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Visualizing the City Through Data

The way we think about, engage with and plan cities is changing dramatically through the use of data and visualization. This week, we look at the many ways in which policy makers, NGO’s and average people are aggregating and displaying large sets of open data to address local issues in new ways. Given the clear need to re-establish a common ground in the wake of the recent presidential election, using open data along with aggregation and visualization tools to locate and address such issues may be a great starting point for contemporary city dwellers.


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  1. Alandria Moore

    This week, we read the article “Open Data at City Level”. The main argument in this piece was “With half of the world’s population living in cities, making use of the potential of modern technology and building on their natural closeness to the ‘lived realities’ of the citizens cities provide an ideal platform for change ” (1). This, also being the thesis, outlined the main points of what was discussed in the article which was the different ways of data collection that each city/state/country uses. One are in particular that we found interesting was Philidelphia’s way of collecting data. They work with non-government actors for data release. These non-government actors also host the open data portal (OpenDataPhilly), that Philadelphia pours most of its data into (P. 1, Point Number 2).

  2. Rebecca Chamblee

    Within Jennifer Shkabatur’s writing “Cities @ Crossroads” she proves that “The article delineates city-citizen relations in general and the usage of digital technologies in cities in particular along two axes—consumerism and participation” (1484). Consumerism is what she describes as “the degree to which a city succeeds in effective provision of public goods and services to its residents, who are regarded as consumers” (1419). She explains the participation axis “reflects the degree to which a city facilitates citizen participation in governance and encourages community building” (1419).

    Both of these are needed to balance each other out in order for the city to be successful. However, Shkabatur warns that treating the citizen like a consumer can only work on the small scale of a city or else there becomes a conflict of interest between the needs of many different groups. Treating citizens as consumers distorts the meaning and understanding of citizen participation in the city, but technology can help to satisfy these participation requirements. For technology to be beneficial it must be inclusive of the people, transparent to the average resident, meet the needs of the citizens, impact the city and be cost effective. Shkabatur notes “The stranger a digital platform performs under each criterion, the more successful it is” (1442).

    Many cities are now testing out how the impact of technology can be used to change and ultimately better the relationship between city and citizen. This new digital frontier that is still being experimented with is what Shkabatur calls the “crossroads” for the new generation of urbanists to discover.

  3. Taylor Couty

    Group 2:
    “Geek Cities” is a report on different cities and how the leaders of the cities have transformed their cities through data and research. They find through research and evidence how they can approve the lives of the residents and the surrounding communities. It pays close attention to six cities: Baltimore, Denver, Miami, New York City, Providence, and San Antonio. It goes on to say that outside cities can use the said cities as an example for them to emulate.

    • Taylor Couty


  4. Grace B

    In the article “Geek Cities: How Smarter Use of Data and Evidence Can Improve Lives”, the idea of a “Geek City” is broken down to elucidate the importance of the evaluation of data in order to improve different systems. In order to have an effective government and lifestyle, we need to make sure that we figure out what works in a specific system (i.e. schools, public transportation) using real data, and then make adjustments based on the facts. One of the most important aspects of figuring out what works in a system is the ability to pay for it, and maintain it. Without that, there is no point to it. The four steps for a “geek city” are: 1. Measure what matters 2. Build the evidence base 3. Invest in what works and 4. Budget for what works. With those four steps, cities can be well on their way to figuring out a lot of systematic issues.

  5. Taylor Couty

    In “Geek Cities: How Smarter Use of Data and Evidence Can Improve Lives” they dedicate a segment to New York City and how they have taken data to improve their city in two separate ways. The first way New York City is using data is discover which stores sell bootleg cigarettes and which restaurants illegal dump grease down city sewers and which. The other way that New York is using their data is to better the treatment they subject juvenile offenders to. Ten years ago, they developed a program that allows for the youth who have cases pending within Family Court that they could be released, without substantial supervision. The program decides on what cases they deem most appropriate for the program, separating it by high-risks, mid-risk and low-risk kids. Since the program has started it has taken the 26 percent of juveniles who are re-arrested during the waiting period of their cases to 13 percent.

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