MIT DUSP’s Sarah Williams Lectures at Northeastern University in Shenyang, China

On October 11, 2016, Sarah Williams, assistant professor of MIT DUSP and director of the Civic Data Design Lab, led a small team of researchers on a visit to Department of Architecture in Northeastern University in Shenyang, China. The department is one of the oldest architectural schools in China, founded by Liang Sicheng, the most influential architectural and urban historian in modern China.

Prof. Williams gave a lecture titled Data for Public Good, in which she discussed how big data would change the world when collected and synthesized into tools that have a public benefit. She showed projects from her research lab, the Civic Data Design Lab at MIT, which transforms data into visualizations that affect policy reform. From her work on the Digital Matatus project in Nairobi, Kenya, where she created the first map of the informal transit system to her work on measuring Air Quality in Beijing, to more recent work investigating the underutilized real estate development in China, Prof. Williams showed how collecting data, visualizing it, and opening it up for anyone to use could leverage the power of data to create real policy change.

The lecture was well received by the faculty and students from the school and attracted an audience of more than 200, including the director of the Department of Architecture and other faculty members. After the lecture, Prof. Williams interacted actively with the audience, which centered their questions and discussion on the application of urban data research in the Chinese context.

The trip to China was founded by the Samuel Tak Lee Faculty Research Seed Fund.

- Zhekun Xiong, first-year MCP student in DUSP and STL Fellow