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Anthony Vanky

Tue, Mar 19    1:15pm

There are no facts: Exploring alternative narratives and epistemologies through urban technologies.

Our cities are filled with digital devices, generating massive amounts of data that paint a picture of how we live, work, and play. While this data is already being used to manage our cities, two contrasting visions dominate the conversation: maximizing efficiency and optimizing infrastructure use versus the fear of a dystopian surveillance state. Both perspectives rely on the assumption that this data provides an objective, truthful, and irrefutable portrayal of the city. But are they truly factual?

Vanky’s talk explores ongoing research that delves into how digital data, viewed through a technological lens, can offer an alternative reading on the cities. This research aims to creatively define new metrics that capture the essence of urban life and the experiences of its inhabitants. From what ice cream can tell us about bias (or not) in facial recognition to what computer vision can say to us about the development of ethnic communities, this talk will explore how urban technologies can take on feminist, auto-ethnographic, and human-centered lenses in how we measure the city.

Anthony Vanky, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation. Trained as an architect, urban designer, and city planner, his research focuses on civic engagement, urban data, and digital methods and technologies in shaping and evaluating urban environments. It spans the disciplines of urban design, urban technology, and computational social science.

Vanky has previously held appointments in urban planning and technology at the University of Michigan and urban design at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. During that time, he helped build innovative practices within the academy, including the University of Michigan’s first-of-its-kind urban technology degree, MIT’s designX program—an entrepreneurship accelerator for design, city, and built environment—and Senseable City Lab, where he was a research and partnership lead.