UCL Department of Geography


Critical Interrogations of the Digital Urban in India: A Pedagogic Approach

27 July 2023

Combining the sciences of data and learning

Digital Urban

Earlier this month, Dr Pushpa Arabindoo organised an innovative workshop in collaboration with Dr Haripriya Narasimhan from the Indian Institute of Technology Hyderabad, as part of her Global Engagement Fund award for 2022-23.

The workshop, "Critical Interrogations of the Digital Urban in India: A Pedagogic Approach", looked at the complexities of the digital urban landscape, exploring new learning pathways for critical data analysis.

Situated at the intersection of urban studies, data science, and critical thinking, it aimed to understand how the language of the digital is reshaping contemporary cities and influencing urban policies through data analytics.

Emphasising the importance of combining data science with critical thinking and moving beyond traditional coding skills, the workshop explored a socio-politically informed analysis to make sense of the data that shapes modern cities.

Working with nearly 40 postgraduate students from Hyderabad and beyond, the workshop considered real-time analytics and their importance to urban planners and policymakers in making informed decisions about city management. Further than this, though, was a recognition of the need to go beyond predictive analytics and explore the influence of impermanence on urban data.

Another key insight that emerged from the workshop was the value of 'minor data' and non-technical approaches from the social sciences. Workshop participants were exposed to the possibilities of using diverse, social data sources that may be overlooked in the pursuit of big data. Through the collection of social data, students were shown a glimpse of how we can better understand the relationships between the social and the material that have major impacts on cities.

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