IDP2015 (I). Daniele Quercia: Connected New Urbanism

Notes from the 11th Internet, Law and Politics Congress: Regulating Smart Cities, organized by the Open University of Catalonia, School of Law and Political Science, and held in Barcelona, Spain, on 2-3 July 2015. More notes on this event: idp2015.

Connected New Urbanism. The future of the city is about people
Daniele Quercia, Computer Scientist and Urban Computing Researcher

The debate around smart cities is usually led by technology — and the industry — and not by the citizen.

Smart cities can (or should…) be understood as the study of the dynamics of online networked individuals and use it for the improvement of cities in the future.

Kevin Lynch stated that one’s degree of well-being is highly conditioned by the layout of the city in which one lives, the layout of streets, etc. And it is quite much about visibility: the ease with which each part of a city can be recognized and organized in a coherent pattern.

Stanley Milgram studied what parts of the city were visible and what where not. And he found out, again, that visibility had to do with one’s degree of well-being.

This visibility, or better put, the recognizability was measured through an experiment: Urban Opticon. And we can aggregate peoples visions, how people recognize what places, and put them in the map. That map — actually a cartogram — shows how some places in one city are highly relevant for people’s lives, while other are just “invisible” to most people’s eyes.

What data says is that the more a recognizable a place is, the more correlated its well-being level. There is a high and positive correlation between recognizability and well-being. This is important for policy-making as it may be a good idea to put up initiatives that increase recognizability in order to contribute to the improvement of well-being.

Smells, odours, colours, etc. also help humans in mapping their environment. After analyzing how people tagged colours, or smells on social networking sites, a dictionary of urban smells was created. It was found that there is a high correlation between how some terms were tagged and the reality of the landscape at that given place (pollution, nature, etc.) and, thus, one can draft a map of the city and its assets after what people say in social media.

With social media we can contribute to map the city and, most especially, how people see and live the city.


Xavier Campos: can’t these methodologies be used for urban planning? Daniele Quercia: usually not, most architects or urban planners do not use these methodologies. Only after the realization that these methodologies can help in designing projects that will make happier citizens, then maybe architects are more positive about using them.

Clara Marsan: how do you assess the relevance, the significance and representativeness of the data you get from social media? Daniele Quercia: during experiments, some personal data were also asked for, so that biases according to profiles can be corrected. We found out that our data is representative by age, gender and race, but not by professional experience. On the other hand, you can also have filtering techniques to improve the words (the language dictionary) used, to correct biases, etc.


11th Internet, Law and Politics Conference (2015)

If you need to cite this article in a formal way (i.e. for bibliographical purposes) I dare suggest:

Peña-López, I. (2015) “IDP2015 (I). Daniele Quercia: Connected New Urbanism” In ICTlogy, #142, July 2015. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
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