The Social Digital Twin:The Social Turn in the Field of Smart Cities

Batel Yossef Ravid, Meirav Aharon-Gutman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Complexity theory has become a conceptual framework and a source of inspiration for Smart City initiatives. In addition to many other conceptions, the Urban Digital Twin (UDT) became both a concept and a tool for generating the revolutionary act of data-driven 3D city modeling. Indeed, the UDT has increased the ability of planners to make decisions vis-à-vis data-driven city models; at the same time, however, it has attracted criticism because of its focus on the physical dimensions of cities. In facing these challenges, we seek to join the conceptual and practical efforts to generate a social turn in the field of Smart Cities and urban innovation. Creating a UDT with a social focus, we maintain, is not only a 1:1 translation of the built environment into the social realm, but also demands interdisciplinary knowledge from the fields of sociology, anthropology, planning, and ethics studies. This article makes theoretical and methodological contributions. Theoretically, it discusses the potential contribution of the Social Urban Digital Twin (SUDT) to the theory of urbanism, enabling us to represent the physical and the social environments as a single fabric. Methodologically, it enhances the know-how of the City Analytics research community by advancing a six-phase protocol for developing SUDTs, each phase of which integrates technological conceptions and social-theoretical content. The phases of the SUDT protocol are demonstrated using a specific case study: the experience of elderly residents of the Haifa neighborhood of Hadar—a low-income neighborhood in Israel characterized by ethnic and national diversity—during the Coronavirus pandemic. We conclude by discussing the contributions and limitations of the SUDT.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1455-1470
Number of pages16
JournalEnvironment and Planning B: Urban Analytics and City Science
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jul 2023


  • Digital twin
  • social planning
  • social turn in the field of smart cities
  • urban complexity
  • urbanism

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Architecture
  • Urban Studies
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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