Using big data to better understand urban questions is an exciting field with challenging methodological and theoretical problems. It is also, however, potentially troubling when big data (particularly derived from social media) is applied uncritically to urban governance via the ideas and practices of smart cities. This talk reviews both the historical depth of central ideas within smart city governance – particular the idea that enough data/information/knowledge can solve society problems – but also the ways that the most recent version differs. Big data and metrics derived from them can provide useful insight and policy direction. But one must be ever mindful that metrics don’t simply measure; in the process of deciding what is important and possible to measure, these data are simultaneously defining what cities are.
Matthew Zook is a Professor of Economic and Information Geography at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, KY. His interest centers on the impact of technology and innovation on human geography. For the past several years he has studied how the geoweb (particularly the practices surrounding user-generated data) and understanding where, when, and by whom geo-coded content is being created. He studies the interaction of code, space and place interact as people increasingly use of mobile, digital technologies to navigate through their everyday, lived geographies. His research blog floatingsheep.org is dedicated to mapping and analyzing user generated information about places to provide one glimpse of what the “internet” knows about particular places. He is the Director of the The DOLLY Project (Data On Local Life and You) is a repository of billions of geolocated tweets (and other social media) that allows for real-time research and analysis. He served as a Fulbright Scholar at Tartu University (Estonia) in 2013-14 and the State Geographer for the Commonwealth of Kentucky (2015) is is spending the 2016-17 academic year visiting the University of Auckland.
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