Big, Thick, Small and Short - The Flaws of Current Urban Big Data Trends: A Viewpoint

  • Rafi Rich Faculty of Architecture and Town Planning , The Technion Institute of Technology, Haifa, Israel; and CEO-Suits LTD, Israel
Keywords: Big Data, System Dynamics, Smart city, Thick Data, Urban Dynamics, Urban Planning, Civic Engagement


The last decade of the 20th century, as the internet emerged, saw a data revolution. Relatively cheap digital storage and over 1.5 billion gigabytes of available data that could now be used. This also created new challenges; new types of data, coined in 2001 as “Big Data” (due to its three-dimensional characteristics): Volume, Velocity and Variety (Laney, 2001), has to be managed differently. Many cities and city planners hailed the new revolution as the ultimate solution for urban problems. Unfortunately, there is little evidence that data centered cities are succeeding in overcoming urban challenges.  In fact, there is a growing understanding that in order to infuse data centered decision making, specifically in urban planning, new models and processes, designed by and for cities are needed. This article examines the origins and the evolution of current Big Data and Smart City trends, from the development of Forrester's System Dynamic Model, through the emergence of the data corporations and the introduction of the Smart City Model. The analysis depicts how the Big Data actors determine the framing of urban data utilization and alternate ways of collecting and utilizing data for urban management and planning, more in tune to the needs and features of cities in the 21st century.


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