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What to Expect from Science in 2017: Urban Studies

Urban governance will be based on big data rather than on any purely administrative rationale, and just building homes will not be enough to ensure people feel comfortable. This change is already underway in capitals and other large cities, and other cities and towns will follow.

I think that 2017 will be the year in which we see a transition from emphasising the quantitative to the qualitative in Russian cities' urban development. Now we can say that this area of urban studies is flourishing, as only recently the understanding of urban development was limited to extensive expansion and residential construction.

Today it has become clear that just building homes is not enough to ensure that people to feel satisfied with their environment and city lifestyle. