Dr Dani Arribas-Bel - Department of Geography & Planning, University of Liverpool
Humans are an urban species. Since 2008, more people live in cities than not; and cities are at the heart of both our best inventions such as creativity or wealth, and our most pressing problems, such as pollution or disease. As they continue to increase in size, they also become more complex, posing some of the greatest challenges of the XXIst Century. Understanding the processes that shape urban landscapes and those that take place within them becomes thus critical and timely. In this endeavour, urban researchers have a new tool at hand: "accidental data". Over the last decade, three main sources of data have emerged. One is digital traces of individual activity. From credit card transactions, to mobile phone calls, to thoughts and feelings we decide to share through social media, more and more bits of our life are being stored digitally as data that a computer can understand. The second comes from an increasing number of sensors, from traffic controllers to nano-satellites orbiting the Earth, which are constantly recording information about the environment. The third one has existed for longer but has not been available until recently: a few years ago, governments started releasing data on their internal operations that used to be parked in (closed) silos. This talk will showcase recent examples that use these new forms of data to capture, understand, and represent modern urban life. As part of this whirlwind tour, we will also spend some time trying to understand what the main challenges, methodological advances, and risks that "accidental data” pose are, and will emphasise the tremendous opportunities they unleash.