Jia Zhang Contributes to "Who We Are" at the Museum of the City of New York

 

Powers of Ten: Census Edition and Cross-sections Map for New York City are on view at the Museum of the City of New York. Both maps aim to change the interfaces designed for Census data by using physical scale and experiences as orienting concepts for visualizing the contents of the Census.

These two digital maps designed by Mellon Associate Research Scholar, Jia Zhang, are being exhibited as part of "Who We Are," from November 22, 2019-September 20, 2020.

About "Who We Are":
New York City is a dense, chaotic mosaic of some eight and a half million people, each with their own individual stories. How can we possibly understand and describe this endlessly complex collectivity – what we share and what distinguishes us? Census data has long been a resource used to draw out unexpected and provocative patterns, connections, and insights about who New Yorkers are since our nation’s first count in 1790. In anticipation of the 2020 census, Who We Are: Visualizing NYC by the Numbers showcases work not just by data analysts and demographers, but also by cutting-edge contemporary artists and designers who use these tools to enliven and humanize statistics and to shed new light on how we understand our urban environment and ourselves. Together, these intriguing and varied works demonstrate the power and importance of numbers in helping us understand who we are.
Read more here.

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Project
Homophily: the Urban History of an Algorithm
person role
Author(s): 
Laura Kurgan, Dare Brawley, Jia Zhang, Brian House, Wendy Chun
Publication date: 
Tuesday, October 1, 2019
Publication name, page number: 
e-flux Architecture
Description (optional): 
Coined by researchers Paul Lazarsfeld and Robert Merton in an influential 1954 study of friendships in Addison Terrace, a public housing project in Pittsburgh, the concept of “homophily” names “the tendency for friendships to form between people ‘of the same kind.’” Focusing on the residents' attitudes toward racial integration and segregation, they concluded that close friendships form and persist not simply on the basis of shared identities but thanks to shared values and beliefs. The model of homophily was born in this mid-century urban struggle over race and space.  This article uses series of probes into the archives of Lazarsfeld and Merton to uncover the history of the concept of homophily and its influence on urbanism and network science. Their archive is not simply something from the past. It speaks directly to our present, our segregated cities and our polarized platforms, where the effects of research in a housing project now reverberate at much greater scale in networks and networked cities. IMAGE CREDIT Aerial view of Terrace Village under construction, ca. 1940. Source: Allegheny Conference on Community Development Photographs, 1875–1981, Detre Library & Archives, Heinz History Center, Pittsburgh.
Intro text (homepage): 
An article in e-flux Architecture on the urban origins of the term homophily, its formalization and proliferation through the algorithmic logics of online networks, and the risks we run when it becomes not just a descriptive model but a prescriptive rule for social life. Published in conjunction with an exhibition for the 2019 Chicago Architecture Biennial.
Lead image: 
Author Last Names for table: 
Kurgan, Brawley, House, Zhang, Chun
Publication short title (carousel): 
Homophily: the Urban History of an Algorithm
Is Website?: 
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dashboard_sort_date: 
Tuesday, October 1, 2019
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Homophily: the Urban History of an Algorithm
An installation for the 2019 Chicago Architecture Biennial
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The word "homophily" was coined by researchers Paul Lazarsfeld and Robert Merton in an influential 1954 study of friendships in Addison Terrace, a biracial housing project in Pittsburgh. They were suspicious of the "familiar and egregiously misleading question: do birds of a feather flock together?" They suggested that friendships form and persist not simply on the basis of shared identities but thanks to shared values and beliefs. They focused on "racial attitudes," and discovered that people with what they called "liberal" values about race were much more likely to be friends with each other, as were people with "illiberal" positions. In a quirk of statistical reasoning, they used only the survey results from white residents: the black population was so overwhelmingly "liberal" that comparison was impossible. The model of homophily – "the tendency for friendships to form between people 'of the same kind'"  – was born in this conflictual urban battleground around segregation and integration.

The afterlife of the concept and its formalization has been remarkable. Today it functions as the principle underlying much of what happens in online social and economic interactions, the axiom that ‘similarity breeds connection.' What began as a description of social life has become an algorithmic rule shaping it: homophily drives targeted advertising, recommendations for purchases and viewing, the promotion of certain types of content on social media platforms over others, and the predictions about crime that guide pre-emptive policing. More or less invisibly, it guides us to people, commodities, destinations, and ideas, among other things, and is widely blamed for creating a social world in which previously-held identities and positions are reinforced and concentrated rather than challenged or hybridized.

The exhibition puts the formalization of homophily in tension with its conceptual and historical origins. The exterior of the five-walled space is covered in custom LED panels that simulate homophily and the segregation that it produces. Inside, a series of probes into the archives of Lazarsfeld and Merton uncover the history of the concept of homophily and its influence on urbanism and network science. Their archive is not simply something from the past. It speaks directly to our present, our segregated cities and our polarized platforms, where the effects of research in a housing project now reverberate at much greater scale in networks and networked cities.

