The Bartlett School of Architecture

Dr Jamie O'Brien

Dr Jamie O'Brien

Honorary Senior Research Associate

Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis

Faculty of the Built Environment

Joined UCL
1st May 2020

Research summary

This three-year project is supported by a Leverhulme Trust Research Grant. The research relates to methods of visual representation of social and spatial inequalities among neighbourhood communities living at the peripheries of major urban centres in the UK and Colombia. The challenge is combine social, spatial and semantic networks into an intelligible visual model, which will be tested through community participation workshops at each site. 

Communities in urban contexts may be represented by combining the spatial, social and semantic networks upon which they are based. The inequalities among communities may also be represented by weighting these networks, which may, for example, signify maters of effort and cost in the urban landscape. This novel method of combination offers a powerful tool for urban modellers, yet also poses a set of theoretical and technical challenges. Not least, the multi-layered complexity of such as network combination must be rendered intelligible for professional and citizen engagement. This paper outlines some of the key opportunities and challenges for this graph theoretical approach to the visualisation of community inequalities, and provides concrete examples of graph data structures based on a recent public engagement in planning initiative.

My new book Shaping Knowledge includes a number of original case studies relating to major urban changes, and outlines modelling methods based on knowledge representations, network formation and economic pay-offs. Organisations depend on knowledge, but must adapt to ever-changing environments, their survival dependent on effective thinking and agile actions. Knowledge is social, spatial and provides the means by which we shape our socio-spatial environments, just as our environments shape the way we come to think and act. Any organization¹s knowledge is its prime asset, based on its resources of data and documentation. However, its true value requires the activations of structure, query, search and decision. 


I am currently Senior Research Associate at the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, University College London. My current project seeks to map and model urban community formations in contrasting areas of Liverpool, UK, and Medellin, Colombia. I aim to integrate an urban model of community formations using GIS and network graphs to demonstrate how people use spaces to form boundaries, thresholds and interfaces to form their community identities. I have a broad interest in visual methods and visualization. My undergraduate degree was in Fine Art & Critical Theory, in which I explored applications of technology in visual representation. I hold an Engineering Doctorate from UCL (equivalent to PhD, also including scientific and enterprise training). My thesis covered topics of VR application in neuro-therapy rehabilitation, specifically examining the effect patients undertaking therapy treatments using home-life simulations. In 2007 I was Enterprise Scholar at the London Business School/UCL Centre for Scientific Enterprise, where I was also a business case writer for teaching purposes. Since 2009 I have been Manager of the UCL Centre for Virtual Environments, Interaction and Visualisation.