Data Literacy in Urban Planning and Journalism

Location shapes the News. When journalists examine demographics, culture, politics, infrastructure, environmental issues, or health risks, for example, spatial processes are at the foundation of the reporting.

Likewise, the study of architecture, urban planning, and urbanism is optimized only in the context of special analytics and its digital underpinnings.  To understand a city today, you have to understand it in the context of the data generated from it and the data that defines it (i.e.: satellite imagery, networks of sensors).  To be “digitally literate” in this context is to understand how data defines and is part of the infrastructure of the city.  Because so many decisions about our cities are made after the processing of data, it is critical to understand how data is generated, measured, captured, and processed.

As part of the first cohort of the Collaboratory Fellows, a new set of courses is in development through collaboration between the Brown Institute for Media Innovation at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism and the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation. The courses will train journalists and architects alike in Geographic Information Systems (GIS), spatial analysis, web-based mapping, and investigative reporting. The courses will teach journalists to think visually, more like architects, and architects to think inquisitively, more like journalists.

The cross-disciplinary team is led by Marguerite Holloway, director
of Columbia’s science and environmental journalism program, and Michael  Krisch, deputy director of Columbia’s Brown Institute and Juan Francisco Saldarriaga, a research scholar at GSAPP’s Center for Spatial Research.

“Characterizing a place is an important first step for both disciplines—the beat memo in journalism and a site analysis in architecture,” they write. “Mapping becomes a way to hybridize journalism and architecture to build new frameworks for investigation and new forms of creative expression.”

About the Collaboratory Fellows Fund:
Technology and massive data are reshaping society in profound ways. To be effective, the leaders of tomorrow will need to understand how these transformations are impacting their professions, now and in the future. The Collaboratory Fellows Fund is developing the coursework to allow students to master the technical skills and cultivate the creative thinking to confront the unique challenges in their chosen careers.