UN-HABITAT New York this week hosted the event "Building Cities through Social Media", under the framework of the Social Media Week New York 2012.
UN-HABITAT partnered with the MIT Center for Civic Media to organize an interactive workshop to get innovative ideas on how social media can improve life in cities. Academicians, professionals, researchers and students sat down together to figure out new social media applications for the urban landscape.
The session started with the presentation of seven inspirational projects that are based on the relation between social media and the city, using social media to re-imagine how we live and work in cities. There were seven speakers who were the starting point for the discussion.
Jennifer Evans Cowley from Ohio State University talked about using Twitter to cull information on how users feel about transportation in Austin, Texas while Leo Burd from the MIT Center for Civic Media presented on the use of design technology to create tools like online community mapping or digital signs in the city. His presentation was motivated by the desire to combat social exclusion in all different types of cities around the globe.
Phil Salesses of the MIT Media Lab's presentation was on using online feedback through "Place Pulse" to gather data about perceptions of the city vs. the real data on city issues like public safety. Daniel Latorre from the Project for Public Spaces stressed the importance of remembering that social networks are mostly about people, and how they use them, and less about the specific technology.
On her part, Maria Nicanor, curator with the BMW Guggenheim Lab, talked about their initiatives in New York to engage the public in conversations about the city. Sarah Williams of Columbia University was using social media to collect data on how different areas of the city actually function. And finally, Nicolas Rader asked what is the symbiotic relationship between architecture and social media, and how can they compliment each other?
After the seven very quick presentations, all the event participants gathered into nine small groups to brainstorm and come up with three big ideas on how social media can better address nine different urban issues: climate change and energy, governance, culture, transportation, public safety, design, citizen engagement and neighborhoods, public spaces, and economic vitality.