Quant Urbanism et al…

Alan Feuer recently explored how under Mayor Bloomberg the Office of Policy and Strategic Planning has begun to use “Data — or Big Data, as quantitative analysts will call it” to run NYC more ‘efficiently/effectively’. All of this data is being provided, sliced and dice by The Mayor’s Geek Squad.

As Michael Flowers who oversees the group, asked in the piece;

If Young & Rubicam can use tweets to sell you stuff…why can’t the city use them to make you less sick?

Using predictive informational techniques, data analytics and Bayesian statistics, the team is able to “create a lingua franca for the bureaucracy’s Tower of Babel” from the roughly 1 terabyte of raw information that is processed by the office daily. As Mr. Feuer writes “One of the benefits that come from working with the informational atoms of the city is an almost molecular understanding of New York itself“.

There are potential down-sides to Big Data trends however, as Steven Lohr explored in a piece in the Business section titled Big Data Is Opening Doors, But Maybe Too Many. Specifically, the tension between forces of monetization and privacy. If “data is a new asset” which you want “to be liquid and to be used” then what is needed are also safeguards or tools which allow consumers/citizens to for control, store and audit flows of personal data. An M.I.T. group led by Dr. Pentland is developing exactly these kinds of tools, “Its data store is an open-source version, called openPDS“.

Finally, for a more light-hearted take on contemporary-future Smart Cities, quant urbanism and ubicomp head over to Adam Greenfield’s website where he has published The canonical smart city: A pastiche, described by him as a “shooting script for one of those concept videos so beloved of the big technology vendors“.


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