Research Seminar on Urban Information Systems >> Content Detail



Course Philosophy

This research seminar provides a setting in which to build upon computing and analytic skills developed in previous subjects and to explore strategic planning and policy issues regarding the impacts on urban planning of emerging information and communication technologies (ICT). The seminar is closely tied to current Urban Information Systems (UIS) research in the MIT Urban Studies and Planning Department. Much of this research involves geographic information systems (GIS), multimedia technologies and the design and prototyping of urban planning tools and metropolitan information infrastructure. Ongoing work also involves institutional analysis and new theories about planning strategies, the economics of place, and land use and transportation interactions. 11.522 is intended to enable advanced Master's and PhD students to work on special projects of interest to them which can be related to ongoing UIS work in order to tap into a critical mass of information, technology, planning context, and peer review.

Course Description and Content

Seminar participants and invited guests will lead critical discussions of current literature and ongoing research. Each student will be responsible for identifying, reviewing, and presenting one structured discussion of articles from the current literature that are relevant to their research topic. The remaining time will be spent working on individual projects or thesis proposals. This fall, the seminar will focus on the following core issues that underlie most implementations of urban information systems and decision support tools:

  • The sustainable acquisition and representation of urban knowledge
  • The emergent technological infrastructure for supporting metropolitan decision-making
  • The innovative organizational and institutional arrangements that can take advantage of modern urban information systems

During the semester, there will be occasional UIS seminar talks by outside speakers. These talks will provide insight and in-depth discussion about the knowledge representation, technology, and institutional dimensions of some of the topics covered in the weekly DUSP program group seminars. Generally, these seminars will take place over Friday lunch, and we'll try to hold them during the same week as the corresponding program group talk. These in-depth UIS seminars will be considered part of 11.522, and students taking 11.522 will be expected to attend these occasional Friday lunch seminars.


Each week, there will be one session lasting up to two hours (during the scheduled Tuesday afternoon time) for discussion of research areas, class projects, and selected articles. Additional lab hours will be arranged as needed to facilitate access to equipment and data that students may need for their projects. Each student will be responsible for (a) leading at least one class discussion of published papers in the current literature concerning a selected topic of interest, (b) undertaking an individual or group project involving a written and oral presentation, and (c) participating in seminar discussions and out-of-class email exchanges. A schedule of topics and presenters is given in the calendar section. Individual class projects typically lead to a thesis proposal, empirical study, comparative analysis, computer-based modeling exercise, and/or the demonstration of a software prototype.

Prerequisites and Sequencing

While most projects are likely to involve hands-on use of GIS and database management technologies, this is not a requirement. However, students are expected to have some knowledge of metropolitan information infrastructures and digital representations of 'place' and spatial relationships prior to taking 11.522 (see the list of prerequisites below). Typically, this involves GIS and database management skills. Students should have sufficient computing proficiency and an understanding of information and communication technology use in urban planning - as evidenced by 11.204 (Planning, Communication, and Digital Media) and at least one of 11.520 (A Workshop on Geographic Information Systems), or 11.521 (Spatial Database Management), or equivalent. MCP students normally take this course during their second year with the intention of linking the course to thesis preparation, an internship, and the like. PhD students often take the subject more than once as they work on their first-year paper, general exam preparation, research assistantships, and dissertation.


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