Supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation this initiative includes both projects and curricular initiatives that bring together students and scholars from across the University.

Pattern Discrimination, Book Launch and Discussion Session with Clemens Apprich

Pattern Discrimination, Book Launch and Discussion Session with Clemens Apprich

Friday March 15th, 3:00-4:30pm
203 Fayerweather Hall

How do “human” prejudices reemerge in algorithmic cultures allegedly devised to be blind to them? To answer this question, this book investigates a fundamental axiom in computer science: pattern discrimination. By imposing identity on input data, in order to filter—that is, to discriminate—signals from noise, patterns become a highly political issue. Algorithmic identity politics reinstate old forms of social segregation, such as class, race, and gender, through defaults and paradigmatic assumptions about the homophilic nature of connection.

Join Dennis Yi Tenen and Laura Kurgan for an informal discussion session centered around the recent release of Pattern Discrimination(Minnesota UP) by Clemens Apprich, Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, Florian Cramer, and Hito Steyerl.

Clemens Apprich is the author of Technotopia. A Media Genealogy of Net Cultures (Rowman & Littlefield International, 2017), Visiting Research Fellow at the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema at Concordia University in Montréal, and member of the Centre for Digital Cultures (CDC) at Leuphana University of Lueneburg.

Presented by the Columbia Center for Spatial Research, Group for Experimental Methods in Humanistic Research at Columbia University, and the Centre for Digital Cultures at Leuphana.

Seating is limited, please RSVP to by Wednesday March 13. 

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Call for Proposals: Support for Seminars on Topics in Spatial Inequality

The Center for Spatial Research at Columbia University (CSR) is pleased to announce funding to support the development of new courses that focus on topics related to spatial inequality at Columbia University.

Proposals for new courses are due April 5, 2019. Through support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation selected faculty will receive $15,000 in summer salary towards course development. All full-time Columbia University faculty, at any rank, are eligible to apply. We are seeking proposals for courses to be taught for the first time in Spring 2020, and/or during the 2020-2021 academic year.

The goal of this funding is to establish and support courses at the university that address spatial inequality from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, including the humanities and the arts, and through innovative teaching approaches. After the initial course development faculty will incorporate newly designed seminars into their regular teaching offerings.

We will favor proposals that engage conceptually and pedagogically with critical cartography in course content, as well as those incorporate “making and doing” along with reading, textual analysis, and writing into their design of assignments for students. Faculty will have access to CSR-led workshop modules in digital mapping techniques, Questions in Spatial Research, that they can assign to their students to facilitate this effort (see further information below).

Institutional Context:

This CSR-directed and Mellon-sponsored initiative will support the development of one new interdisciplinary seminar per year over a period of three years. Selected courses will be a component of an ongoing research and teaching initiative at CSR with a focus on spatial inequality. Courses developed through this CSR program also contribute to a growing cluster of “thinking and doing” courses within the Division of Arts and Sciences. These courses aim to support undergraduates who wish to design their own program of study by bringing studio- and project-based learning into classrooms at the College.

The Center for Spatial Research was established in 2015 through a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation as a hub for urban research that links design, architecture, urbanism, the humanities and data science. It sponsors research and curricular activities built around new technologies of mapping, data visualization, data collection, and data analysis from a broad range of sources. CSR focuses on data literacy as well as interrogating the world of 'big data,' working to open up new areas of research and inquiry with advanced design tools to help scholars, students as well as our collaborators and audiences, to understand cities worldwide – past present and future.

Requirements and Support for Topics in Spatial Inequality Seminars:

Topics in Spatial Inequality seminars must be offered at the 4000 level and be open to students within the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Columbia’s undergraduate colleges, as well as the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation.

The course must be taught in the semester indicated in the course proposal. This round of applications will consider courses for Spring 2020, Fall 2020 or Spring 2021.

The course must result in an online publication of student work (examples from prior CSR courses are available online and include Conflict Urbanism: Aleppo, Conflict Urbanism: Language Justice, and Conflict Urbanism: Infrapolitics).

All full-time Columbia University faculty, at any rank, are eligible to apply.

