The VIA Learning Lab, situated in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT, develops resources for innovative, critical, and contextual pedagogy in mapping, design, and data science for city planners and urban designers. It begins from the premise that transformative work in urban data science, urban design, and visualization requires perspectives and practices that are both critical and contextual.

On the one hand, advances in urban science, the rise of big data, the drive to build smarter cities, and the widespread embrace of the open data movement are coalescing into new opportunities for planners to make data actionable through analysis , urban design, and visualization. On the other hand, these same phenomena are troubling; they lay the groundwork for widening digital divides, automated inequality, and the erosion of public accountability.

Through workshops, open-source teaching and learning materials, and direct support for faculty and student work, the VIA Learning Lab cultivates a situated perspective on urban data science and urban design that is aligned with DUSP’s commitments to racial justice, just economies, climate justice, and democratic processes.

The lab builds on the immense success of DUSPviz, a departmental initiative which started as a series of student-run workshops. An enormous amount of credit must go to Mike Foster, who established DUSPviz as a well-known digital learning and department resource; it benefited from the leadership and vision of former department head Eran Ben-Joseph and Sarah Williams of the Civic Data Design Lab.

Contact Eric Robsky Huntley (ehuntley@mit.edu) with suggestsions or questions.