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Cities were once known as spaces of glass, steel, and concrete. Increasingly, mobile devices, embedded sensors, and artificial intelligence are changing the way people interact with these physical places and the nature of urban citizenship. Their applications in design and policymaking, security, operational management, sustainability, and documenting public spaces are increasingly common. These digital technologies and their resultant models and data outcomes can shape our perspective of the built environment and how residents engage with each other as citizens.

The use of these technologies has come with much criticism, including from the industry itself, for the lack of transparency around the use of these technologies—including their questionable accuracy—and the ethical concerns around their use.

In this project, we investigate the increasingly pervasive use of cameras and computer vision in our cities. From Project Greenlight in Detroit to the Link networks in London and New York, this project seeks to make transparent the hidden ways these technologies mediate how we live through the creation of publicly engaged, place-based, digital-physical interventions. Through these creative/technical works, we will make apparent the way the inherent biases and privacy dilemmas may unequally impact residents.


Meeting Details

Wednesday afternoons
Art & Architecture Building
Modality: In-person (interested in the project but unable to be on campus? Contact us to inquire!)

Students apply to a specific role on team as follows:

Creative Coders/Technologists (2 Students)

Preferred Skills: Graphic or multimedia design, or similar interaction, artistic, or creative explorations; Visualizations techniques and user interface design; Interpreting, analyzing, and pre-processing data; Web development (HTML, CSS, Javascript) and/ or programming languages such as Python

Likely Majors/Minors: CS, EE, ARTDES, ARCH, SI, STATS

Physical Designers/Makers (2 Students)

Preferred Skills: Architectural, installation/exhibit, similar spatial design, or related physical “making” experience; Skills in visually presenting ideas and concepts, including hand drawing and/or Adobe Creative Suite; Knowledge of CAD and/or 3D modeling programs such as Rhino, SketchUp, Vectorworks; Model-making, prototyping, and fabrication skills

Likely Majors/Minors: ARTDES, ARCH, ME, SI, CEE

Quantitative/Creative Researchers (2 Students)

Preferred Skills: Interest in both how people behave, but can also imagine alternative futures; Ability to design and plan creative research, including research design, field guides, and research protocols; Communicate and tell stories using written, visual and verbal communication; Synthesize and think about behaviors, patterns, and quirks relevant to the research question; Make pertinent findings for many stakeholders, including designers and technologists with whom you’ll work

Likely Majors/Minors: ENGLISH, PSYCH, SOC, SI, HUM, MATH, STATS, CS, SI, CASC, PUBPOL, POLISCI, COGSCI, NEUROSCI, DATA

Faculty Project Lead

Anthony Vanky, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor in Urban Planning at the University of Michigan Taubman College, focusing on the use of data-centric practices in city-making and urban planning. He has previously held academic appointments at Columbia University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). At MIT, Vanky was a founding team member and the first academic programs manager of MIT designX, an academic accelerator dedicated to advancing innovation and entrepreneurship in design, cities, and the built environment. He was also a research lead at the MIT Senseable City Lab, a multidisciplinary research group. At the Lab, Vanky also served as the Lab’s partner and outreach strategist, where he connected companies’ and governments’ interests in smart cities to the research of the Lab and MIT.

Vanky’s own research considers the use of digital data and pervasive sensing technologies to design, plan, evaluate urban environments, and spans the disciplines of urban design, urban technologies, innovation studies, and public health. Alongside his academic work, he is co-founder of Social Studies, multidisciplinary strategic consulting and research and analytics firm that offers innovative perspectives on 21st century cities to government, businesses, and non-profit organizations. Anthony has widely presented topics of design, technology, and urbanism, including at Harvard University, the British Government, and several dozen private and public organizations. Anthony holds prior degrees from MIT and Tulane University.

Students: 6

Likely Majors/Minors: ARCH, ARTDES, CASC, CEE, COGSCI, CS, DATA, EE, ENGLISH, HUM, MATH, ME, NEUROSCI, POLISCI, PSYCH, PUBPOL, SI, SOC, STATS

Meeting Details: Wednesday afternoons, Art & Architecture building (interested in the project but unable to be on campus? Contact us to inquire!)

Summer Opportunity: Summer research fellowships may be available for qualifying students.

Citizenship Requirements: This project is open to all students on campus.

IP/NDA: Students who successfully match to this project team will be required to sign an Intellectual Property (IP) Agreement prior to participation.

Course Substitutions: CoE Honors