Robert Goodspeed writes that urban planners are looking at how to best use new sources of information including Crowdsourced ( Open Street Map and tools like Foursquare), Private (ESRI Demographic Data), and Big Data:
Too often data wonks are enthralled with the new sources of data, spending hours making pretty maps or visualizations that are interesting but ultimately irrelevant to substantive policy or planning questions. Although there is a place for visual exploratory data analysis for complex data and good design to communicate clearly with stakeholders, planners can play a key roll in these discussions. Instead of dismissing these efforts, urban planners should engage with data analysts and designers, guiding them towards relevant questions and policy issues. The Columbia Spatial Information Design Lab’s projects epitomize this approach, mining public data to tell a policy-relevant stories about issues like prison spending or industrial zoning in Manhattan.
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