On view at the 2019 Chicago Architecture Biennial September 18,2019 – January 5, 2020.

A companion essay to the exhibition is published in e-flux Architecture. 

Research for this exhibition was supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Canada 150 Research Chairs Program, and the Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. With thanks Leslie Gill Architect for design consultation, and to the Columbia Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Harriet Zuckerman, Robert Lazarsfeld for assistance and reproduction permissions on archival materials.

In collaboration with:

Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, Canada 150 Research Chair in New Media and Professor of Communication, Simon Fraser University

Graduate Research Assistants: Alanna Browdy, Rebecca Cook, Audrey Dandenault, Tola Oniyangi, Andrea Partenio, Juvaria Shahid

Graphic Design: Studio TheGreenEyl

Project Team
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Homophily: The Urban History of an Algorithm at the 2019 Chicago Architecture Biennial
Courtesy Chicago Architecture Biennial / Cory DeWald, 2019

Homophily: The Urban History of an Algorithm will be on view at the Chicago Architecture Biennial from September 19, 2019 - January 5, 2020.

An exhibit focusing on the urban origins of the term homophily, its formalization and proliferation through the algorithmic logics of online networks, and the risks we run when it becomes not just a descriptive model but a prescriptive rule for social life.

A companion essay to the exhibition is published in e-flux Architecture here.

 

Coined by researchers Paul Lazarsfeld and Robert Merton in an influential 1954 study of friendships in Addison Terrace, a public housing project in Pittsburgh, the concept of “homophily” names “the tendency for friendships to form between people ‘of the same kind.’” Focusing on the residents' attitudes toward racial integration and segregation, they concluded that close friendships form and persist not simply on the basis of shared identities but thanks to shared values and beliefs. The model of homophily was born in this mid-century urban struggle over race and space. 

CSR’s installation looks at the legacy of the concept of homophily, presenting a set of data visualizations that show its contemporary applications in the digital world. Today homophily underlies much of what happens in our online interactions, following the assumption that “similarity breeds connection”. What began as a formal explanation of social life in a housing complex has become an algorithm that shapes much of the dynamics of digital space, driving everything from targeted advertising, to viewing recommendations, to predictive policing on the streets of Chicago. As homophily turns from a description into a norm, it helps create a social world in which previously-held identities and positions are reinforced and concentrated rather than challenged or hybridized.

Project Team:
Laura Kurgan, Principal Investigator, and Director
Dare Brawley, Assistant Director
Brian House, Mellon Research Scholar
Jia Zhang, Mellon Research Scholar
In collaboration with:
Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, Canada 150 Research Chair in New Media and Professor of Communication, Simon Fraser University

Graduate Research Assistants: Alanna Browdy, Rebecca Cook, Audrey Dandenault, Tola Oniyangi, Andrea Partenio, Juvaria Shahid

Graphic Design: Studio TheGreenEyl

Research for this exhibition was supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Canada 150 Research Chairs Program, and the Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. With thanks Leslie Gill Architect for design consultation, and to the Columbia Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Harriet Zuckerman, Robert Lazarsfeld for assistance and reproduction permissions on archival materials.

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In Plain Sight
An immersive installation in the US Pavilion at the 16th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia.
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In Plain Sight presents anomalies in population distribution seen in nighttime satellite imagery of Earth and census grid counts produced by governments worldwide — revealing places with bright lights and no people and places with people and no lights—thus, challenging our assumptions about geographies of belonging and exclusion.

The project was tasked with interrogating the relationship between citizenship and the built environment at the scale of the globe, where the primacy of the individual, the city, and even the nation drops away and is replaced by data: electricity, trade routes, migratory shifts, and the flow of capital, goods and people.

The installation is a collaboration between Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Laura Kurgan, and Robert Gerard Pietrusko with the Center for Spatial Research, and will be on view from May 26 through November 25, 2018. The installation is conceived and designed for Dimensions of Citizenship, the US Pavilion at the 16th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, commissioned by the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and The University of Chicago.

View the full project video here

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Ways of Knowing Cities - Conference

Ways of Knowing Cities

Friday, February 9, 2018, 9:30 am
Wood Auditorium, Avery Hall

Pre-registration is now closed, the auditorium seating is first come first served. Registration does not guarantee seating. The conference will be live streamed to Ware Lounge in Avery Hall and online at arch.columbia.edu

See c4sr.columbia.edu/knowing-cities for full schedule.

Technology increasingly mediates the way that knowledge, power, and culture interact to create and transform the cities we live in. Ways of Knowing Cities is a one-day conference which brings together leading scholars and practitioners from across multiple disciplines to consider the role that technologies have played in changing how urban spaces and social life are structured and understood – both historically and in the present moment. 

