updates: Winter 2017/8

Another semester (and year) is officially in the books. Below are some highlights. This fall also saw a very slight re-org of the content here. As a result, notes on the somewhat-immediate future are now here.

the best part of my fall '17 inbox: benchmark selfies from the GIS class

the best part of my fall '17 inbox: benchmark selfies from the GIS class

After reworking the GIS class at GSAPP, a long-time dream has come true: several different degree programs represented in the room. Officially GIS and cartographic analysis

After reworking the GIS class at GSAPP, a long-time dream has come true: several different degree programs represented in the room. Officially, GIS and cartographic analysis was used to bridge between students working toward masters (and doctoral) degrees in planning, architecture, urban design, and real estate. I couldn't be more ecstatic about that. (Given my near-religious take on GIS, I almost literally mean that.) A few highlights are up on my Teaching: GIS page.

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The Building Justice Studio in Architecture and Urban Planning at Rikers Island wrapped up another session this fall with the Justice-In-Education initiative at Columbia's Center for Justice. To the right: an awesome illustration of the studio's cumulative, collaborative curriculum, drawn by Emily Brockenbrough. I also presented some of the work at the ACSP conference in Denver during a special session on planning's engagement with mass incarceration.

Let's see. I saw Houston before Harvey and Miami after Irma. I left Atlanta as the Georgia Dome imploded. (In my "Ground-truthing GIS in America" travels, I've also seen Tomball TX and Chamblee & Doraville, GA—both taking me back to the years of mapping and research for The Buell Hypothesis.) I celebrated the biennial in Chicago, and delivered two very different talks on the same day in Montreal. Since September, I've taken almost fifteen thousand photographs, documenting and comparing a collection of morphological and environmental characteristics I won't bore you by listing here. And, still, snapping photos through airplane windows never gets old.

Updates: Fall 2017

Summer is finally subsiding, and classes are in full swing. So, here are a few updates and notes on things upcoming.

Approaching Las Vegas.

Approaching Las Vegas.

Ground-Truthing GIS in America
Much of the summer was spent either traveling or preparing to travel: on-the-ground verification of recent research and in-the-field sense-making of new visualizations of several mid-sized American cities. About half of the case study cities have been covered (and I've re-learned how to drive), with the other half scheduled for this fall. All this is generously supported by a junior faculty grant from Columbia's Provost office, for the project DISTANCED: Intersectionality and Gendered Experiences of American Urban SpaceA few new papers are in the works, and earlier this month I had the pleasure of presenting some of the methodological process to students in a talk "Critical Distance: Notes on GIS from the Ground" within the school's Lectures in Planning Series. For now, here's an intentionally vague image of what's been on my screen lately.

What's been on my screen: The aformentioned intentionally vague map of San Diego.

What's been on my screen: The aformentioned intentionally vague map of San Diego.

One of those cities was Houston, where I spent several days covering its neighborhoods and those of the surrounding suburbs, about a week before Hurricane Harvey altered the social and physical landscape. A few months of analysis and 2,500 photographs later, I'm grateful to have seen the city; and as we continue to wrestle with its effects—as well as the aftermath of Irma and Maria—I am considering what the pre-hurricane representations of the city offer us in recovery.

Density & Connectivity: Land Use in Mid-Nineteenth-Century New York at the McCagg Gallery, Barnard College. (image: Tola Oniyangi)

Density & Connectivity: Land Use in Mid-Nineteenth-Century New York at the McCagg Gallery, Barnard College. (image: Tola Oniyangi)

Urban Humanities + GIS
"Density and Connectivity: Land Use in Mid-Nineteenth-Century New York" a collection of works with Gergely Baics—four cartographic panels, each featuring several maps at different scales—was exhibited at Barnard College in February and March. The work is currently on view at the Metropolitan New York Library Council through the fall. Since then, we've also had the opportunity to speak on our ongoing collaboration, including the greater-than-the-sum-of-our-parts nature of Humanities GIS research: keynoting "Humanizing Data: Data, Humanities, and the City" at NYU in April and leading an open biohistory group seminar at the University of Copenhagen in June. 

Continuing to reap from the fertile ground of Urban History GIS (it's the gift that keeps giving), Baics and I will be presenting two papers at the Social Science History Association conference in Montreal this November. One comparatively tests some of the metrics developed for 19th-C New York during the period in Montreal; the other, coauthored with Mikkel Thelle, investigates residential mobility and (in)stability in Copenhagen at the turn of the 20th century. 

I was delighted to, once again, teach with the Center for Spatial Research at Columbia this summer. Their Mapping for the Urban Humanities faculty bootcamp in GIS in humanities research is among the highlights of my year—even beyond my taking any chance for critical GIS evangelism, I delight in meeting new colleagues as they make that all-important spatial turn.

from  Introduction to GIS, Spring 2017 .    (Tola Oniyangi & Joan Zhang)

from Introduction to GIS, Spring 2017.
(Tola Oniyangi & Joan Zhang)


Back to School
Having finished up the first year in my new role at Columbia, the summer also afforded a chance to assess some of the teaching changes and consider my courses moving forward. Last year's GIS course, as well as my Digital Restructuring of Urban Space seminar and thesis advising, was an absolute blast. Long-awaited additions to some of the teaching archive (for example here), have finally come to pass. 

