Studio-X NYC: Big Data and Urban Research

Hi all,

In addition to the Eyebeam event next Thursday, the following two talks are right up Meat Street- check it out:

For the next two Tuesdays at Studio-X NYC, we’re exploring the city through the lens of technology. Join us to talk all about data: how you can use it for urban research, as well as the inside track on who owns it, who wants it, and who sells it.

To begin with, on Tuesday, March 20, we’re excited to welcome back Fast Company‘s Greg Lindsay and the Institute for the Future’s Anthony Townsend for the second in a series of events casting a much-needed critical eye on “smart city” hype.

X-Cities 2: My Life Inside Big Data: Power Struggles in Information Security, Open Government, and the Real Time Milieu
Tuesday, March 20, 2012, 6:30-8:30pm
Studio-X NYC, 180 Varick St., Suite 1610 (map)

Free and open to the public. No RSVP required.

In the past decade we’ve cycled from an Orwellian response to 9/11, locking down public data access, to an open data movement that promises to transform government. In both cases cities have been at the nexus of discussion and policy. Now we are on the precipice of another shift in the data landscape with the emergence of pervasive real time sensors, arriving in the form of mobile devices.

Special guest Sean Gorman, founder of GeoIQ, will cover his voyage through these shifts – from navigating the threat of university collected open data being classified by the government, to starting an open data crowdsourcing site funded by the government, and then to trading beer for data in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. What kinds of scenarios will the new streams of data emerging from mobile devices and social media create, and what will their impact be on the city?

Sean Gorman is the founder of GeoIQ, a collaborative web platform for geographic data analysis. Previously he was in academia as a research professor at George Mason University and before that a graduate student at the University of Florida. In between he worked for startups in the DC area building online communities, providing Geo-IP location, and mapping telecom infrastructure.

And, on the following Tuesday, we have:

Social Media For Urban Research
Tuesday, March 27, 2012, 6:30-8:30pm
Studio-X NYC (map)

Social media are increasingly becoming part of our everyday lives, from connecting with friends and sharing images to exploring cities through location-based applications. These new services have given us a different vantage point from which to understand, explore, navigate, and geographically record the places we live.

This panel discussion brings together academics, professionals, and journalists who are researching, building, and using social media data to better understand our urban environment. How does the introduction of place-based social media affect our relationship to the city? Who’s creating these data points and what can it show us about how the city is used? How can large private data sets be used for a public good?

Join Studio-X NYC and the Spatial Information Design Lab for a conversation about the potential of social media in urban research, featuring Sarah Williams of the Spatial Information Design Lab, Brett Martin of, Blake Shaw of Foursquare, and other speakers to be announced.

Also on display, Here Now! Social Media and the Psychological City

Sites such as Foursquare and Facebook allow us to spatially mark our explorations in the city, creating rich databases that hold digital imprints of our interactions. For this exhibition, the Foursquare and Facebook Application Programing Interfaces (APIs) were used to access location-based data to determine where social media users broadcast that they are “Here Now.”

Free and open to the public. No RSVP necessary.

The Transparency Grenade

I found this the other day and thought it was pretty relevant but mostly F###ing cool! Perhaps this device could use joiner to further enhance it’s usefulness? Below you can read the introduction of the project! / Jacob

“The lack of Corporate and Governmental transparency has been a topic of much controversy in recent years, yet our only tool for encouraging greater openness is the slow, tedious process of policy reform.

Presented in the form of a Soviet F1 Hand Grenade, the Transparency Grenade is an iconic cure for these frustrations, making the process of leaking information from closed meetings as easy as pulling a pin.

Equipped with a tiny computer, microphone and powerful wireless antenna, the Transparency Grenade captures network traffic and audio at the site and securely and anonymously streams it to a dedicated server where it is mined for information. Email fragments, HTML pages, images and voice extracted from this data are then presented on an online, public map, shown at the location of the detonation.”

Case Caplowe on ‘Smart Cities’

From the renaissance of public space to robotized recycling schemes, Casey Caplowe, co-founder and creative director of GOOD, reveals the big infrastructure ideas and localized innovations that are making cities smarter. “In a world where things too often don’t work, GOOD seeks a path that does,” says Caplowe, echoing the socially minded, Los Angeles-based media platform’s motto.

Using Twitter to Gather Public Transit Sentiment from Riders


This connects closely to many of the themes in this class. How do we build on this idea, and inject a sense of play or gaming into it? How do we encourage city dwellers to tell stories via their mobile phones?


A group of researchers at Purdue suspected agencies could learn a lot about rider satisfaction by doing this (oh yeah, and all this data is free!). Craig Collins, Samiul Hasan, and Satish Ukkusuri tested the idea on the prolific tweeters who ride the Chicago ‘L.’ They crawled publicly available time-stamped Twitter data, including geographic location tagging, for tweets they believed came from ‘L’ riders, talking about the ‘L.’ They then weeded out all of the extraneous data. A few people, for example, turned out to be talking about “The Thin Red Line,” the 15-year-old movie, not the thin Red Line, the ‘L’ route. The system also automatically corrected for spelling errors and style quirks (say, “I wish this train would moooooove!”).

Beyond Smart Cities: It’s Really All About the People

Very nice articulation of the pro bottom-up smart cities approach vs the top-down (IBM etc) version.

Imagine a colony of ants busily going about their lives. Unorganized, chaotic and without central control. However, each ant has an agenda and things end up getting done, not because of a grand plan, but because of small acts that benefit the whole. This is the vision that was presented at“Beyond Smart Cities” at BBVA’s Innovation Center a few days ago by three renowned experts in the field of city planning.