top of page





This seminar explores the impact of technology on how we govern our cities. With most of the world's population living in cities, a proportion which will continue to grow, cities face the challenge of how to improve economic and social opportunity while reducing risk to the environment and social cohesion. For better or worse, in many cases, cities are on the front line of tackling major societal problems such as climate change and poverty long before nation states. In this course, we focus specifically on the relationship between governing and well-being in urban environments, exploring the technological and institutional innovations that are enabling some cities to tackle societal problems, combat inequality, stimulate cultural creativity, and foster stronger democracy and better quality of life while others are falling behind. The course is built around readings, discussions, visiting speakers, and hands-on workshops introducing data-rich and participatory design methodologies. We start by defining the meaning of governing in a democracy and look at how the advent of new technologies, including big data, the technologies of collective intelligence and artificial intelligence might change how cities solve problems and make decisions in the public interest. We apply what we are learning to explore innovations underway in different cities around the world. In parallel, we will work on a real-world urban innovation project.


Read the syllabus here.

Project: Technological Solutions for the New York City Council

Issue: Participatory/crowdsourced lawmaking; citizen engagement

Student Team: Cadence Daniels, Cassidy Haney, Miguel Molina, Davon Larson, Alex Nathanson, Francesca Pucciarelli, Piper Henriques

Term: Spring ‘18

The Problem: While the nascent concept of CrowdLaw offers an alternative to the traditional method of lawmaking in which the public is given an opportunity to enhance the effectiveness of legislation, many institutions understandably struggle to break away from the conventional closed-door practices which have been the norm for so long. Thus, the team seeks to explore when and under what circumstances CrowdLaw practices, namely that of greater transparency and engagement through technologically-enabled tools, can result in improved lawmaking that is more legitimate and/or informed.

Project Description: The CrowdLaw model acknowledges six different stages of the legislative process, all of which offer opportunities for citizen intervention and enhancement. The team’s goal was to map the standard legislative and regulatory processes employed by the NYC Council in each stage, identify and describe relevant global CrowdLaw cases from each stage that could translate to the Council, and provide a set of recommendations for the Council to design these CrowdLaw practices in their own institution. This research was supplemented by a series of experiments designed to test the recommendations in practice through pilot projects, and was conducted with the parallel goal of deepening the team’s and general field’s understanding of the impact of technology on democratic practices.

bottom of page