Digital Urbanisms Conference

Fri, Oct 11    9:30am

Digital Urbanisms

The development of urban digital technologies and the deployment of digital information have evolved into a mutually reinforcing feedback loop between distributed sites of data production and extraction, and the planning and design of data-driven and evidence-based landscapes. Mobile social media, networks of sensors, and the ecology of connected devices termed the “Internet of things,” among others, constitute infrastructures that harvest information, while advancing techniques of analysis and visualization have begun to describe and design sociopolitical and built environments in their image. Digital Urbanisms is a one-day symposium bringing together urban researchers and practitioners – planners, architects, geographers, organizers, and entrepreneurs – to take stock of the digital processes and products shaping cities, their promises and problems, and discuss alternatives and approaches for operating within and against the uneven spaces they characterize.

The morning includes two panels to ground and contextualize the day’s discussion in design at multiple scales.

Infrastructures: Digital Materiality
This session aims to contextualize the conference and ground our discussion in the intersection of digital and material environment and its implications. Topics the include the development of urban sensors, the regulation of broadband access and usage, the ubiquity of locative media, and the changing landscape of urban mobility. The panel includes a mix of academics, and researchers as well as leaders in the urban tech industry. The panel will aim to collectively drawing out critical tensions (for justice, inclusion, access, privacy, and so on) while pointing toward ways that places are designed with and through their embedded technologies. What are the relationships – material and/or conceptual – between the built environment and specific digital systems? To what extent might the familiar definition of “infrastructure” require rethinking given the impacts and distribution of digital technologies within shared systems? What (if any) implications does the expectation of “infrastructure” carry for the design, implementation, or regulation of digital technologies in cities?

Nerissa Moray, Associate Director, Planning & Development, Sidewalk Labs
Vinhcent Le, Technology Equity Council, The Greenlining Institute
Tara Pham, Founder and CEO, Numina Co
Mimi Sheller, Director, Center for Mobilities Research and Policy, Professor of Sociology, Drexel University
Moderated by Malo Hutson, Director, Urban Community and Health Equity Lab, Associate Professor, Columbia GSAPP

Datascapes: Systems of Representation
This session is formulated around questions of analysis and visualization of ‘big, social’ data. We will examine its implications and suggestions, as well as its descriptions of social space. The session includes a mix of panelists from different fields with the hope of spurring a non-binary discussion of research and practice with respect to urban data and its representation(s) – whether visual, textual, statistical, or otherwise conceived and made public. What are the critiques, cautions, potentials, and opportunities presented by emerging datasets, data sources, analytical methods, and visualization or mapping techniques for the understanding and design of cities and regions? What are (if any) the new, restructured, or reinforced relationships between the production of social data and the production of space? How are different communities and their spaces, experiences, and practices represented (if at all)? What (if any) concomitant effects do various representational approaches suggest with respect to aims of inclusion, diversity, equity, and justice within cities.

Laura Bliss, West Coast Bureau Chief, CityLab
Justin Hollander, Professor and Director Urban Attitudes Lab, Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning, Tufts University
Taylor Shelton, Assistant Professor, Geography and GIS, Mississippi State University
Moderated by Mark Wasiuta, Co-Director, Critical, Curatorial and Conceptual Practices, Columbia GSAPP

The afternoon keynote and panels build upon morning’s conversation with presentations centered around the implications of these technologies. Keynote to be announced.

Data and Democracy
This session explores the implications of urban digital tech and data usage for public participation, engagement, citizenship, and inclusion. The session includes a mix of panelists from different fields with the aim of raising questions and critique as well as highlighting practices and opportunities for action, intervention, and organizing. One particular objective is to locate an often aspatial discussion in place. What are the critiques, cautions, potentials, and/or opportunities presented by emerging or recent digital practices–technologies, techniques, tools, platforms, and so on–with respect to inclusion, representation (political or otherwise), advocacy, and community engagement in cities? How are communities impacted–benefitted, excluded, connected, etc– differently by digital urban projects, initiatives, or policies? Examples range from data collection and data disclosure practices to algorithmic assumption in characterizing communities to the use of online platforms for engagement and participatory processes and so on. What (if any) are the scalar effects of these differences, from neighborhoods to municipalities and beyond, or from federal policies to communities?

Greta Byrum, Co-Director, Digital Equity Laboratory, The New School
Renee Sieber, Associate Professor, Geography, McGill University
Lauren Hood, Equitable Development Strategist, Detroit, Michigan
Moderated by Susan McGregor, Assistant Director, Tow Center for Digital Journalism, Assistant Professor, Columbia Journalism School

Methodologies and Media
This session brings together academics and designers from different fields with the aim of highlighting, synthesizing, and critically engaging the symposium’s topics through a discussion on the shortcomings and potentials of digital “Methodologies and Media.” This is a conversation on hybridity – engaged and situated research as a mode of practice, design and visualization as modes of urban research – from a variety of spatial disciplines and perspectives which will raise questions on the epistemologies of digital or data-driven tools and techniques and their implications for the spaces, places, and claims produced.

Craig Dalton, Assistant Professor of Global Studies and Geography, Hofstra University
Annette Kim, Associate Professor and Director Spatial Analysis Lab, Price School of Public Policy, University of Southern California
Mark Shepard, Associate Professor and Director of Media Arts and Architecture Program, University at Buffalo
Moderated by Laura Kurgan, Director, Center for Spatial Research, Associate Professor, Columbia GSAPP

Organized by Leah Meisterlin, Assistant Professor Columbia GSAPP.
Free and open to the public with RSVP. Register Here.

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