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GSSS 2019-Lecture Abstracts & Slides

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GSSS 2019

Title and Abstracts appear in the order the lectures are scheduled

Note Well: Slides that are not a PDF, but rather, a dropbox link, may not be available after the school ends. Download them to your device to save them.

LECTURES

Luis Bettencourt

Video: Director Bettencourt Intro to GSSS

Slides: Introduction to GSSS

Slides: Introduction to GSSS Group Projects

Chris Kennedy

Slides: Urban Metabolism

History and applications of the study of urban metabolism; insights from a study of the metabolism of the world’s megacities; introduction to greenhouse gas “Urban Metabolism”

Cohort suggested extra reading:

Industrial METHANE Emissions are underreported Cities trying to calculate GHG emissions CONSUMPTION inventory

Dan O'Brien

Slides: Urban Informatics

Slides: The Urban Commons

Urban Informatics and How Data Are Reshaping Urban Social Science and Policy

Many have heralded the arrival of “smart cities,” but wherein lies their promise? This talk will explore the opportunities presented by urban informatics—smart cities’ more mundane cousin—and how data and technology can advance our understanding of social phenomena in cities, in turn enabling new and enhanced policies and programs. Importantly, it will concentrate on resources that are available now to nearly all communities, rather than the less accessible futuristic innovations often associated with smart cities. The talk will walk through how novel digital data and crowdsourcing technologies lay the groundwork for a civic data ecosystem of researchers, policymakers, community leaders, and private corporations that can translate new information into both innovations in policy and a deepening of urban science. The talk will discuss this trend across the United States, often using Boston and the Boston Area Research Initiative as a primary example.

Cohort suggested extra reading:
Array of things data set
City Street Orientation Fellow


Maintaining the Urban Commons through Civic Technology: Exploring Questions of Custodianship, Sustainability and Equity

Hundreds of municipalities across the United States and Canada have implemented 311 systems that provide constituents with convenient channels (e.g., hotline, smart phone app) to report issues in public spaces, like potholes, graffiti, and litter. Such problems are no one person’s responsibility but affect everyone’s quality of life, and the 311 is a novel channel for everyday urbanites to address the age old problem of maintaining shared spaces and infrastructure—that is, custodianship in the urban commons. The rich database of reports generated by the 311 system tells the story of how, when, and why people act as custodians. But in doing so, it also reveals broader lessons regarding the potential and limitations of “civic technologies” that engage constituents in the collaborative deployment of public services. This talk will explore what an extended collaboration between the Boston Area Research Initiative and the City of Boston and other local partners has revealed about the dynamics of custodianship and the maintenance of the urban commons; the sustainability of this collaborative, technology-forward approach to such maintenance; and the challenges that arise for questions of equity.

Ryan Keisler

Slides: Sensors and Semantics

Sensors and Semantics: Understanding Earth from Above

Our planet is teeming with human activity: agriculture, energy, logistics, and much more. The ongoing explosion of sensor data, combined with physical and statistical modeling techniques, provides a means to understand these processes at a global scale. This talk will focus on imagery and sensor data collected by earth-orbiting satellites: from the petabyte-scale imagery archives being released by the likes of NASA and ESA to the parallel ecosystem of smallsat companies launching new sensors every day. The models built on top of these datasets allow us to better understand cities: the structure of their neighborhoods, the distribution of their trees and green spaces, the quality of their air, the renewable energy resources available to them, and the threats posed by wildfires and other natural disasters, to name a few examples.

Audrey de Nazelle

Slides: Air Pollution in Cities 1

Slides: Air Pollution in Cities 2

Air Pollution in Cities, Part 1: Problems and solutions

The state of air pollution problems around the world will be briefly discussed. We will identify solutions, but also trade-offs and co-benefits. An important aim will be for students to get a sense of the complexity of air quality research and policy, and also to learn to propose and evaluate health promoting urban strategies.

Air Pollution in Cities, Part 2: Overcoming barriers to healthy planning solutions

We will discuss barriers and enablers of urban planning solution, which will lead to proposing a model of co-creation of knowledge and solutions. With this in mind, we will discuss opportunities for societal engagement on issues of air pollution and urban planning solutions, in particular through digital technology.


Cohort suggested extra reading:
volkswagen emissions cheating, impact on public health
Europe's history with lead air pollution
Should I buy a HEPA filter?
Meet a mayor who figured out how to neutralize anti-bike lane nimbys


Charlie Catlett

Slides: The Transformational Potential of Smart Cities & Society Part 1

Slides: The Transformational Potential of Smart Cities & Society Part 2

Can a City actually be "Smart?"

