Assessing Trends in Digital Technologies in Cities

UPP Prof Nedovic-Budic Edits Collection on Data Science and the Built Environment

As digital technologies continue to remake urban planning and its engagement with the city, planners themselves must remain thoughtful about how these tools change and aid their work. Of course, the increasing datafication of our cities is not an overnight phenomenon; cities have gradually become encoded in data bit by bit, year after year. Across the last several decades, Urban Planning and Policy Professor Zorica Nedovic-Budic has devoted much of her research to these trends. Her work in this area is reflected in the recent publication of a special collection of the Journal of Urban Planning and Development that Nedovic-Budic guest edited and formally announced a few weeks ago.

“The contributors to this special collection address the technologies that are emerging and that have the potential to help planning and planners do their work in a more effective way,” Nedovic-Budic says. “Our aim to understand and connect the trends in new technologies and tools with their multi-disciplinary foundations, looking at the theories and knowledge that these technologies can build upon.”

The special collection, titled “Data Science and the Built Environment,” was first conceived at the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ASCP) Conference a couple or years ago, when Nedovic-Budic chaired a session on this theme. Sensing the value in extending the conversation beyond the conference, she assembled a group of international scholars to write papers tied to these questions; the papers began being published last March. With contributors from the United Kingdom, China, New Zealand, and the United States, the journal reflects a wide range of views on these themes, with topics including the use of Google Street View, crowdsourced urban data, big data for pedestrian simulations, game-based tools, Twitter, and decision support systems. The authors discuss methodological, application, and implementation issues related to new sources of urban data and informatics.

Nedovic-Budic’s deep investment in this research field is reflected in her introduction to the collection. Among the citations in the piece are five articles that she either wrote or co-wrote, with the first published in 1996. In the quarter-century since that article was first published, Nedovic-Budic has become a leading scholar in addressing these questions, putting her in the position to edit this journal’s special issue today. She hopes that the publication can continue to guide effective and reflective planning research and practice in this area, as advances in technological capacity continue to challenge planners to remain thoughtful about their work.

“I've been doing research in spatial technologies and data for 30 years, but often found the technologies and data leading the applications rather than us having a forethought about how we want to use them,” she says. “The point of this collection of articles as well as my past and present research endeavor is to motivate judicious and critical view of spatial technologies and data by planning scholars and professionals alike.”