Big Data, Visualization, and Society

Data visualization is an important way for architects, planners, and policy experts to communicate with the public and its use has increased dramatically. This is due to the explosion of “big data”, the open data movement that provides greater access to government data, new tools for developing static and interactive data visualizations that invite public participation, and the current media culture that supports the consumption of information through visual snapshots. This class will teach students to work with “Big Data” to answer or expose urban issues.  Student will learn technical skills involved with working with “Big Data” which include cleaning and aggregating data in python, D3 and other web-based visualization software, and accessing API’s to download big data. Students will be asked to work with a big data set on a particular urban area and given and overarching policy issues to understand with that data. Class lectures will provide background on policy issues as well at critic of student work. Weekly lab assignments will be given to build skills on data visualization software and programs in order for students to learn to work with big data.  The final product of student work will be an exhibition, either on the web or as a physical installation. The city students will work will change every year. In the Spring 2016 we will be working in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The Riyadh government would like students to use “big data” to analyze Riyadh’s policy around a new public transit system. The course will include scheduled input from students and officials based in Riyadh who will help provide context to the policy issues the students seek to address.