Abstracts: The term "Smart City" is often shorthand for the use of technology to optimize the operation of a city, with heavy emphasis on automation and efficiency associated with transportation and infrastructure. We discuss a more rounded view of an "optimized" city, or perhaps a "good" city, having to do with not only infrastructure and efficiency but with opportunity and human connectedness. With such a balanced framework we will look at examples of how data and computational science tools are being used and extended for future use to help residents, organizations, and city officials make cities "good" or "smart" in ways that matter to city dwellers.

Cohort suggested further reading:
Array of Things github

Measuring Cities – (Way) Beyond Sensor Networks

Abstract: There is a paucity of high spatial/temporal data related to many of the challenges faced by cities of all sizes, and associated with both steady state and rapid growth of cities. Sensor networks can fill some of these gaps, but for many of the most useful measures, such as patterns of use of public spaces or the flow of people and vehicles, there are no electronics sensors and thus measurement must be done by observation. Astounding advances in machine learning hardware and algorithm capabilities enable us to develop such observation capabilities using computers equipped with sensors (including cameras and microphones). In this lecture we will explore the challenges of urban sensor networks, survey the state of the art in using ML-enabled sensors (e.g., computer vision and hearing), and explore projects (such as Chicago's Array of Things) that are providing the science community with opportunity to develop digital "observations."

Luís Bettencourt

Note: these slides are on dropbox and may not be available after the program; download them if you want to save them.

Slides: Lecture One - The Science of Cities as Complex Systems Part 1

Slides: Lecture Two - The Science of Cities as Complex Systems Part 2

The Science of Cities as Complex Systems

Lecture 1: I will provide an intellectual grand tour ways in which different disciplines model cities and the current state of the art in understanding how cities work, as socioeconomic networks embedded in space and time. I will introduce ideas of scaling and underlying theory that allows us to understand many of the average properties of cities as functions of their size. I will provide many examples of urban systems in different parts of the world, at different levels of development and throughout history. I will also show how these ideas allow us to benchmark the performance of cities and thereby gauge places doing well or poorly in different dimensions. I will conclude with a discussion of issues of growth and efficiency in cities, including their material needs in connection to ideas of urban metabolism (see Kennedy).

Lecture 2: This lecture will be more specifically about issues of human development in cities, and how resource consumption and socioeconomic outcomes are connected. I will introduce models that allow us to better understand the efficiency of cities and the tradeoffs between economic performance and resource consumption involved. From this perspective, we will imagine how the basic functions of cities and urban systems - especially their ability to generate human development - can be preserved and enhanced while creating a sustainable, and indeed synergistic relationship to natural environments.

Ed Mazria

Slides: The Nex Built Environment

CarbonPositive – The Next Built Environment, TODAY

The next few years will be the most important in human history. We must peak CO2 emissions by 2020 and phase out all fossil-fuel CO2 emissions in the built environment by 2050 in order to avoid the catastrophic impacts of climate change.

With the world undergoing the largest wave of urban growth in human history, the impact of planning and building design becomes even more critical today. We now have a critical window of opportunity, as well as the necessary tools needed to address the energy consumption and emissions of cities and this new construction before it is locked-in for decades to come. Our mission must be to immediately scale our actions to impact cities, urban planning and building design worldwide. Scaling means the widespread implementation of sustainable planning principles and buildings deigned to carbon neutral standards that dramatically reduce their environmental exposure, access renewable site energy sources, and are constructed with low to carbon positive materials.

Edward Mazria, architect and founder of Architecture 2030, will deliver a riveting and eye-opening presentation illustrating the transformations currently underway in the built environment to address this issue – urbanization, energy and emissions, and adaptation. He will vividly illustrate the next steps, processes, and tools necessary to accelerate the current transformation in order to keep climate change from becoming irreversible.

Phil Enquist

Note: these slides are on dropbox and may not be available after the program; download them if you want to save them.

