About the Class

Spring 2017 Graduate Studio | NMDS 5676 | CRN 6972
Wednesdays 4 – 6:45pm
6 East 16th Street | Room 601

Instructor: Shannon Mattern | matterns@newschool.edu | office hours by appointment (write me!)
Project Manager: Jack Wilkinson | wilkj803@newschool.edu
Design Consultant: Kate Fisher | fishk808@newschool.edu

We live amidst real-time data flows, with sensors measuring everything from air quality to traffic, with our own cell phones yielding information about our whereabouts and activity levels, with buildings reporting on their own energy consumption and maintenance. This urban “intelligence” ostensibly allows for the optimization of our environments and our selves – for the production of “smart cities” and smart citizens. In this hybrid studio we’ll examine how the methods of data science shape our civic values and urban imaginaries, and condition the work of urban design and administration; and we’ll assess the consequences – for the material environment, for urban citizenship, for quality of life, etc. – when data and efficiency drive design and development decisions. Taking nearby Hudson Yards as our case study, we’ll explore not only how “smartness” is operationalized in such new urban developments, but also what other kinds of intelligence have long been present in our cities. To evaluate Hudson Yards’s smarts, we’ll develop a collection of “urban intelligence test kits” – IQ tests, guidebooks, measurement instruments, field kits, etc. – to evaluate how human and machine logics, intelligences, and values are integrated and negotiated on this urban test-bed.

**The course is supported by a generous grant from the Provost’s Innovations in Education Fund, which will cover necessary costs for specialized training, design consultation, fabrication, and publication of our results, and our work will be featured in a special “urban interfaces” issue of MIT Press’s Leonardo Electronic Almanac.

Learning Outcomes

Throughout the semester, we’ll:

  • Learn about various theories of “intelligence,” examine how epistemologies are operationalized through different methodologies and materialized in design and administrative processes, and consider how they shape our urban imaginaries
  • Explore the connections between research methods, design strategies, politics, and cultural values
  • Assess the politics and economics of data, the ethics of sensing and monitoring technologies, the environmental impacts of design, and the qualities of cities that make them livable and inclusive 
  • Model, and advocate for, a more inclusive, interdisciplinary, methodologically varied, critical approach to city-building – particularly in an age characterized by the fetishization of data, the reification of algorithms, and the privileging of growth and efficiency as prime urban and civic virtues.