Methodolatry and the Art of Measure (in Urban Data Science): Places: Design Observer

NYU thus joins many corporately branded pursuits of algorithmic urban efficiency — IBM’s Smarter Cities program, Cisco’s Smart+Connected Communities Institute, Samsung’s u-City initiative, Intel’s Sustainable Connected Cities project, Living PlanIT’s Urban Operating System, and various automobile companies’ efforts to envision new “urban futures.” These Big Data approaches have provoked popular concern about surveillance and privacy, and raised questions among urbanists about how we’ll account for all the informal urban movements and transactions that take place off the sensor grid and outside the formal economy.

…Despite their apparent differences in scale and ideology, these two camps — the institutional and the individual, the corporate and collective, the big and little — are aligned at a foundational level. What links them is a way of conceptualizing and operationalizing the city: theirs is a city with an underlying code or logic, one that can be hacked and made more efficient — or just, or sustainable, or livable — with a tweak to its algorithms or an expansion of its dataset. They also seem to share a faith in instrumental rationality, or what Evgeny Morozov calls “solutionism” — as well as a tendency toward data fetishism and “methodolatry,” the aestheticization and idolization of method.

via Methodolatry and the Art of Measure (in Urban Data Science): Places: Design Observer.