Keynote lectures by Wendy Hui Kyong Chun and Trevor Paglen

Participating Speakers
Simone BrowneMaribel Casas-Cortés,  Anita Say ChanSebastian Cobarrubias,  Orit HalpernCharles Heller,  Shannon Mattern, V. Mitch McEwenLeah Meisterlin,  Nontsikelelo MutitiDietmar OffenhuberLorenzo PezzaniRobert Pietrusko, and Matthew Wilson.

From John Snow’s cholera maps of London and the design of the radio network in Colonial Nigeria to NASA’s composite images of global night lights, the way the city and its inhabitants have been comprehended in moments of technological change has always been deeply political. Representations of the urban have been sites of contestation and violence, but have also enabled spaces of resistance and delight. Our cities have been built and transformed through conflict, and the struggle is as much informational and representational as it is physical and bodily. Today, the generation and deployment of data is at the forefront of projects to reshape our cities, for better and for worse. As a consequence, responding to urban change demands critical literacy in technology, and particularly data technologies. The conference addresses itself to the deep ambivalence of interventions in the urban, as it explores the ways that knowledge regimes have impacted the built world. In this sense, it seeks to catalyze more robust, creative, and far-reaching ways to think about the relationship between the urban and the information systems that enable, engage and express the city.

Please note, seating will be first come, first serve. Registration does not guarantee seating. The event will be livestreamed in Ware Lounge, Avery Hall and on arch.columbia.edu

Support for Ways of Knowing Cities is provided through a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and hosting by Columbia GSAPP.

 

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The Brain Index Opens in the New Jerome L. Greene Science Center
Photo by Eileen Barroso

The Brain Index, an interactive digital art installation, has opened in the Jerome L. Greene Science Center on Columbia’s Manhattanville campus.

Situated in the publicly accessible lobby of the building, the permanent exhibition uses design, games and storytelling to convey the complex research which is conducted in the building to broad audiences.

Read more about the opening of the project through Columbia News here

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Project
Conflict Urbanism: Colombia
person role
Author(s): 
Laura Kurgan, Juan Saldarriaga, Angelika Rettberg
Publication date: 
Thursday, September 15, 2016
Publication name, page number: 
After Belonging: The Objects, Spaces, and Territories of the Ways We Stay in Transit
Description (optional): 
Over the course of the last thirty years, more than 7 million Colombians have left their homes and towns in a search for safety. In this project we plot the trajectories of these Colombians in conflict. This mass migration, with its dense network of specific and often hyper-local causes, forms one part of the much larger global story of human beings on the move, mostly from countryside to city. But this movement of people also underlines the fact that the massive urbanization of the planet is born out of conflict. This article about our contribution to the 2016 Oslo Architectural Triennale was published in the exhibition’s catalog, After Belonging: The Objects, Spaces, and Territories of the Ways We Stay in Transit.
Initiative: 
Intro text (homepage): 
Over the course of the last thirty years, more than 7 million Colombians have left their homes and towns in a search for safety. In this project we plot the trajectories of these Colombians in conflict. This article about our contribution to the 2016 Oslo Architectural Triennale was published in the exhibition’s catalog, After Belonging: The Objects, Spaces, and Territories of the Ways We Stay in Transit.
Lead image: 
Author Last Names for table: 
Kurgan, Saldarriaga, Rettberg
Publication short title (carousel): 
Conflict Urbanism: Colombia
Is Website?: 
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dashboard_sort_date: 
Thursday, September 15, 2016
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Laura Kurgan Speaks at SUPERHUMANITY TALKS at the 3rd Istanbul Design Biennale

On October 20, 2016 Laura Kurgan spoke about the Conflict Urbanism: Aleppo project as part of SUPERHUMANITY TALKS, a panel event at the 3rd Istanbul Design Biennial presented by e-flux Architecture.

Laura Kurgan spoke about the Center for Spatial Research’s work on Conflict Urbanism Aleppo in relation to e-flux’s provocation:

Superhumanity aims to explore and challenge our understanding of “design” by probing the idea that we are and always have been continuously reshaped by the artifacts we shape, to which we ask: who designed the lives we live today? What are the forms of life we inhabit, and what new forms are currently being designed? Where are the sites, and what are the techniques, to design others?”

View the recording of the panel event. 

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Conflict Urbanism: Aleppo on view at 2016 Istanbul Design Biennale, Are We Human?

Conflict Urbanism: Aleppo is on view at the 2016 Istanbul Design Biennale from October 22, 2016 to November 20, 2016. The Biennale is titled “Are We Human?” and presents projects that stretch “from the last 2 seconds to the last 200,000 years.”

Our exhibit is on view in the Istanbul Archaeology Museum and presents two zooms from high-resolution satellite images of Aleppo at the scale of 1:1000. For every one unit of space in the gallery, the corresponding space in Aleppo is one thousand times larger. Visitors can also browse the Conflict Urbanism: Aleppo interactive map and case studies including a case study on the “Time Scales of Aleppo” researched and written for the exhibition.

Exhibition photos by Sahir Ugur Eren.

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