Posted on November 18, 2015 by Dare Brawley

On November 17th, 2015 the Center for Spatial Research, in collaboration with the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University, hosted a launch preview of Conflict Urbanism: Aleppo.

Laura Kurgan and Madeeha Merchant were joined by collaborator Jamon Van Der Hoek in presenting the research and development that has led to the interactive map of the city of Aleppo, Syria.

The event also featured presentations by Josh Lyons of Human Rights Watch, Tyler Radford of Humanitarian Open Street Maps, and Timothy Wallace of The New York Times about how their work might ineract with a project like Conflict Urbanism: Aleppo. 

Acknowledging that conflict zones are information rich and analytically poor, we hope to begin an interdisciplinary discussion about the potential of detecting the effects of urban conflict through satellite imagery analysis.

Focusing on the current catastrophe in Syria, the Conflict Urbanism: Aleppo project began with an attempt to link eyes in the sky with algorithms and ears on the ground. Towards these ends, we have created an open-source web platform that allows users to navigate maps and satellite images of the city of Aleppo, at the neighborhood scale, across multiple data sets. Working with data from Human Rights Watch, UNOSAT, and the Violations Documentation Center, the platform combines our algorithmically-derived damage identification with their expertise.

We discussed what the correlation of human rights data with satellite imagery analysis tells us about the conflict in Syria, and Aleppo in particular. What possibilities do machine learning and remote sensing algorithms promise for damage detection?  Can and should we use crowd-sourcing and citizen science to better train our algorithms?  We invite advocates and researchers from human rights organizations, humanitarian and development agencies, the academy, and the news media to join us in exploring potential uses of the platform and our tools.

Posted on November 15, 2015 by Spatial Information Design Lab

EXIT has been fully updated and is on view at the Palais Tokyo in Paris from November 25, 2015 – January 10, 2016. The project was initially completed in 2008 but has been fully updated to coincide with Cop21, the United Nations Conference on Climate Change.

Fondation Cartier, which commissioned the project, announces the exhibition of the updated work:

“Exit is composed of a series of immersive animated maps generated by data that investigate human migrations today and their leading causes, including the impacts of climate change. Its complete 2015 update has been planned to coincide with the pivotal Paris-based United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21). A crucial opportunity to limit global warming, the COP21 provides a powerful context in which to consider the issues at the heart of Exit: "It’s almost as though the sky, and the clouds in it and the pollution of it, were making their entry into history. Not the history of the seasons, summer, autumn, winter, but of population flows, of zones now uninhabitable for reasons that aren’t just to do with desertification, but with disappearance, with submersion of land. This is the future." (Paul Virilio, 2009)”

Posted on September 21, 2015 by Center for Spatial Research

Columbia University published a press release about the founding of the Center for Spatial Research:

“Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP) and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences are pleased to announce the creation of an interdisciplinary Center for Spatial Research. Directed by GSAPP Associate Professor Laura Kurgan, the Center will serve as a hub for urban research that links the humanities, architecture, and data science and will also sponsor a series of curricular initiatives built around new technologies of mapping, data visualization and data collection.”

View the full press release. 

Posted on July 30, 2015 by Spatial Information Design Lab

Emily Badger of the Washington Post reported the Million Dollar Blocks project "There are neighborhoods on the West Side of Chicago where nearly every block has been painted red — a sign, on the above map, that someone there was sentenced to time in an Illinois state prison between 2005 and 2009 for a nonviolent drug offense.

On several dark-red blocks [mapped here in Chicago], the missing residents are so many — or their sentences so long — that taxpayers have effectively committed more than a million dollars to incarcerate people who once lived there.

This is the perverse form that public investment takes in many poor, minority neighborhoods: "million dollar blocks," to use a bleak term first coined in New York by Laura Kurgan at Columbia University and Eric Cadora of the Justice Mapping Center. Our penchant for incarcerating people has grown so strong that, in many cities, taxpayers frequently spend more than a million dollars locking away residents of a single city block."

Read more.

Posted on June 25, 2015 by Spatial Information Design Lab

A new project led by Dr. Daniel Cooper of Adler University and Dr. Ryan Lugalia-Hollon, a writer and strategist, drews on our work on Million Dollar Blocks to map the incarceration landscape in Chicago. They used data collected by the Chicago Justice Project and built on research methods developed by the Spatial Information Design Lab. Through their research they've found that between 2005 and 2009 there are 851 blocks in Chicago with over $1 million committed to prision sentences.

See their full project here. 


Posted on November 4, 2014 by

Thanks to Andy Kirk for the nice write up on SIDL's collaboration with Alex Gil, Digital Scholarship Coordinator, Humanities and History Division, Columbia University Libraries.

"Might be a little late to this but I have been exploring the absorbing 'The Library Project', a collaboration between the Spatial Information Design Lab at Columbia University, led by Laura Kurgan, and visualisation design/developers Annelie BernerJen Lowe and Derek Watkins. The motivation for the project is framed around a desire to create a way of 'comprehending the immensity, character and value of the collection'. As more data about the library's collection becomes digitised, these tools enable a novel means of exploring the shape, dynamics and relationships that exist amongst the vast collection."

Read more:

Posted on August 22, 2014 by Juan Francisco Saldarriaga

Juan Francisco Saldarriaga will be showcasing his project CitiBike Rebalancing Study at the NYC Media Lab Annual Summit, to be held on September 19th at the New School in New York City.

Posted on August 12, 2014 by Juan Francisco Saldarriaga

Adam Davidson from the Graduate Center, and Juan Francisco Saldarriaga from the Spatial Information Design Lab presented their project Modeling Social Justice Issues in Urban Zones Using Big Data: Evidence from Bikeshare and Taxicab Data. This project is a collaboration between David King, Columbia University; Jonathan Peters, City University of New York; Adam Davidson, City University of New York; and Juan Francisco Saldarriaga, Columbia University.

The workshop took place on August 11-12, 2014, at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Visit the link below to find out more:

Posted on July 6, 2014 by Juan Francisco Saldarriaga

Curbed contributor Rowley Amato writes about our CitiBike Rebalancing Study:

"It's been a rough couple of months for Citi Bike, what with the revelation that the program requires "tens of millions" to stay afloat, or news that annual membership rates could skyrocket from $95 to $150/year. Still, that's not stopping Columbia University fromattempting to perfect the imperfect system.

Using weekday data from October 2013, researcher Juan Francisco Saldarriaga at Columbia's Spatial Information Design Lab mapped demand imbalances at every Citi Bike station in the city.

Some of the findings are expected, with the worst imbalances occurring from 6 to 10am and 4 to 8pm. Peak data in the morning shows most bikes leaving residential neighborhoods (the Lower East Side, the East Village, Chelsea, and Hell's Kitchen), and arriving at Midtown East and the Financial District. The opposite is true in the afternoon and evening."

Read more.


Posted on June 30, 2014 by Juan Francisco Saldarriaga

Streetsblog contributor Stephen Miller wrote about our CitiBike Rebalancing study: 

"Coming across an empty bike-share station when you need a bike — or a full one, when you need a dock — is a disappointing experience, to say the least. While Citi Bike’s rebalancing efforts try to keep up by shuttling bikes around town, the company is working against a tide that shifts demand unevenly across its service area.

Juan Francisco Saldarriaga, a researcher at Columbia University’s Spatial Information Design Lab, mapped those demand imbalances as part of a project the lab is working on. ”Origins and destinations of Citi Bike trips are not necessarily symmetrical during the day,” he wrote. To untangle the patterns of bike-share riders, the team used weekday data from last October to create a matrix showing imbalances at every station by hour of day."

Read more.