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2022 PhD Symposium – Pathways toward the future: Assessing the digital dimensions of urban dynamics

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Who is building the cities of the future? For whom are they being built? Can big data, smart cities, and other emerging technologies contribute to a sustainable and equitable world?

As we move deeper into the information age, technology has gained renewed relevance as a provider of governance tools and a mechanism to increase societal legibility and monitoring. As a result, it has informed policymakers on the design and management of urban spaces. In our daily lives, technology has had major impacts: from helping us find the most efficient commuting route to enabling the real-time exposure of human rights violations. Considering the magnitude and influence of digital systems on city dynamics, it becomes crucial to critically examine who gets to access and control these resources. It is also important to assess what their impacts could be on cities, particularly on vulnerable communities and environments. Could we bridge the communication between the relevant agencies and the public in terms of the development of technologies?

This one-day symposium gathered speakers from several universities to share their thoughts on the current and imaginable pathways toward the cities of the future.


Opening Plenary
9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.: Welcome Session and Opening Keynote

  • Sarah Williams, MIT

Morning Sessions:
10:10 a.m. – 11:10 a.m.: Urban Housing and Data

  • Geoff Boeing, University of Southern California
  • Ian Kennedy, University of Washington
  • Anaid Yerena (moderator), University of Washington

11:20 a.m. – 12:20 p.m.: Mobility Tech at the Human Scale

  • Kari Watkins, Georgia Tech
  • Peter Dunn, University of Washington
  • Mingming Cai (moderator), University of Washington

Lunch Break

Afternoon Sessions:
1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.: Global Experiences with Emerging Technologies

  • Kristine Stiphany, Texas Tech University
  • Bo Zhao, University of Washington
  • Babita Joy (moderator), University of Washington

2:10 p.m. – 3:10 p.m.: Natural Resources and the Urban Environment

  • Felipe Correa, University of Virginia
  • Jan Whittington, University of Washington
  • Jenn Engelke (co-moderator), University of Washington
  • Elizabeth Umbanhowar (co-moderator), University of Washington

Closing Plenary
3:20 p.m. – 4:20 p.m.: Digital Futures in the City

  • Feiyang Sun, University of Washington
  • Lucky Pratama, University of Washington
  • Carrie Sturts Dossick, University of Washington
  • Manish Chalana (moderator), University of Washington

Keynote Speaker: Sarah Williams, Ph.D.

Sarah Williams is an Associate Professor of Technology and Urban Planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where she is also Director of the Civic Data Design Lab and the Leventhal Center for Advanced Urbanism.



Kristin Potterton (

Salman Rashdi (

Mingming Cai (

Ana Costa (


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This event is sponsored by the College of Built Environments, the PhD Program in the Built Environment and the Interdisciplinary PhD Program in Urban Design and Planning at the University of Washington. Additional support is provided by Urban@UW.

Special thanks to Whitney Bennett, Laura Barrera, Melissa Y Hamasaki, Jamilah Williams, Joshua Polansky, Qing Shen, Alex Anderson, Jennifer Davison, and Rachel Berney for their work to make this symposium possible.