Beyond the one-time summer salary for faculty, selected seminars will be supported by CSR in a number of ways: 

  • CSR will lead a series of workshop modules, Questions in Spatial Research, as a 1.5 credit course that can provide technical instruction and ongoing project support to students in spatial inequality seminars. Faculty are encouraged to include a requirement to enroll in these workshops in their course design. Seminars that link with Questions in Spatial Research will have access to CSR-trained teaching assistants who can meet with students about course assignments and final projects throughout the semester. They may review the anticipated curriculum for Questions in Spatial Research here.
  • Models of classroom publishing programs are available from CSR, along with online tutorials that can be completed by students to aid in creating final class publications.
  • Funding for travel and honoraria is available on a case by case basis to support public events with invited lecturers to be designed in conjunction with seminar topic.

How to Apply

By April 5, 2019 please submit a proposal consisting of the following documents to

  • Course prospectus, of no more than 5 pages, that includes: a course description, sample schedule and bibliography, a description of potential assignments, and a statement indicating whether you are applying for the Spring 2020, or the 2020-2021 academic year.
  • CV of instructor(s)
  • Letter of support from department chair that indicates availability to teach course in Spring 2020 (or academic year 2020-2021), and support for incorporating the proposed seminar into regular departmental course offerings

Faculty are encouraged to speak and brainstorm with CSR Director Laura Kurgan ( and Assistant Director Dare Brawley ( about their potential course proposals. Courses will be selected by members of the CSR Steering Committee. One course for Spring 2020, and one course for the 2020-2021 academic year will be selected. All applicants will be notified of decisions by April 19, 2019.  


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Questions in Spatial Research
A half semester workshop course on approaches to spatial research for the urban humanities.

Questions in Spatial Research will introduce key concepts required for work with geographic information systems (GIS) and spatial research in the urban humanities.

This is a "making & doing" workshop course and is designed to expand the disciplinary locations in which spatial data analysis takes place.

Through hands-on exercises and weekly assignments participants will develop basic fluency with open-source mapping software, QGIS, methods of data collection and creation, and approaches and concepts in critical spatial analysis and map design.

Questions in Spatial Research is a half semester, 1.5 credit course offered at GSAPP by the Center for Spatial Research and is open to students from across the Columbia University. It will be offered for the first time in Fall 2019. Faculty and doctoral candidates may also apply to participate on a non-credit basis. Enrollment is limited by permission of the instructor. Some students will take this course in conjunction with seminar courses offered in other departments. Faculty interested in pairing their course with Questions in Spatial Research should contact Dare Brawley ( prior to the start of the semester. 

Anticipated Structure and Concepts

Potential modules in the course may include:

The Cartographic View:

  • Basic GIS concepts and techniques applied in QGIS
  • Working with cartographic projections

Making Spatial Datasets

  • Making spatial datasets through observation and sensing
  • Making spatial datasets through archival research

Making Public Work

  • Cartographic design principals
  • Producing public work through interactive maps on the web
Anticipated Learning Objectives

After completing the course participants will:

  • Develop robust familiarity with QGIS and its functions
  • Gain fluency with foundational GIS concepts (including how the GIS data model abstracts geographic phenomena)
  • Understand GIS spatial data types and the kinds of analysis that are possible with each
  • Create new spatial datasets from field observation and participatory sensing
  • Create new spatial datasets from archival sources
  • Transform archival sources into spatial datasets
  • Develop basic familiarity with html, css, and javascript and be able to make a public web-based map
  • Acquire fluency with visual design concepts central to cartographic representations
Sample Tutorials

Sample tutorials are included below, however the topics and datasets covered will change prior to the fall 2019 iteration of Questions in Spatial Research. A full and evolving list of CSR tutorials is available here

Apply for Mapping for the Urban Humanities: A Summer Institute

The Center for Spatial Research, with the Office of the Dean of Humanities, invites Columbia University faculty and doctoral candidates to participate in Mapping for the Urban Humanities: A Summer Institute: May 28 – June 6, 2019. Applications are due by January 31, 2019.

