The data politics of the urban age

Palgrave Communications. 2019;5(1):1-7 DOI 10.1057/s41599-019-0264-3


Journal Homepage

Journal Title: Palgrave Communications

ISSN: 2055-1045 (Online)

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

LCC Subject Category: Social Sciences

Country of publisher: United Kingdom

Language of fulltext: English

Full-text formats available: PDF, HTML



Fábio Duarte (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
Ricardo Álvarez (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)


Blind peer review

Editorial Board

Instructions for authors

Time From Submission to Publication: 19 weeks


Abstract | Full Text

Abstract The deployment of myriad digital sensors in our physical environments is generating huge amounts of data about the natural and built environments and about ourselves, social relations, and interactions in space. These unprecedented quantities of data combine with high-performance computers to produce a series of increasingly powerful tools ranging from mathematical modeling on a massive scale to various types of artificial intelligence. Within this context, urban planning and design driven by data and predictive tools have been gaining traction. This scientific approach to urban problems echoes the nineteenth-century birth of modern urbanism, when rapid industrialization and new scientific methods were advocated against a traditional beaux-arts approach to city planning; and the twentieth century proved that such scientific methods were politically charged. Arguing that we are facing a similar breakthrough in urban studies and planning, in this paper we discuss how data-driven approaches can foster urban studies, but must be balanced with a critical view to the inherent social values of cities.