Posted on September 15, 2017 by Center for Spatial Research
Image by Nurri Kim, courtesy of Adam Greenfield.

Adam Greenfield discusses his newest book, Radical Technologies: The Design of Everyday Life, in conversation with Laura Kurgan.

Friday, September 15, 2017 at 1:00pm in Ware Lounge, Avery Hall. 

Everywhere we turn, our everyday experience of the world is being transfigured by the advent of startling new technologies. But at what cost? In this urgent and revelatory excavation of the Information Age, leading technology thinker Adam Greenfield forces us to rethink our relationship with the networked objects, services and spaces that define our lives, as well as the Silicon Valley consensus that is determining the shape of our future.  

We already depend on the smartphone to navigate every aspect of our daily lives. The technologies that follow in its wake, from augmented-reality interfaces and virtual assistants to autonomous delivery drones and self-driving cars, are offered to us with the promise that they will make life easier, more convenient and more productive. 3D printing promises unprecedented control over the form and distribution of matter, while the blockchain stands to revolutionize everything from the recording and exchange of value to the way we organize ourselves in groups and polities. And all the while, fiendishly complex algorithms are operating quietly in the background, reshaping the economy, transforming the fundamental terms of our politics and even redefining what it means to be human.

Having successfully colonized everyday life, these radical technologies are now conditioning the choices that will be available to us in the future, and most of us haven’t even begun to think about what it all means. Just how did they claim such a prominent place in our lives? How do they work? What challenges do they present to us, as selves and societies? In answering these questions, Greenfield orients us to the circumstances we now confront — and prods us to the thought and action necessary to ensure that our values will survive the years to come.

Posted on August 16, 2017 by Center for Spatial Research

The Center for Spatial Research will be offering a workshop series in fall 2017 designed to give a basic introduction to core concepts and methods for work with geographic information systems in the urban humanities. The hands-on workshop series aims to contribute to existing campus-wide GIS resources, and is thus tailored to students doing coursework and research in the urban humanities with no prior GIS experience. It is open to students from all schools at Columbia University.

Interested participants must register for one session of each workshop.

Participants must bring their own laptop to each session – workshops will use QGIS a free and open source software that runs on both Mac and Windows operating systems. (If you do not have your own laptop a limited number of loaner laptops will be available at each session. Please request one using the comments section on the registration form.)

Registration will open on September 12 at 9am. Check back for details.

Thinking Space: an Introduction to QGIS (3 hours)

Session A: September 23, 5-8pm; Session B – September 26, 1-4pm

This workshop will introduce participants to core concepts of geographic information systems (GIS) through the open source GIS software QGIS. Participants will learn how to create maps of existing spatial datasets, formulate and answer spatial questions, and design compelling maps.

After this workshop participants will be able to:

  • Add layers to a map project
  • Comprehend the components of a shapefile
  • Design a compelling map composition
  • Perform basic queries on a GIS dataset, using both tabular and spatial queries 
  • Perform a table join to add additional data to an existing shapefile’s attribute table

Data Space: Creating Spatial Data from Historical or Analog Sources (3 hours)

Session A – October 10, 5-8pm; Session B – October 13, 1-4pm

This workshop will introduce participants to methods for creating data for historical GIS applications. The workshop will cover how to give geographic coordinates (georeference) scanned historical maps using QGIS, as well as how to digitize (trace) features from this scanned map to create new shapefiles. These are two key ways of creating spatial data from historical or other sources. Additional online tools for georeferencing scanned maps will also be introduced.

After this workshop participants will be able to:

  • Gain fluency in geo-referencing scanned paper maps
  • Understand how to create new datasets by digitizing features from a scanned paper map
  • Understand principals behind how to encode qualitative or quantitative data in spreadsheets to work with in a GIS
Posted on April 4, 2017 by Center for Spatial Research

The Million Dollar Blocks project was featured in a recent article about countering bias in data driven journalism published by ProPublica. Author, Lena Groeger, describes the myriad ways that journalistic projects are (often unwittingly) biased from their outset as a result of design decisions made by their authors. Groeger highlights the Million Dollar Blocks project’s approach to investigating the criminal justice system, namely investigating the geographies of incarceration rather than the geographies of crime, as a counter example to standard narratives about the justice system.  

Read the full article here


Posted on March 27, 2017 by Center for Spatial Research
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

Posted on March 15, 2017 by Center for Spatial Research

The Center for Spatial Research is seeking student candidates for both full-time and part-time positions during Summer 2017.

Students will be responsible for data analysis, visualization, map design, and 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, a working knowledge of some of the following tools is a plus: 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 internship. CSR researchers will mentor successful candidates and match them with projects which help them build additional fluencies with computational methods.

Full-time positions are 35 hours per week for up to twelve weeks. Part-time work will be negotiated by student/project. All positions are $15/hour. Please note positions are only available for continuing students at Columbia University. 

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

Applications will be reviewed in the order there are received. 

