Carnegie Mellon University

Title Cover of The Common

December 17, 2018

Lecture Series at Heinz College Featuring Dan O'Brien on January 29

Join us on January 29, 2019 from 12:00 pm - 1:20 pm in Hamburg Hall Room A301 to hear from Daniel O'Brien, author of The Urban Commons: How Data and Technology Can Rebuild Our Communities.

Dr. Daniel T. O’Brien is Associate Professor in the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs and the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Northeastern University. His primary expertise is in the use of modern digital data sets to better understand urban processes, particularly the social and behavioral dynamics of neighborhoods. He is Co-Director of the Boston Area Research Initiative, in which capacity he has worked extensively to build effective models of research-policy collaboration that help us to better understand and serve cities. His book The Urban Commons (2018; Harvard University Press) captures the intersection of his scholarly and institutional efforts, using the study of custodianship for neighborhood spaces and infrastructure through Boston’s 311 system to illustrate the potential of cross-sector collaborations in urban informatics.

Abstract: Many have heralded the arrival of “smart cities,” but wherein lies their promise? This talk will explore this question through the example of Boston’s 311 system, which enables constituents to report issues in public spaces, like potholes, graffiti, and litter. Such problems are no one person’s responsibility but affect everyone’s quality of life, and the 311 is a novel channel for everyday urbanites to address the age old problem of maintaining shared spaces and infrastructure—that is, custodianship in the urban commons. The rich database of reports generated by the 311 system tells the story of how, when, and why people act as custodians. But in doing so, it also reveals broader lessons regarding the potential and limitations of “civic technologies” that engage constituents in the collaborative deployment of public services. Further, the extended research agenda on 311 in Boston illustrates the burgeoning field of urban informatics, highlighting the way that modern digital data can support a new wave of research-policy collaborations that can advance both scholarship and policy on cities, and discussing the ways that universities and city governments can best partner to realize this opportunity.

Flyer for Obrien Event