With data, designing a better city

The National Building Museum's "Intelligent Cities" project aims to explore where information technology and urban design collide.
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor

If there's a common thread that runs through this publication, it's that data can improve our lives -- and the city, of course, is nothing more than a consolidated mass of them.

"Intelligent Cities" is a project of the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. that intends to explore where information technology and urban design collide -- in their own words, "to understand where we are, where we want to be, and how to get there."

The project involves the use of the museum's online presences (website, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) to collect input from the public with the intention of analyzing it, in aggregate, to reveal common attitudes toward the home, city, region and nation.

In an interview with our friends at Next American City, curator and architect Susan Piedmont-Palladino offers a peek at the results.

Some highlights from the discussion:

  • On mission: "How do we communicate with people about the full range of the built environment, from the living room to the infrastructure of the nation? The point we’re making is that we’ll all make better decisions if we have better information."
  • On scope: "We decided to start with the home, because that’s where global issues get framed as personal decisions. It makes the abstract immediate. People can say they think bike lanes and mass transit are great, but what they really mean is they’re great for other people."
  • On separating the wheat from the chaff: "It’s a nice analog for how decisions get made in the city anyway. We’re not pretending that this is scientific. It’s a conversation."
  • On targets: "We'd like to grab some of the public who have been mystified about master planning or resources or density."
  • On insights: "People have figured out that car ownership adds to their costs." Also: "E-mail topped the list of the dominant way we keep in touch, with 'talking in person' a close second and 'social media' a distant third."
  • On water and the region: "Sixty-six percent of our respondents said yes, if my water were certified as clean I would drink cleaned wastewater. That to me says maybe the public is out in front of current policy."

Better Information, Better Cities [Next American City]

Illustration: American regions, based on where citizens place phone calls to. (MIT Senseable City Lab/AT&T Labs-Research/IBM Research)

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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