Posted on January 27, 2017 by Center for Spatial Research

"Access to Taxicabs for Unbanked Households: An Exploratory Analysis in New York City," by David King and CSR Research Scholar, Juan Francisco Saldarriaga has been published in the Journal of Public Transportation. In this paper, we used multiple datasets to explore taxicab fare payments by neighborhood and examine how paid taxicab fares are associated with use of conventional banking services

Abstract: Taxicabs are critical complements to public transit systems. In New York City, ubiquitous yellow cabs are as iconic as the city’s subway system, and the city recently added green taxicabs to improve taxi service in areas outside of the Central Business Districts and airports. In this paper, we used multiple datasets to explore taxicab fare payments by neighborhood and examine how paid taxicab fares are associated with use of conventional banking services. There are clear spatial dimensions of the propensity of riders to pay cash, and we found that both immigrant status and being “unbanked” are strong predictors of cash transactions. These results have implications for local regulations of the for-hire vehicle industry, particularly in the context of the rapid growth of services that require credit cards to use. At the very least, existing and new providers of transit services must consider access to mainstream financial products as part of their equity analyses.

Download the full article here


Posted on January 20, 2017 by Center for Spatial Research

Conflict Urbanism: Language Justice Lecture Series

Please join us this spring for “Conflict Urbanism: Language Justice.” This public lecture series aims to explore the role of language in structuring cities, bringing together speakers to address the ways that urban spaces and their digital traces are physically shaped by linguistic diversity, and to examine the results of languages coming into contact and conflict. It is running in conjunction with a graduate-level seminar of the same title.  Cosponsored by the Center for Spatial Research and the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society.
February 16, 6:30 pm
Understanding the Long Tail of Linguistic Diversity in New York City​
Daniel Kaufman, Endangered Languages Alliance and Queens College, CUNY
Ware Lounge, Avery Hall
February 23, 6 pm
‘Together We Can Create a Freer Future’: Digital Language Activism, Challenging and Reproducing Hegemonies
Ana Deumert, University of Cape Town
Kent Lounge, 403 Kent Hall
March 10, 11am
Language Traffic: Translating Across Urban Space
Sherry Simon, Concordia University
Ware Lounge

Posted on January 19, 2017 by Center for Spatial Research

Michelle McSweeney and Dare Brawley will offer two introductory GIS workshops as part of this year’s New York City Digital Humanities Week. NYCDH Week offers students, faculty, librarians, and researchers the opportunity to take advantage of workshops in the digital humanities offered at universities across the city. Check out the full schedule of NYCDH Week workshops here. All workshops are free and open to the public.

This year the Center for Spatial Research will offer two workshops, both hosted at Studio@Butler:

Introduction to Mapping with QGIS
February 7 from 3 – 5pm
Please register here.

Making Maps into Webmaps with Leaflet.js
February 8 from 1 – 3pm
Please register here.

We hope you can join us!

Posted on January 1, 2017 by Center for Spatial Research

Laura Kurgan, Director Center for Spatial Research, was interviewed by Noah Chasin for the Winter 2017 issue of Bomb Magazine. The interview covers her work at the Center for Spatial Research and its antecedents in the work of the Spatial Information Design Lab.

Chasin writes, “CSR is at the forefront of a movement to situate data visualization at the heart of an interdisciplinary academic context working in a social justice framework and linked to an increasingly complex network of groups, advocates, and affiliated players.”

Read the full interview here

Posted on December 9, 2016 by Center for Spatial Research
Above: faculty participants collaboratively developing mapping-based assignments during the Summer 2016 Mapping for the Urban Humanities course.

With the Dean of Humanities we are pleased to invite interested Columbia University faculty to participate in Mapping for the Urban Humanities: A Summer Institute.

During the two-week Mellon-funded "bootcamp" faculty will learn key skills in mapping, data visualization, and data collection that they can incorporate into their research and teaching. Space is limited. Interested faculty are encouraged to apply by January 27, 2017.

About the Workshop: The workshop will be held from 1:00-5:30pmMay 22, 2017 – June 2, 2017 with an optional third week practicum from June 5-9, 2017. No class will be held on Memorial Day, May 29. If you are interested in taking the course but the timing poses a problem please email Dare Brawley ( with the dates and times you could commit to attending. 

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

Our Motivations: Today, ever-increasing quantities of data are available to scholars and urbanists. However, work with data has largely been the province of data-scientists and policy-oriented social scientists, who have not always been eager to interrogate the limits of their data. Conversely, scholars in the humanities and design practitioners who could offer important critical perspectives on data often lack the technical training to understand data-driven tools and methods. 

The institute will give professors of the urban humanities the ability to make their courses places where students who might not otherwise take computer science classes can learn how to use computational tools to tackle humanistic questions. Students who sign up to learn about nineteenth century Bombay or London in the novels of Charles Dickens will complete their courses having also become conversant with GIS, HTML, Excel, and Python. This summer intensive faculty workshop is the first step in adapting a "writing across the curriculum" model to working with data.

More information about the course as well as materials from the summer 2016 course, including the syllabi that were developed during that course are available here.

How to Apply: Interested faculty should apply by sending the following materials to by January 27, 2017.

  • A one page statement that describes your interest in acquiring digital and computational skills.
  • The course syllabus, or research brief, that you hope to workshop during the summer intensive.