Research

My areas of expertise are in urban design and the use of digital data to understand human behavior in urban space (in particular, sustainable urban design, mobility, and human-computer interface considerations of urban data); open data policy (including issues of privacy and agency); urban design theory; urban and civic innovation; and design pedagogy.

My dissertation revisited and verified the normative theories about the design of walkable communities through an analysis of GPS data collected from mobile phones. I believe this is the largest study ever conducted on walkable neighborhoods and active transportation, involving over 500,000 utility walking activity traces and 3.5 million recreational traces.

Current Research Interests:

Quantifying Good Urban Form
Understanding how individuals respond to the characteristics of existing urban spaces will allow creators of new public spaces to specify their context and design with more detail and greater certainty as to how they will perform (Forsyth & Southworth, 2008).  Fundamental to the creation of urban space is an understanding of how individuals are likely to behave within it. Gaining this knowledge requires “well-validated, durable criteria for successful outcomes” (Talen & Ellis, 2015). The difficulty, however, is that the generation of these criteria has long relied on surveys with small numbers, or anecdotal studies using proxy data. How do we understand human behavior at this scale, and how can we enumerate the impacts of urban space with regard to these behaviors?

Innovation and Design Pedagogies
The MIT designX initiative is forging an active connection between academia – our studios and classrooms – and the larger entrepreneurship ecosystem – within MIT and beyond. Many disciplines can augment design (from computer science to management) and simultaneously benefit from a creative approach. Likewise, practitioners understand real-world design challenges, opportunities, and constraints, which can spark new research or studio agendas. This agenda is seeking to quantify and enumerate the approaches, outcomes, and lessons learned from its novel design pedagogy and its position within the larger design and innovation environments.

Previous Research Projects: