Posted on November 22, 2019 by Center for Spatial Research


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.

Posted on November 13, 2019 by Center for Spatial Research

Wednesday, November 13, 4-6pm
Milstein 102, Barnard College

Join faculty, researchers, and staff for an introductory conversation about how faculty can bring spatial methods into humanities and social science courses. 

- Featuring undergraduate and graduate courses that can serve as models
- View sample student projects from recent courses 

- Learn about programs and resources available from Columbia Libraries, the Empirical Reasoning Center, and the Center for Spatial Research.

The first in a year-long series of workshops on discourses of place and space and the use of digital mapping and Geographic Information Systems in the classroom.

Refreshments will be provided. No experience necessary, all levels welcome.
RSVP to by November 11


Co-sponsored by the Supported through a workshop grant from ISERP

Posted on September 9, 2019 by Center for Spatial Research
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.

Posted on April 4, 2019 by Center for Spatial Research
Working prototypes, courtesy of Jia Zhang and Brian House.

Data Publics and Public Data

Thursday April 4, 6:30 PM
Ware Lounge, Avery Hall
Columbia University

Brian House and Jia Zhang in conversation with Laura Kurgan, Shannon Mattern, Bill Rankin, and Jer Thorp.

This event will feature new work by Mellon Associate Research Scholars Brian House & Jia Zhang underway as part of their fellowships with the Center for Spatial Research in the 2018-2019 academic year. Brian House (PhD Brown University) is developing a platform to collect geographic data through mobile devices using the distributed web. Jia Zhang (PhD MIT Media Lab) is building an interactive atlas that bridges between large public datasets and everyday experiences of urban space. The discussion of both projects will center around the politics of personal data and its relationship to the development of urban policy and the built environment. Their projects point to forms of artistic, academic, and activist practices that might intervene or offer new possibilities in this fraught landscape.


Brian House is an artist and a Mellon Associate Research Scholar at Columbia University's Center for Spatial Research. His work explores the interdependent rhythms of the body, technology, and the environment, and has been shown by the Museum of Modern Art, The Museum of Contemporary Art (Los Angeles), Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center, Ars Electronica, Transmediale, ZKM, Beall Center, and Rhizome, among others. He has been a member of the New York Times Research and Development Lab, director of technology at the design studio Local Projects, and a resident at Eyebeam. He recently completed a PhD in Computer Music and Multimedia at Brown University, and his academic writing has been published by Autonomedia, Contemporary Music Review, and Journal of Sonic Studies.

Jia Zhang is a Mellon Associate Research Scholar at Columbia University's Center for Spatial Research. She experiments with communicating quantitative and qualitative data visually. Her research examines and utilizes technical processes and abstract visual forms found in data representation. At the CSR, Jia works on visualizations of public urban datasets and the U.S.Census. She is currently building projects that deal with public facing data of the urban environment and interactive tools that allow individuals to directly engage with urban information for their own well-being. Jia recently completed her PhD at MIT’s Media Lab.

Laura Kurgan is an Associate Professor of Architecture at the Graduate School of Architecture Planning and Preservation at Columbia University, where she directs the Center for Spatial Research and the Visual Studies curriculum. She is the author of Close Up at a Distance: Mapping, Technology, and Politics (Zone Books, 2013). Her work explores the ethics and politics of digital mapping and its technologies; the art, science and visualization of big and small data; and design environments for public engagement with maps and data. In 2009, Kurgan was awarded a United States Artists Rockefeller Fellowship.

Shannon Mattern is a Professor of Anthropology at The New School for Social Research. Her writing and teaching focus on archives, libraries, and other media spaces; media infrastructures; spatial epistemologies; and mediated sensation and exhibition. She is the author of The New Downtown Library: Designing with Communities, Deep Mapping the Media City, and Code and Clay, Data and Dirt: Five Thousand Years of Urban Media, all published by University of Minnesota Press. In addition to writing dozens of articles and book chapters, she also contributes a regular long-form column about urban data and mediated infrastructures to Places, a journal focusing on architecture, urbanism, and landscape, and she collaborates on public design and interactive projects and exhibitions. You can find her at

Jer Thorp is an artist, writer and teacher living in New York City. He is best known for designing the algorithm to place the nearly 3,000 names on the 9/11 Memorial in Manhattan. Jer was the New York Times' first Data Artist in Residence, is a National Geographic Explorer, and in 2017 and 2018 served as the Innovator in Residence at the Library of Congress. Jer is one of the world's foremost data artists, and is a leading voice for the ethical use of big data. Jer’s data-inspired artwork has been shown around the world, including most recently in New York’s Times Square, at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan, at the Ars Electronica Center in Austria, and at the National Seoul Museum in Korea. He is an adjunct Professor in New York University’s renowned Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP), and is the Co-Founder of The Office for Creative Research. In 2015, Canadian Geographic named Jer one of Canada’s Greatest Explorers. Jer’s book 'Living in Data’ will be published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in the spring of 2020.

Bill Rankin is a historian and cartographer. His mapping activity is focused on reimagining everyday urban and territorial geographies as complex landscapes of statistics, law, and history. His maps have appeared in publications and exhibitions throughout the US and Europe, including articles in Foreign Policy, Perspecta, Harvard Design Magazine, and National Geographic and shows at Harvard, Yale, Pratt, the Cartographic Bienalle in Lausanne, the Triennalle di Milano, and the Toronto Images Festival; his maps also traveled for several years with ICI'’s "Experimental Geographies" exhibit. His historical research is about the politics of cartography and navigation in the twentieth century. He teaches at Yale University, where he is an assistant professor of the history of science.


Free and open to the public. 

Posted on March 20, 2019 by Center for Spatial Research

The Columbia Center for Spatial Research is seeking applications for one or more Graduate Research Assistants for the summer of 2019. The Graduate Research Assistants will work on ongoing CSR-led research projects on conflict urbanism, and spatial inequality.

Current ongoing work includes a project on the concept of Homophily; a project related to personal uses for census data; a project related to sensor networks and decentralized protocols; and a web publication of case studies related to "infrapolitics." Students will assist in realizing the diverse outcomes of these projects, which will include online interactive publications, a prototype app, and an exhibition in the Chicago Architecture Biennial.

The positions will require a maximum of 20 hours per week, and will be compensated according to University standards.

Background/Skills: CSR GRAs must be self-motivated, organized, able to work individually and in groups. Fluency in design software, demonstrated writing skills, and an interest in further developing skills in the critical use of computational tools in studying the built environment are required. Fluency with additional computational tools (including but not limited to GIS, Python, D3, Javascript, SQL) is a plus. 

To Apply: Please submit a resume, cover letter, and work sample. Please indicate your availability through the summer, commitments to other work if applicable. Please explain your interest in working with CSR, and why you would be well suited to the position. The deadline to apply is April 1, 2019 (10am).

Eligibility: Continuing GSAPP students in the M.Arch, M.S. CCCP, M.S. UP, M.S. HP, and all Ph.D. programs are eligible to apply here

Continuing Columbia University students from other departments or schools should express interest in working with CSR via email to


Posted on March 15, 2019 by Center for Spatial Research

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. 

Posted on February 27, 2019 by Center for Spatial Research

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.  


Posted on December 11, 2018 by Center for Spatial Research

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.

Posted on November 27, 2018 by Center for Spatial Research

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.

Posted on November 9, 2018 by Center for Spatial Research
Condado, San Juan, Puerto Rico, Sept. 22, 2017, following Hurricane Maria. Puerto Rico National Guard photo by Sgt. Jose Ahiram Diaz-Ramos

Unnatural Disaster:
Infrastructure in Puerto Rico before, during, and after Hurricane Maria

Friday, November 9, 1pm 

114 Avery Hall

Ivis Garcia Zambrana, The University of Utah
Marcelo López-Dinardi (’13 MSCCP), Texas A&M University
Mark Martin Bras, Vieques Conservation & Historical Trust
Andrés Mignucci, University of Puerto Rico
Ingrid Olivo, GIZ Sustainable Intermediate Cities Program
In conversation with Hiba Bou Akar, GSAPP, and Monxo López, Hunter College

In January of 2018, four months after Hurricane Maria devastated the island, Puerto Rico’s Governor Ricardo Rosselló announced a plan to privatize the US territory’s publicly owned power utility (PREPA). This action—exposing infrastructure at the convergence of colonialism, finance, and 150 mile-per-hour winds—came as no surprise to those who have been paying attention. Nonetheless, its implications are sure to be felt well beyond the thousands of residents who remained without power months after Hurricane Maria made landfall.

Rosselló’s more recent push to commence privatization of the island’s public school system emphatically echoes and underscores these facts. While many fields are involved in addressing the current crisis on the island, we believe a more focused, historically informed conversation on the roles of architecture, planning, and preservation in both the production and management of these ever-more-frequent emergencies—especially as they pertain to infrastructure—is warranted.

Co-organized by Columbia GSAPP Urban Planning, Urban Design, and Historic Preservation Programs, the Center for Spatial Research, and the Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture, in conjunction with the Buell Center’s “Power: Infrastructure in America” research initiative, which considers infrastructural systems and processes as sites of sociotechnical and ecological governmentality at the intersection of neoliberalism and nationalism.

Free and open to the public.

Photo: Condado, San Juan, Puerto Rico, Sept. 22, 2017, following Hurricane Maria. Puerto Rico National Guard photo by Sgt. Jose Ahiram Diaz-Ramos