Mapping for the Urban Humanities is a six day skills-building workshop in critical cartography, designed to expand the disciplinary locations within which spatial knowledge in the urban humanities is produced and interpreted. Workshop participants will be introduced to open-source mapping software, QGIS, to methods of data collection and creation, and to approaches and concepts in critical spatial analysis that they can incorporate into their research and teaching. Participation is free; space is limited. The workshop is sponsored by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Eligibility: This course is open to full and part-time faculty, research scholars and doctoral candidates from the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, and Barnard College.

How to Apply: Interested faculty and doctoral candidates should apply by sending the following materials to by January 31, 2019.

  • 1-2 page statement that describes your interest in taking the institute, and includes a description of the course or research topic you hope to workshop during the summer intensive.
  • CV

Structure of the workshop: The Summer 2019 session will be held from May 28 – June 3, from 10:00am – 5:30pm with a final roundtable project review on June 6 from 1pm – 4:30pm.

More information about the course, including materials from prior iterations of the institute, is available here.

If you have questions about your eligibility or about whether your course or research project is a good fit for the institute, please reach out to Dare Brawley ( at the Center for Spatial Research.

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Data Visualization for Architecture, Urbanism, and the Humanities
An introduction to concepts, techniques, and best practices in programing interactive web-based data visualizations for students new to the fields of computation and information design.
Description Spring 2019

This course introduces key concepts and techniques in interactive data visualization to students who are new to the field of computation and information design. Through a series of in-class exercises and take-home assignments, students will critically engage with visual representations of data and produce interactive visualizations that serve analytical and narrative purposes.

Students complete weekly or bi-weekly tutorials on technical topics that are useful in creating interactive web-based visualizations. These exercises complement in-class code demonstrations and lectures on design principles and critical perspectives. The lectures and exercises are designed to allow students to apply data-centered practices to their own disciplines and areas of research. Students will complete a final project based on their own interests.

View the syllabus here.

Course Topics


  • Information Design Concepts
  • Data Visualization Workflows
  • Design Principles for Interactivity
  • Basic Programing for the Web: HTML, CSS, Javascript
  • Interactive Visualizations with D3


  • History and origin of data representation
  • Current research in data visualization
  • Overview of the data visualization field
  • Critical approaches, practices, and works

Tutorial Topics

  • HTML & CSS
  • Github
  • Javascript
  • D3 series: intro to more advanced
Spring 2019 Registration Information

Friday 9-11am
ARCH A4890, call number: 88396
Instructor: Jia Zhang, Mellon Associate Research Scholar in the Faculty of Architecture, Planning and Preservation

Open to students within GSAS, GSAPP, Barnard and Columbia Colleges, School of General Studies, and others by permission.

Please attend first session if you are interested in taking the course.

Course Files
Palaces for the People

Palaces for the People

Tuesday, November 27, 5:30pm
The Heyman Center, Second Floor Common Room
Book launch event with Eric Kleinenberg, Professor of Sociology, New York University

Responses by: 
Bruce Robbins, Old Dominion Foundation Professor in the Humanities, Columbia University
Shamus Khan, Professor of Sociology, Columbia University
Kate Orff, Associate Professor & Director, Urban Design Program, Columbia University, Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation

We are living in a time of deep divisions. Americans are sorting themselves along racial, religious, and cultural lines, leading to a level of polarization that the country hasn’t seen since the Civil War. Pundits and politicians are calling for us to come together, to find common purpose. But how, exactly, can this be done?
In Palaces for the People, Eric Klinenberg suggests a way forward. He believes that the future of democratic societies rests not simply on shared values but on shared spaces: the libraries, childcare centers, bookstores, churches, synagogues, and parks where crucial, sometimes life-saving connections, are formed. These are places where people gather and linger, making friends across group lines and strengthening the entire community. Klinenberg calls this the “social infrastructure”: When it is strong, neighborhoods flourish; when it is neglected, as it has been in recent years, families and individuals must fend for themselves.

Organized by Sharon Marcus, Orlando Harriman Professor of English and Comparative Literature. Sponsored by: The Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities, Public Books, Columbia University Libraries, Department of English and Comparative Language, Department of Sociology, The Urban Design Program, Center for Spatial Research.

