About the Course

Urban Informatics II: Measuring Public Life – Sensing People in Place
Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation
Spring 2019
Computer vision analysis of Alexanderplatz in 2015

Computer vision analysis of Alexanderplatz in 2015

In recent years, interest in “public life”—people’s daily interactions within the built environment (Gehl 2011)—has been renewed as urban spaces are being transformed into areas for recreation, socializing and human activity. However, many of the commonly-accepted theories in environmental psychology and planning were generated from limited observations—limited by time and space. Especially salient in what would have been Kevin Lynch’s 100th birthday, this course will revisit these studies performed by Gehl, Whyte, Lynch, and others in enumerating human activities in public space by utilizing sensor and pervasive computing technologies that available to us today. This course asks in what ways can sensing technologies validate or challenge these theories of public space and social interaction, and how do we intersect them with aspects of environmental quality and justice, sustainability, equity and overall general well-being?


Participants in this hands-on workshop will design and implement prototypes for the creating of data on human activity, and environmental conditions and quality. Students will also learn methodologies to analyze and present the data. We will use the university context as a living laboratory to test and reevaluate the commonly-accepted theories of public life while engaging in critical conversations that balance the positive aspects of better-informed design and policy with the challenges concerning data ethics, surveillance, and privacy.


Anthony Vanky, PhD


Supri Bhele
Srujana Bhoopanam
Yuan Gao
Shuyang Huang
Ethan Hudgins
Kevin Kim
Nick Kunz
 Ri Le
Xinyu Liu
Danting Luo
Shiori Osakata
Yichen Ouyang
William Reis
Shelby Smith

Community Collaborators:

New York City Department of Parks & Recreation
Innovation and Performance Management

Bronx River Alliance
Maggie Scott Greenfield, Executive Director