Gaming Model Ensembles: Digital urban twins and the ethics of rendering

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractAcademic


Urban digital twins are increasingly pushed as a set of technologies to support urban planning. The digital twin is meant to allow for both the city’s virtual destruction and its real improvement. With twins the interfaces used in urban governance are changing. Games engines: a suite of tools originally designed and used to render gaming content are now used for the visualization of data derived from ensembles of models each with their own histories. Run-ins between embodied realities and serious games have shown that models used in everyday civic applications may be built upon assumptions that have the potential to elicit knee-jerk reactions and hasty (participatory) policymaking. This paper aims to highlight power asymmetries and the visibility of models and their logics and how these get hidden through hyperreal interfaces. We focus on what we can learn from the critical study of games for getting at some of the core questions of new entanglements between data, models and urban digital planning. In line with Galloway (2006), we argue that game engines are designed to create an illusion of ‘continuity’ rather than highlighting differences in the quality and quantity of data and models. Looking towards public facing twins we further consider notions like the digital sublime (Mosco, 2004) and the sense of magic these new forms of rendering entail. As such the paper traces the normalizing and distancing from the layeredness of models that the twin rendered as a game entails.


ConferenceJoint meeting of the European Association for the Study of Science and Technology (EASST) and the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S), EASST-4S 2024
Abbreviated titleEASST-4S 2024
Internet address


  • Urban planning
  • Digital Twins
  • Game Engines
  • Ethics


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