M.I.T. Department of Urban Studies and Planning -- Fall, 2015

11.522 Research Seminar on Urban Information Systems

Course Description

Fall 2015 Theme

Urban activity modeling, urban spatial structure, and mobility


Class will generally meet Mondays, 6:05 - 8:00 PM in Room 9-451. Occassional guest speakers and research talks will occur at other times.


Prof. Joseph Ferreira, Jr. Room 9-532, x3-7410, jf@mit.edu


http://course.mit.edu/11.522 (for further information regarding seminar schedule and discussion notes)

COURSE PHILOSOPHY: Modern information and communication technologies (ICT) provide new opportunities for urban sensing and analytics that can impact all aspects of urban planning. This research seminar provides a setting in which to discuss and investigate the urban planning and policy implications of ICT advancements. Seminar topics are usually tied to ongoing Urban Information Systems (UIS) research in the MIT Urban Studies and Planning Department. Much of this research involves geographic information systems (GIS), location-based computing, visualization methods, and the design and prototyping of urban planning tools and metrics for accumulating and using 'city knowledge.' Some of the work also involves institutional analysis and new theories about planning strategies, collaborative urban design, the economics of place, urban information infrastructure, and land use and transportation interactions. 11.522 is intended to enable Master's and PhD students to work on topics of interest to them which can be related to ongoing UIS work in order to tap into a critical mass of information, technology, planning context, and peer review.

COURSE DESCRIPTION and CONTENT: Seminar participants will engage in critical discussions of current literature, ongoing research, and guest speaker presentations. Each student will be responsible for identifying, reviewing and presenting one structured discussion of articles from the current literature and seminar talks. At the end of the semester, students will present a synthetic piece that explores a question raised in the earlier discussion and/or proposes relevant research. One central theme is to focus on the interaction among technical, urban planning, and social science issues and theories involved in efforts to design and experiment with information technology-enabled urban futures. For example, new technologies for place-specific monitoring, tracking, and service delivery, can be a rich source of data for studies of space usage, behavioral patterns, and planning effectiveness. Likewise, the social science and planning implications of information technology-enabled efforts to build community, change patterns of use/work/play, redefine public/private space, and facilitate e-governance (or self-governance) can be very sensitive to the particular technologies and privacy/access controls that are used. We expect most of this semester's topics to involve urban modeling, urban spatial structure, and urban indicator development. We will draw on ongoing work in Boston (related to land use, transportation, and environmental modeling with MassGIS, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, and the Central Transportation Planning Staff), and in Singapore (related to the MIT/Singapore program on "future urban mobility" and involving land use and transportation models, SENSEable City Lab experiments, and urban redevelopment). We begin the semester with discussion of a controversial paper, "Growing Cities Sustainably: Does Urban Form Really matter?", by Echenique, et al. that was published in 2012 by the Journal of the American Planning Association (JAPA). We use that paper, and related comments on an academic planning mailing list, as a window into issues and arguments about the role of urban modeling and quantitative analysis in researching 'sustainable' development and evaluating 'smart growth' strategies.

FORMAT: Each week, there will be one session lasting two hours during the scheduled Monday evening time for discussion of assigned readings and discussion notes. Each student will be responsible for (a) leading at least one class discussion of published papers in the current literature concerning a topic of personal interest that relates to ongoing or contemplated research, (b) attending relevant guest seminars and participating in seminar discussions and out-of-class email exchanges, and (c) presenting, at the end of the semester, a research proposal or project report that follows up on a topic addressed in their earlier class discussion.

ACADEMIC INTEGRITY: Plagiarism and cheating are both academic crimes. While there are no exams in this seminar and group discussion is encouraged, your written and oral presentations should be your own work and not anything copied from another person or paper. Never turn in an assignment that you did not write yourself, or turn in an assignment for this class that you previously turned in for another class. If you do so, it may result in a failing grade for the class, and possibly even suspension from the college. Please see me if you have any questions about what constitutes plagiarism. Anyone caught cheating on an exam will be reported to the provost in line with recognized university procedures.

PREREQUISITES AND SEQUENCING: While projects can involve hands-on use of GIS and other computing technologies, this is not a requirement. However, students are expected to have some knowledge of metropolitan information infrastructures and digital representations of 'place' and spatial relationships prior to taking 11.522 (see the list of prerequisites below). Students should have sufficient computing proficiency and an understanding of information and communication technology use in urban planning - as evidenced by taking (or already having relevant experience related to) courses such as 11.520 (A Workshop on Geographic Information Systems), or 11.521 (Spatial Database Management), and 11.220 (Quantitative Reasoning). MCP students normally take this course during their second year with the intention of linking the course to thesis preparation, an internship, and the like. PhD students can take the subject more than once as they work on their first-year paper, general exam preparation, research assistantships, and dissertation.

11.522 homepage: http://web.mit.edu/11.522/www
Last modified: 28 August 2015 [jf]
Back to DUSP | CRON | MIT | SAP | 11.522-home