More than Data: Smart Cities, Big Data, Civic Technology, Data Visualization and Policy

The 2010 Economist Series, The Data Deluge, edited by Neil Cukier peaked everyone’s excitement about the possibilities of Big Data. Corporations, such as IBM, Cisco and Microsoft saw one of the biggest markets for this data to be cities and created programs specifically to cater to those groups. IBM created it’s Smarter Cities program and Cisco created it “Smarter and Connected Communities” programs. Government responded to the demand by opening up more of their data in hopes that organizations outside the government could innovate with the resource. At the same time DIY (“Do-it-Yourself”) culture increased the possibility of those outside formal institutions to develop technology innovations. Since the Cukier article 5 years ago cities, corporations, and technology advocates are still trying to develop strategies for cities to operationalize the big data and use it for a “Public Good”.  Some, such as Evgeny Morozov, say we are living and an era of technological solutionism, but the idea that technology will fix everything is a false hope. They believe a new paradigm needs to be developed to understand how technology can create effective solutions to urban problems. 

In this seminar the class will help define the future of technology in the city. We will start by framing the current smart city with past trends such as the efficient city movement of the 1930’s, the Modernist city of the 1950’s and 60’s, and more recently Bill Mitchell’s “City of Bits”. Then we will discuss current trends in big data, civic apps, Code for America, the open data movement, DIY data collections devices, and their policy impacts. Students will make presentations on each area, drawing from given reading and their own research. Students will be asked to consider the future of the Techno-City be developing a research paper that focuses on one of the areas we have investigated in the course. The instructor will provide some topics for final research papers, but students are free to develop their foci.

This course would be excellent if paired with 11.S938 Crowd Sourced City.