Chicago & Sustainability Part 1

Chicago & Sustainability Part 2


An urban case study – How Chicago is contributing to sustainability through urban design

Examining a recent history of:

City reinvention and investment
Bringing nature closer to people
Reconnecting fragmented ecologies
Building walkable neighborhoods
Public spaces doing more
Improving public transport
Addressing Diversity and inclusiveness
Promoting innovative infill strategies
Forging unusual partnerships
Addressing land and building vacancies
Understanding the value of compactness and density

Matt Petersen

Slides: LACI - creating an inclusive green economy

Creating Sustainable Cities: Using the pLAn as a Case Study

How do cities create commitments to sustainability that are comprehensive and address equity, economy, and the environment? We'll explore the origins of the Sustainable City pLAn, its architecture, and comprehensive nature, and how it evolved upon the required 4- year update as LA's Green New Deal. We'll also explore the origins of the Climate Mayors, the original focus on deep leadership (i.e., in its initial incarnation as Mayors' National Climate Action Agenda and commitment to bold commitments, deep climate action plans, and annual or regular municipal GHG inventories), and the shift to a broader, more inclusive call to action post-election to include over 400 mayors – including smaller cities who don't have sustainability staff or resources for annual inventories, etc –who committed to adopt the Paris Climate Agreement after Trump declared the US would pull out.

Danielle DuMerer

How data and connected technologies support Chicago’s sustainability and resiliency initiatives

People have long-acted as sensors indicating to their local officials where government services or interventions are needed in their community. This direct resident input continues to be critical, but government must be more intentional in its community engagement and data collection to address qualitative and quantitative data gaps. By engaging communities directly through many mediums or channels, cities increase their capacity and capability of addressing key challenges.

By using sensors and connected technologies, data analytics, and machine learning, local governments can collect new hyperlocal data, automatically identify or predict issues, optimize service delivery, prioritize investments, and develop better-informed policies. By openly publishing data, governments can more easily engage and collaborate with researchers, civic technologists, businesses, and residents—working with the community to develop solutions to challenges.

This talk will discuss how Chicago is leveraging data, new technologies, and strategic partnerships to more effectively and equitably serve its communities, and advance and measure its sustainability and resiliency goals. Progress and lessons learned from several of its key programs—including energy benchmarking, water quality prediction, Smart Lighting, the Array of Things, and CHI 311—will be discussed.

Further reading:
chicago streetwork data portal
API docs for the Chicago Transportation Network Providers dataset.
Chicago Health Atlas

Jagan Shah

Slides: India's Smart Cities Mission Part 1

Slides: India's Smart Cities Mission Part 2

India's Smart Cities Mission: lesson in disruption

Imagine the urban sector in India: 1.25 billion people living frugally in about 60,000 villages and wastefully in about 8000 towns and cities; cities that produce wealth, but also consume and pollute in damaging ways. Imagine most city governments being neither financially self-reliant nor capable of delivering services at acceptable levels. Now imagine the Indian government launching a ‘Smart Cities Mission’. Can Indian cities leapfrog with data- driven governance, artificial intelligence and resource management? Can the ‘smart city’ concept help India to honour its commitments on the New Urban Agenda and the SDGs? The lecture will address such questions with data, anecdotes and insights. India’s Smart Cities Mission is designed to be disruptive; it is nicknamed ‘Mission Transform-Nation’. Its logo is a digital butterfly. In just four years, the Mission has succeeded in running a nation-wide ‘Smart City Challenge’ to select 100 cities for investment and has promoted integration across domains, convergence of local resources and the creation of a ‘special purpose vehicle’ to plan, implement and operate the assets created. Over 27 billion USD has been committed and 6000 projects have been grounded. The lecture will discuss the successes and failures of ‘Mission Transform-Nation’.

Making Urban India Sustainable: needs, challenges, opportunities

Given their current growth and expansion, Indian cities seem to be en route to becoming unsustainable. Precisely for that reason, they must be the frontline for sustainable development in India. Sustainability and resilience are necessary for protecting the most vulnerable citizens, yet the exact opposite – conspicuous development (read: “poured concrete”) – defines the political economy. This is the situation in urban India, comprising over 8000 cities and 60,000 villages. Economies of scale are easy to identify, smart solutions can replicate faster, but cities suffer from congestion of various kinds. There is the congestion of housing, the congestion of narrow economic self-interests, indigent populations pitted against migrants and start-ups, and there is the congestion of identities; proximity breeding ghettoes. Making urban India sustainable requires the reinvention of citizenship and civic responsibility – a nudge towards substantive democracy – such that India can achieve the ‘decoupling’ from resource-intensive pathways. The systems and networks comprising the city must be low- carbon, buildings must be ‘green’, renewable energy must get locally generated and distributed, water must be regulated, and public transportation must keep pace, both numerically and spatially, with growing demand. While state-of-the-art planning and design are necessary for sustainable cities, the imperative is social sustainability and active citizens.

