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April 21, 2014 AT 2:00 pm

MIT’s social computing group wants to initiate social change via data visualization at the rate of a map a day

MIT Is Drawing 10 000 Maps To Save The World Co Design business design

Fast Company has a great piece on the latest project from MIT’s social computing group.

The little things that make an otherwise cramped-and-concrete urban life worthwhile (green space, bike lanes, coffee shops) are exactly what the You Are Here project is about.

Over the next two and a half years, MIT Media Lab professor Sep Kamvar will lead a team of computer scientists, artists, architects, urban planners, designers, and educators to draw 10,000 maps–that’s 100 different cities, rendered 100 times each–in hopes of illuminating the details that make cities great. Or, in some cases, not so great.

“I realized that whenever I look at a map, it just tells me the streets and the buildings, and that’s such a small fraction of what actually makes up a city,” Kamvar says. “I wanted to make some maps to help people understand their cities better.”

MIT Is Drawing 10 000 Maps To Save The World Co Design business design

Kamvar runs the relatively new Social Computing group within MIT Media Lab. Their goal, stated simply, is to leverage technology to help people help themselves. As for what this mission statement has to do with map-making, “Each of these maps may show a different aspect of the city,” Kamvar explains. “People will choose what to do with that information.”

In the three weeks since the project has started, Kamvar’s lab has released maps of bicycle crashes, trees, and coffee shops, across cities like San Francisco, Cambridge, Seattle, Portland, and Chicago. None of these data sets comes with a specific suggestion from Kamvar’s team, like, “Hey Chicago, you need to add more bike lanes in the Loop because of all the biking accidents there,” but having said that, Kamvar allows that his team is trying to make maps that suggest what people might do.

“As an example, we just did street greenery maps. And that might suggest places where one might plant a tree. It’s very simple,” Kamvar says. “We don’t know yet how to do that with some of the deeper more entrenched problems, but we’ll get there.”

MIT Is Drawing 10 000 Maps To Save The World Co Design business design

Read more.


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