Urban Information Systems (UIS) is a 'cross-cutting' group in MIT's Department of Urban Studies and Planning that connects faculty, staff, and students with shared interests in how information and communication technologies are impacting urban planning. Some of us are studying the complex relationships underlying urban spatial structure and landuse, transportation, and environmental interactions. Others are building neighborhood information systems, modeling urban futures, facilitating public participation in planning processes, or experimenting with e-neighborhoods, community building, and the formation of social capital.
Much of our work involves the development and use of planning-related software and the spatial analysis tools and systems (such as GIS and distributed geoprocessing) that are increasingly important parts of metropolitan information infrastructures. However, our interests go beyond the development and use of specific technologies and extend to an examination of the ripple effects of computing, communications, and digital spatial information on current planning practices and methods and on the meaning and value of the communities and planning institutions that we form.
These are exciting times for planners in computing. Planners are integrating data analysis tools more tightly into their planning practice, while agencies and citizens are beginning to restructure their planning approaches to capitalize on the vast wealth of information currently coming online about people, places, and the interactions among them. Cities and community groups are using Web pages to deliver improved urban services; the Web is facilitating improved citizen access to government; and businesses and homeowners are integrating increasingly sophisticated information-based tools and sensors into all aspects of everyday life. Some of the consequences are unintended, and the tools and information flows have sometimes outstripped our capacity to manage and oversee their use. We are in the early stages of understanding an age of information-rich planning.