering, natural science, social science and the humanities join forces to take on the wicked problems of today's and tomorrow’s world, using their creativity to bring science to design for society. Positioned deliberately at the cross-roads of design (thinking), technology, science and humanities, it both bridges and transcends traditional ways of innovation.

The challenge
You will develop your own research around the questions:

  • What architecture can be created for government-citizen-academic-industry collaboration, including the supporting role of designers therein, to create responsible smart cities that optimally foster civic engagement and stakeholder needs? What division in roles within the quadruple helix helps to unlock the potential of technology, while also empowering all stakeholders to organise the responsible smart city to their benefit as well as to keep agency of the use of their city?
  • What is the potential for the creative industry to contribute to the creation of effective government-citizen-academic-industry collaborations for smarter cities? How can we design ways to play out, test, and conceptualize different stakeholder roles, as a way to allow stakeholders to clearly express the productive divisions and complementarities?


University of Twente (UT)


  • You have a Master’s degree in industrial design engineering, interaction design, the social sciences or any other field relevant to the position with strong affiliation to design research;
  • You have strong and proven research competencies;
  • You like and have experience in working across disciplines, and have the ability to connect people regardless of their backgrounds;
  • You have an interest in social, ethical and moral aspects surrounding the use of technology;
  • You have a creative and critical attitude, combined with perseverance and being flexible and stress-resistant;
  • You are open-minded and have a willingness to learn new things;
  • You are experienced in conducting research using participatory and co-design methods;
  • You have good social and communication skills in academic as well as non-academic contexts;
  • You have fluent English language skills, both in writing and speaking; having also fluent Dutch language skills is an advantage;
  • You are able to work independently, but also motivated to collaborate with others, including project participants, technology providers, civil officers and citizens.

Information and application
For additional information regarding this position, you can contact Mascha van der Voort: You can submit your application, including a recent CV, before April 20th, 2018 using the application link below.

Conditions of employment

  • A very challenging fulltime position for 4 years (starting May/June 2018) in an inspiring multidisciplinary and international environment;
  • A starting salary of € 2.222,- in the first year and a salary of € 2.840,- in the fourth year gross per month;
  • A holiday allowance of 8% of the gross annual salary and a year-end bonus of 8.3%;
  • A solid pension scheme;
  • Minimum of 29 leave days in case of full-time employment;
  • Professional and personal development programs.




The University of Twente. We stand for life sciences and technology. High tech and human touch. Education and research that matter. New technology which leads change, innovation and progress in society. The University of Twente is the only campus university of the Netherlands; divided over five faculties we provide more than fifty educational programmes. We have a strong focus on personal development and talented researchers are given scope for carrying out groundbreaking research.

We are an equal opportunity employer and value diversity at our company. We do not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, age, marital status or disability status. Because of our diversity values we do particularly support women to apply.

The Faculty of Engineering Technology (ET)
is one of the five faculties of the University of Twente. ET combines Mechanical Engineering, Civil Engineering and Industrial Design Engineering. Our faculty has approximately 1800 bachelor and master students, 400 employees and 150 PhD candidates. The departments of the faculty cooperatively conduct the educational programmes and participate in interdisciplinary research projects, programmes and the research institutes: MIRA, CTIT, SBE and IGS.


  • PhD
  • Engineering; Economics; Behaviour and society
  • max. 40 hours per week
  • €2222—€2840 per month
  • University graduate
  • 968354


University of Twente (UT)

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