The New Hanse

How can cities use data to become more democratic and sustainable?

The New Hanse

How can cities use data to become more democratic and sustainable?


The New Hanse investigates in collaboration with the Freie und Hansestadt Hamburg the relationship between urban digital infrastructures, access to and deployment of data for the public interest; with tangible data-driven pilot projects that address real world challenges for the city of Hamburg. The New Hanse aims to showcase the potential of a citizen centered digital green city in a close collaboration between administration, science, industry and civil society.

With a pilot project in the field of mobility data and by building legal as well as technical instruments to govern these data sources collectively, The New Hanse wants to create blueprints for other European cities and explore new concepts for the transformative use of data.

The city of Hamburg thereby becomes a civic laboratory for more democratic and sustainable futures. The intertwined relation between digital and “analog” urban space, the debates and regulation surrounding both provide a starting point for practical as well as theoretical investigations and interventions.

THE NEW INSTITUTE and Francesca Bria have designed this project in order to support the city of Hamburg in becoming the European capital of green digital transformation and tell a different story about the futures of (European) cities.

Cities are accelerators of social differentiation, arenas of displacement, "markets of ideas" as well as places for knowledge exchange, political articulation, and trading. In times of crisis, city alliances have historically formed transnational alliances along common strategic and normative lines.

The New Institute aims to create a network of progressive digital cities, starting with Hamburg, and connect the past of urban cooperation with an open future: The New Hanse will be the beginning of a European initiative to support a future-oriented democracy which keeps and crafts its liberal parameters in the digital age.

The goal of the cooperation between The New Institute and the Freie und Hansestadt Hamburg is to work together in the context of an Urban Data Challenge and create a blueprint for a democratic exchange of data for Hamburg and other cities in Germany and Europe.

  • How should we regulate the data generated by private companies in public urban spaces? What belongs to whom and what is the role of citizens, the companies and the public?

  • How do we set up the proper incentives for collaboration between actors and ensure a fair impact and a fair share of the externalities and wealth created by those data-based services?

  • How do we establish a form of data governance that preserves the digital sovereignty of citizens - and how should we govern relations between the participating actors transparently and democratically?

  • How to put in place technical solutions, protocols and digital infrastructures that are privacy-enhancing and protect the (data) rights and the digital sovereignty of citizens?

  • Can we find good examples of use of data to face and mitigate the impact of climate change in urban areas?


Paul Kolling, WB190621 No. 1-21, 2020 © Foto: Maik Graef

China’s Belt and Road initiative has been hailed as the new Silk Road. But few maps of its routes have been released to the public. In response, Paul Kolling strapped a GPS to a train departing on one of these – from Zhenzhou to Hamburg – and gathered satellite imagery of the entire journey. His work reveals one possible reason for China’s reticence in naming specific routes: the presence of Uyghur work camps. By mapping the blurred outlines of Belt and Road, "Westbound 190621 (1.968-3936)" hints at the ways technological systems can be used to expose as well as to control.

Curatorial Note

As a first step, THE NEW INSTITUTE plans to identify concrete projects for a green and digital transformation within the city of Hamburg and work with the city administration on three concrete challenges in the areas of participation, data commons and net zero.



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