Our research responds to calls for more engagement with everyday personal data. We used a co-designed, fictional persona called Alex Smith to concretise and represent people’s online information to help participants (through role-playing) reflect on data and digital traces. Drawing together four fields of scholarly research concerning personal data: digital traces and the digital self, datafication and dataveillance, mundane, everyday data and the data journey – our aim was to advance understandings of personal data by exploring ordinary people’s seemingly innocuous digital traces generated through everyday online interactions. Our paper presents three key findings from our analysis:

(1) how ordinary people cope with and manage everyday data;

(2) the haunting effects and affects of peer-to-peer surveillance and

(3) postdigital identities.

We argue that greater attention needs to be paid to everyday digital traces – how they are understood, managed and revealed because this has implications for ordinary people, corporate entities and governments. We contribute
to a gap in critical data studies literature that calls for further investigations into ordinary people’s engagement with data. We also offer a method that can be adapted for and used with different participant groups, which also supports their awareness of cumulative functions of personal data and potential use by un/known actors.

Digital traces, peer-to-peer surveillance, data self, datafication, online harms, creative security, data journeys


Traditional interventions to “bring nature into the city” were often motivated by a concern to create forms of public space which would provide a public good. Despite such well-intentioned motivations, these public forms of urban nature have always been to some extent bounded, serving some in favor of others, authorizing particular uses and forms of behavior as more or less legitimate, and policing the boundaries of who is/not included in such space. In this paper, we argue that new interventions seeking to bring nature-based solutions (NBS) into the city serve to further trouble these boundaries. NBS seek to use nature to address urban sustainability challenges and they navigate and serve to reconfigure what is (and is not) public in the city. We draw on research undertaken in three cities – Newcastle (United Kingdom), Cape Town (South Africa) and Athens (Greece) to explore the ways in which notions of the private and the public are being remade with and through nature, and its implications for how we might understand urban politics. Our conclusions point to the need for governance arrangements that can support the long-term stewardship of nature in the public interest and with due accountability and we suggest three arrangements.


Urban nature, nature-based solutions, public/private space, urban parks, urban governance


This paper argues that trust cannot be taken for granted in long-term participatory research and promotes greater consideration to conceptualizing the trusting process as fluid and fragile. This awareness by researchers can reveal to them how the passing of time shapes and reshapes the nature of trusting relationships and their constant negotiation and re-negotiation. The paper draws together literature from different disciplines on the themes of trust, temporality and participatory research and outcomes from interviews and workshops undertaken for The Trust Map project to focus on two key moments that reveal the fragility of trust. These are the subtlety of disruption and trust on trial and trust at a distance. We discuss how trust was built over time through processes of interaction that were continually tested, incremental and participatory.

Other publications:


  • Clarke, R., Briggs, J., Armstrong, A., Vines, J., Salt, K. and Flynn, E. (2021) Socio-materiality of trust: co-design with a resource limited community organisation, Co-Design, pp 1 – 20.
  • Armstrong, A. and Banks, S (2017) Organising for change: North Tyneside Community Development Project and its legacy, Community Development Journal, 52(2): 290-312.
  • Armstrong, A. and Bulkeley, H. (2014) Micro-hydro politics: producing and contesting community energy in the North of England, Geoforum, 56: 66-76. 
  • Banks, S. and Armstrong, A. with et al (2014) Using co-inquiry to study co-inquiry: community-university perspectives on research, Journal of Community Engagement and Scholarship 7(1): 37-47.
  • Banks, S. and Armstrong, A. with et al (2013) Everyday ethics in community-based participatory research, Contemporary Social Science: Journal of the Academy of Social Sciences, Special Issue on Knowledge mobilization.
  • Carter, K. Banks, S. Armstrong, A. Kindon, S. and Burkett, I. (2013) Issues of disclosure and intrusion: ethical challenges for a community researcher, Journal of Ethics and Social Welfare, 7(1): 92-100.
  • Armstrong, A. (2013) Housing and inequality, Housing Studies, 28 (2): 365-366.
  • Armstrong, A. (2012) Twentieth century urban regeneration policy in Britain: charting discourses of community and sustainability, Journal of Language, Public Administration and Qualitative Research, 3(1): 65-81.
  • Armstrong, A. (2012) British urban regeneration policy in the new century: towards sustainable communities, Journal of Language, Public Administration and Qualitative Research, 3(2): 55-71.
  • Armstrong, A. (2011) Affluence, second home ownership and mobility, Housing Studies, 26(5): 967-969.
  • Russell, A., Cattermole, A., Hudson, R., Banks, S., Armstrong, A., Robinson, F., Pain, R., Gollan, S. and Brown, G. (2011) Sustaining community-university collaborations: the Durham University model, Gateways: International Journal of Community Research and Engagement, 4:218-23.
  • Armstrong, A. (2010) Creating sustainable communities in NewcastleGateshead, PhD Thesis, Durham University, UK.

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