Many people now wear wristbands or other devices to track their activity, giving them access to rich data about their daily routine that can help guide them towards healthier decisions and behaviors. The ambitious Array of Things project, led by the Urban Center for Computation and Data, seeks to create a similar bounty of data to better understand the environment, infrastructure, and activity of cities, creating a new public instrument for research, education, and applications that improve the lives of city residents.
Last year, in an ornate downtown Chicago ballroom, the seeds were planted for a new multidisciplinary research network with an ambitious purpose: to understand and improve cities. By mixing together experts in computer science, public health, education, architecture, urban planning, art and social science, the Urban Sciences Research Coordination Network (USRCN) hoped to create versatile and knowledgeable teams that could find new approaches to study cities in a rapidly urbanizing world. Sixteen months later, the early fruits of those new collaborations helped inspire a new wave of discipline-crossing partnerships at the 2nd USRCN meeting, organized by the Urban Center for Computation and Data and held inside the world famous Art Institute of Chicago.
Through civic hacking events and open data portals, the Obama administration has embraced the potential of data and programming to improve the performance of government for its citizens. As academia and industry increasingly moves toward using computational techniques to inform policy decisions, these more ambitious efforts have also attracted the attention of the White House. On April 4th, the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) convened a panel called “Analytical Techniques to Improve Public Policy Decision-Making” at their regular meeting, inviting CI Senior Fellow Charlie Catlett and three other experts to report on the promise of this young research area.
At the 7th World Urban Forum in Medellin, Colombia next month, representatives from cities around the globe will gather to exchange ideas under the theme of “Urban Equity in Development -- Cities for Life.” To help kick off that event, the University of Chicago with the MacArthur Foundation, Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Chicago Sister Cities International, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development organized a pre-session dialogue in downtown Chicago called “The Informed City: Data Driven Approaches to a More Just, Equitable and Sustainable City.” More than 130 representatives from the public, private, philanthropic, academic and civic sectors attended the event, and an additional 350 people watched via live webcast on Tuesday, March 4.
For the AAAS 2014 session, “A New Era for Urban Research: Open Data and Big Computation,” CI Senior Fellow and Urban Center for Computation and Data director Charlie Catlett assembled an “all-star cast” of social scientists, computer scientists, and representatives from government and industry to illustrate these new partnerships. The urgency driving the presentations and discussions was the rapidly growing urbanization around the world, particularly in China, where they will need to build the equivalent of one New York City every year to house its growing urban population, Catlett said. In the face of these imposing statistics, speakers demonstrated exciting new work going on in Chicago, New York, Beijing, and Boston.
The first Computation Institute Inside The Discovery Cloud event focused on the Culture & Society research area, bringing together Charlie Catlett, director of the Urban Center for Computation and Data, and James Evans, director of the Knowledge Lab. In Catlett's talk, he offers a sneak peek at three ongoing UrbanCCD projects: The LakeSim platform for large-scale urban design, the Data Science for Social Good fellowship, and a partnership with the City of Chicago to create a city-wide network of sensors to collect data and conduct research.
On November 20th, representatives of those fields gathered onstage for Chicago: City of Big Data, a UChicago Discovery Series panel discussion of research and educational efforts focused on transforming cities through data and computation. In a vibrant 90-minute conversation moderated by Charlie Catlett, director of the Urban Center for Computation and Data (UrbanCCD), the panelists described work underway at the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory and outlined their visions for the future of data-driven urban design and governance.
After a successful first summer when aspiring data scientists from around the world completed innovative data and analytics projects with non-profit and government partners, the Eric & Wendy Schmidt Data Science for Social Good Summer Fellowship will return with a new class of fellows, mentors and project partners in 2014.
Data and computation were on the table earlier this month at a Cities & Data Mining panel hosted by Architectural Record as part of their annual Innovation Conference. Charlie Catlett of the CI's Urban Center for Computation and Data (UrbanCCD) spoke on the panel alongside Anthony Townsend of Instititue for the Future and Susan P. Crawford of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. Because the New York City audience was largely made up of architects, the panelists gave a broad overview of what data and computation means for the design of cities in terms of both real-time monitoring and long-term planning.