Big data can be used for good—from tracking disease to exposing human rights violations—and for bad: implementing surveillance and control. Sarah Williams will remind us, through some historical background and her own projects, that data inevitably represents the ideologies of those who control its use; data analytics and algorithms too often exclude women, the poor, and ethnic groups.
This talk will have a strong focus on urban planning and urban analytics, with examples that will range from Digital Matatus in Nairobi, where open data was used to create an informal transit system, and Distance Uknown, where data visualizations presented to US Congress created more work visas for Central American Migrants, and much more (details here: https://civicdatadesignlab.mit.edu/).
During this talk, Sarah Williams will provide us with a guide for working with data in more ethical and responsible ways. Her method emphasizes collaboration among data scientists, policy experts, data designers, and the public. This approach generates policy debates, influences civic decisions, and informs design to help ensure that the voices of people represented in the data are neither marginalized nor left unheard.
Sarah Williams is an Associate Professor of Technology and Urban Planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where she is also Director of the Civic Data Design Lab and the Leventhal Center for Advanced Urbanism. Williams’ combines her training in computation and design to create communication strategies that expose urban policy issues to broad audiences and create civic change. She calls the process Data Action, the name of her recent book published by MIT Press. Williams is co-founder and developer of Envelope.city, a web-based software product that visualizes and allows users to modify zoning in New York City. Before coming to MIT, Williams was Co-Director of the Spatial Information Design Lab at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture Planning and Preservation (GSAPP). Her design work has been widely exhibited, including work in the Guggenheim, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), Venice Biennale, and the Cooper Hewitt Museum. Williams has won numerous awards, including being named one of the top 25 technology planners and Game Changer by Metropolis Magazine. Her latest exhibition at the World Food Program (WFP), Distance Uknown, explores the risks and opportunities of migration to the Americas and helped to influence recent US migration policies and is currently on view at the European Cultural Centre as part of the Venice Biennale.
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