Photo: Arild Vågen

2016-09-14

The Role of Big Data and Politics in Transforming Urban Transport - An article written by Diane Davis and Lily Song

Twenty-five years after the public gained access to the internet, data has not only exploded in volume but also grown increasingly heterogeneous and unstructured. With the proliferation of smartphones and GPS navigators, urban mobility has emerged as a particularly fertile domain for using “big data” to make cities “smarter.”

Transforming Urban Transport: the Role of Political Leadership (TUT-POL), based at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, is focusing on the role of political leadership in the successful implementation of path-breaking transportation policies. Building on case study research from around the world, the TUT-POL team has identified effective tools, strategies and tactics for advancing innovative and sustainable urban transportation.

Link to the article


Diane Davis, Project Director for TUT-POL, is a Charles Dyer Norton Professor of Regional Planning and Urbanism and Chair of the Department of Urban Planning and Design at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. She is the author of Urban Leviathan: Mexico City in the Twentieth Century (Temple University Press 1994) and Discipline and Development: Middle Classes and Prosperity in East Asia and Latin America (Cambridge University Press, 2004) as well as co-editor of Irregular Armed Forces and State Formation (Cambridge University Press, 2003) and Cities and Sovereignty: Identity Politics in Urban Spaces (Indiana University Press, 2011).

Her published works examine the relations between urbanization and national development, comparative international development, the politics of urban development policy, and conflict cities.  She has explored topics ranging from historic preservation, urban social movements, and identity politics to urban governance, fragmented sovereignty, and state formation to planning theory.

Her current research focuses on the transformation of cities of the global south, particularly the urban social, spatial, and political conflicts that have emerged in response to globalization, informality, and political or economic violence.


Lily Song is a Lecturer in Urban Planning and Design and Senior Research Associate with the TUT-POL project at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. Her teaching and research focus on issues of urban sustainability, livability, and justice; race and class politics in American cities and postcolonial urban contexts; and community-based economic development.

From 2013-2015, she was a Provost Fellow with University College London’s Department of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Public Policy, where her research investigated how Indonesian local governments are incorporating urban informality to effect transformative planning in the area of sustainable transport and urban development. She holds a PhD in
Urban and Regional Planning from MIT; Master’s in Urban Planning from UCLA; and BA in Ethnic Studies from UC Berkeley.

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