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Spatial History and Historical GIS
This course introduces students to the emerging methodologies that combine geographic information systems (GIS) with historical thinking.

This course introduces the emerging methodologies that combines geographic information systems (GIS) with traditional “historical thinking.” There are three goals for this course. First, students will learn basic technical skills in GIS used by spatial historians. Students are not required to have prior experience in GIS to enroll in this course, but basic computer literacy is essential. Second, through weekly readings, students will engage with scholarship/projects that use historical geographic information systems (HGIS) and with the broader spatial humanities. Students will be encouraged to consider the new topics/questions historians are investigating with HGIS and the new evidence HGIS provides to historiographical debates. The readings on HGIS research serve as starting points for class discussions on the strengths and limitations of this new methodology. Additional readings on HGIS methods provide examples of analytical tools, and students will be challenged to think of new methods that can aid in answering historiographical questions as well. Finally, students will undertake a small spatial history project. Through this research project, students will learn research and project management skills, which are increasingly necessary for historians in the digital age, while refining an intervention in the historiography.

Mapping Historical New York City
A collaboration to map immigration and neighborhood change in New York City during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
  • Browse by Initiative

Mapping Historical New York, through web-based, interactive maps, reconstructs the demographic and structural shifts of Manhattan and Brooklyn between 1850 and 1920. During this period, the city grew and diversified through the arrival of large groups of immigrants. Furthermore, the city boundaries expanded in the late 1890s to include a major section of Long Island specifically Brooklyn and Queens.

Through a three year collaboration between the Center for Spatial Research and the Department of History, Historical New York City uses historical GIS and spatial history to develop new understanding of the magnitude of the changes that took place across this time.

The project team is digitizing maps of Manhattan and Brooklyn and integrating individual-level records from historical US Censuses to build a comprehensive web-based resource for researchers and students interested in New York City’s history. In addition to producing maps and analysis for the city as a whole, the project plans to develop detailed case studies designed to deepen engagement with the digitized historical maps and demographic datasets at the neighborhood level. The resulting maps, tools, and information will be accessible to the public.

In addition to the public-facing, interactive webmap, the project aims to train faculty and students in digital research and teaching methods. Courses on historical New York, immigration, urban history, and spatial history, offered in conjunction with project responsibilities, promote faculty and student involvement in the project’s design, development, and production.

Funding for this project is provided by the Robert D. L. Gardiner Foundation.

Project Team
Name Project Role
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Fall 2018 Information Session

Information Session Thursday, September 6, 2018 5-6pm 654 Schermerhorn Extension

Come help us celebrate the start of our fourth year at the Center for Spatial Research!

Meet core researchers and students. Learn about a new project and collaboration focused on mapping historical New York City. View recent projects and exhibitions. Learn how you can get involved in our courses and projects. Information about internship opportunities for the fall and spring semesters will be available.

Light refreshments will be served.

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Apply for Fall 2018 Student Positions

The Center for Spatial Research is seeking student assistants for the Fall 2018 semester.

Students will be responsible for data analysis, visualization, map design, and will support research on projects dealing with our current research focus: conflict urbanism. Students will work extensively with spatial data including mining and analyzing data, processing and collecting data, and/or visualizing data in compelling and innovative ways. Working in close collaboration with principal investigators, students will produce work for inclusion in papers, multi-media projects, and exhibitions.

Candidates must have experience with GIS and Adobe Creative Suite. In addition, please let us know if you have experience with any of the following tools: Processing, Python, D3, R, APIs, Microsoft Access, SQL, Stata/SPSS, HTML, CSS, and Javascript.

We are seeking candidates who have experience with computational tools but are also eager to acquire additional skills through the course of their work with us. CSR researchers will mentor successful candidates and match them with projects which help them build additional fluencies with computational methods.

Positions are 10-15 hours per week. Hours are negotiated on a per-student basis. All positions are $16/hour. Please note positions are only available for continuing Columbia University students.

Please send a letter of interest, CV, and relevant work examples to

Applications due September 14, 2018, materials will be reviewed in the order there are received. 

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