Emily Talen

Slides: Lecture 1 Part 1

Slides: Lecture 1 Part 2

Slides: Lecture 2 Part 1

Slides: Lecture 2 Part 2


Cellular Dynamics of Urban Change: The Neighborhood Basis of Urban Resilience

Resilient cities are neighborhood-based, but few cities are composed of neighborhoods that meaningfully function as the spatial units that urban dwellers relate to. Most neighborhoods tend to be ill-defined and exist only as convenient geographic locators or worse, social separators. In these sessions, I explore how the neighborhoods of resilient cities could be better defined and experienced: place-based, locally governed, centered, bounded, and named—but at the same time not defined by insularity or exclusion. This sets up a series of internal complexities and tensions that need to be resolved in order for neighborhoods to function as meaningful building blocks of sustainable and resilient cities. The existence of multiple conceptions of neighborhood—individualized, cognitive, digital, global—the allure of a looser, contested neighborhood definition, and the complacency that neighborhoods are little more than “valentines” are countered with an aspirational view that neighborhoods can and must be something more.

Christa Brelsford

Slides: Analysis of Social and Physical Systems

Slides: Water, Cities and Sustainability

Heterogeneity and Sustainability in Cities

Quantifying interactions between social systems and the physical environment we live within has long been a major scientific challenge. A better empirical understanding of dynamic interactions between the built environment and urban social structure is necessary to support predictions of how cities will respond to climate change, ensure energy and water security for their residents, and to facilitate urban sustainability and resilience. In this talk, I’ll explore both the spatial and temporal dimensions of heterogeneity in access to urban infrastructure, and consider how these change overall urban sustainability.

Using Digital Trace Data to describe Urban Social Processes

As the global urban population grows, there is a substantial need for both a universal, quantitative perspective on what a city is, and also sub-city representations of neighborhoods and social processes. We need definitions of urban boundaries which can be updated more rapidly that the decadal censuses which traditionally form the basis of most definitions of ‘cities’, and are more inclusive that pure remote-sensing strategies. Some combination of remotely sensed information and digital trace data are the most likely strategy for more flexible maps of urban environments. We demonstrate that it’s possible to use geo-tagged tweets to distinguish between urban environments in the US and UK based on a spatially embedded network of social contact and describe how these methods can be extended to generate a measure of urban areas that can be consistently applied anywhere there is sufficiently widespread use of the underlying data source. We show how this same data process can also be used to describe within and across city social connectivity, and describe how these social communication maps might be used to inform our understanding of the evolution of coupled social, physical, and economic processes.

Anni Beukes

From data collection to actionable intelligence: integrating community local knowledge and science for sustainable and equitable cities.

Rapid urbanization in emerging cities creates a need to rethink urban planning from the neighborhood level with impact and benefits for the city at large. Creative methods are at our disposal to integrate the power of interdisciplinary approaches to human development with innovations in mapping technologies and local community knowledge. This lecture will trace the trajectory of collaborative work with organized community groups in slums, scientists and technologists in generating reliable and verifiable data on slums premising local community needs and their development agenda. From making the invisible visible, to holding the middle ground where we combine community local knowledge and mobilizing capacity with state-of the-art technology and science, for actionable intelligence. We’re seizing a transformational opportunity to advance a vision for neighborhood equity and empower residents to advocate for improved opportunities locally through collaborative processes and knowledge making. This all creates a new framework for how people engage with planning technologies and practices, the built and natural environment and how these inform human development theory.

Further links:
Know Your City!
Ona Data

Doug Arent

From Molecules to Markets: How Innovation in Clean Energy Solutions are Changing Our World.

The rapid growth of clean energy solutions and their ability to address both distributed and centralized infrastructure, as well as differences in cost structures relative to other energy solutions are driving dramatic change in energy systems. The accelerating advances in materials, components, systems and integrated systems of systems, combined with digitization, decentralization, computing, design and analytic tools offer increasing opportunities for rethinking our energy infrastructure, energy services and development challenges.

These dynamics—which are proving out via various experiences—imply opportunities and challenges for development strategies and institutional reform. They also have implications for advanced R&D portfolios, the formulation and evolution of policy; the role and reform of state- owned enterprises; as well as privatization and regulation. In addition, the dynamics engender a particularly active debate regarding decentralization and the balance between central and local approaches to energy and infrastructure for environmental sustainability and economic productivity.