I have also returned to Rikers Island with the Rikers Education Program at Columbia's Center for Justice. The newly renamed Building Justice Studio is gearing up for the fall class, and I'm looking forward to presenting some of the work at the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning conference next month in Denver during a special session on urban planning and mass incarceration. 

Goodbye 2016; Hello 2017

Because the Internet doesn't have enough end-of-year posts, I figured I should wrap up 2016 in a tidy little updates package secured with a note on things-to-come-in-2017 ribbon bow. Here goes.

Once again, you'll find me on the third floor of Buell Hall.

Once again, you'll find me on the third floor of Buell Hall.

By far, the most substantial change and opportunity this past year was the start of a new position at Columbia's GSAPP when I joined the faculty in July as Assistant Professor in the Urban Planning Program. The fall was mostly getting settled, curriculum development for the program's Urban Analytics concentration, and beginning to scope out new research and courses. This new role, of course, comes at the end of three wonderful years with the Barnard and Columbia Colleges Architecture Department—three years for which I will always be grateful. At Barnard I learned more about teaching than I could've anticipated, while also developing research collaborations and gaining experience I'll carry into the long-term foreseeable future.

With Gergely Baics, 2016 saw a handful of new research developments and milestones for our ongoing work with historical GIS on land use patterns and urban morphology in midnineteenth-century New York. "Zoning before Zoning" was published in the Annals of the Association of American Geographers and later covered by Richard Florida in the Atlantic's CityLab. We presented new research at the Urban History Association conference, and another paper is in review. Additionally, we began a new body of HGIS work, with Mikkel Thelle at Aarhus University, on urban mobility and class in turn-of-the-century Copenhagen. Lastly (while not an update of my own), I'm very happy to celebrate and recommend Baics's new book Feeding Gotham which was released this year and named one of the years best books in history by Fortune

Beyond HGIS research, 2016 was certainly my year in Copenhagen. Cher (with C Blanchfield, G Cummings, J Kolb, and F Lofti-Jam) was selected and commissioned in January by the Oslo Architecture Triennale as a year-long intervention and investigation into the nature of the platform economy generally and home-sharing specifically. Through a research and engagement process of visits, meetings, workshops, an alpha test with focus groups, talks, and events, the "platform-as-provocation" launched in September alongside an installation at the Triennale in Norway at the National Museum of Architecture. 

This year also brought with it two expanding pedagogy opportunities—that is, two chances to consider teaching what I teach beyond my typical students. (1) With the Center for Justice, I developed and launched the Rikers Studio in Architecture and Urban Planning, a repeated four-week workshop for teenagers at Rikers Island as well as Columbia students. (2) With the Center for Spatial Research, I codeveloped and taught Mapping for the Urban Humanities, a boot camp of sorts for Columbia faculty looking to broaden their research methods and approaches with spatial technologies.

I was also privileged to speak and participate in some absolutely phenomenal discussions on a variety of topics this year. A small sampling includes talking about Datascapes and pluralistic approaches to urban mapping at the London School of Economics and the AIA Center for Architecture, about modes of spatial practice at Storefront for Art & Architecture and the Venice Biennale, about the sharing economy at the Met Breuer, about constructed social landscapes with Leslie Hewitt at the SculptureCenter, and about leadership in research and practice at the Columbia Women's Leadership Forum.

Upcoming in 2017: I've received a grant from Columbia's Provost office to begin exploratory research on GIS-based methods for describing differential experiences of space in pluralistic cities. The project DISTANCED: Intersectionality and Gendered Experiences of American Urban Space will begin this spring and continue through the year. I'll return to full-load teaching this semester with a brand new take on the planners' required Introduction to GIS (#IntroGIS) course and a revamping of my Digital Restructuring of Urban Space (#DigitalRestructuring) seminar. (Seriously, follow the hashtags on twitter this semester!) And, of course, much of what I've done this past year is groundwork laid for ongoing projects, ongoing teaching, and ongoing research.

Much more to come. Happy New Year.

Upcoming: The Sharing Movement at the Met Breuer

I'll be participating on Wednesday, 8 June in the first of a two-part symposium on the Sharing Movement organized by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Storefront for Art and Architecture. The event is part of the Met's In Our Time series and part of Storefront's Manifesto series. As such, there's sure to be much discussion of the much-to-discuss topics swirling around the developing sharing economy.

From the event's coordinators:

Manifesto Series: In Our Time – The Sharing Movement, is a two-part series presented by Storefront for Art and Architecture and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. How will today’s sharing movement affect the way we work, move, build, and produce new ideas and knowledge?
Participants will discuss this contemporary and ubiquitous movement, one that is increasingly influencing the exchange of goods, data, images, services, and spaces of residence and work. The series brings together leading practitioners and scholars embedded within the movement to explore its spatial, social, public, and private consequences, many of which are changing the future of urban life.
Events will take place on June 8th at the Met Breuer, and on July 19th at Storefront for Art and Architecture. Storefront will also publish a related book as part of its Manifesto Series that draws upon the issues presented during the event.

The plan right now (+/- 48 hours before the event) is to present some work from my recent research and thinking on the urban spatiosocial implications of digital sharing platforms as well as the current Cher project (in collaboration with Caitlin Blanchfield, Glen Cummings, Jaffer Kolb, and Farzin Lofti-Jam) for the 2016 Oslo Architecture Triennale.