Postdoc position Designing for controversies in responsible smart cities

Postdoc 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
We expect you to work as an independent researcher who is able to connect all parties and disciplines involved in this research project. Your focus will be on how to ensure and facilitate the active involvement of all relevant stakeholders. Herein you will have three specific foci:

  • How to combine insights from design thinking with the notion of the ‘thing’ and ‘public things’, coming from Science and Technology Studies to support the development of an infrastructure to deal with controversies regarding responsible smart cities?
  • Ethics & Politics, concerning the implications of smart city technology for processes of bias, inclusion and exclusion, for the boundaries between the public and the private, for privacy, safety, and security, and for the quality of life and public space in cities.
  • Legal issues, including privacy and agency. Who owns the infrastructure, and how do the legal context and regulation block or enable effective and just use of new technological affordances? Can we formulate digital civil rights that acknowledge and affirm the rights of participants in smart cities to privacy, secrecy, and human agency, while allowing for technological innovations to take place?


University of Twente (UT)


  • You hold a PhD in industrial design (engineering), philosophy of technology or another field relevant to the position;
  • You have a track record in (participatory) design research with preferably a strong publication record;
  • You are able to build constructive relationships with colleagues, practice and citizens and operate at the crossroads of disciplines;
  • You have an interest in social and ethical aspects surrounding the use of technology;
  • You have excellent social and communication skills, in academic as well as non-academic contexts;
  • You have a creative and critical attitude, combined with perseverance and being flexible and stress-resistant;
  • You have fluent English and Dutch language skills, both in writing and speaking;

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 link below.

Conditions of employment

  • The position comprises 0.5 fte for 3 years, starting November 2018. Depending on the profile and ambitions of the candidate, complementing the position with additional research and educational tasks up to 1.0 fte is negotiable;
  • The gross monthly salary will range from € 3.111,- to € 4.084,- and will depend on experience and qualifications;
  • 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.


  • Postdoc
  • Engineering; Economics; Behaviour and society
  • max. 40 hours per week
  • €3111—€4084 per month
  • Doctorate
  • 968360


University of Twente (UT)

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