Tensions in transparent urban AI

Designing a smart electric vehicle charge point

The increasing use of artifcial intelligence (AI) by public actors has led to a push for more transparency. Previous research has conceptualized AI transparency as knowledge that empowers citizens and experts to make informed choices about the use and governance of AI. Conversely, in this paper, we critically examine if transparency-as-knowledge is an appropriate concept for a public realm where private interests intersect with democratic concerns. We conduct a practice-based design research study in which we prototype and evaluate a transparent smart electric vehicle charge point, and investigate experts’ and citizens’ understanding of AI transparency. We find that citizens experience transparency as burdensome; experts hope transparency ensures acceptance, while citizens are mostly indiferent to AI; and with absent means of control, citizens question transparency’s relevance. The tensions we identify suggest transparency cannot be reduced to a product feature, but should be seen as a mediator of debate between experts and citizens.


  • Kars Alfrink
  • Ianus Keller
  • Neelke Doorn
  • Gerd Kortuem


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Header image: Vehicle chargepoint - Canva.png

Icon image: AI - Canva.png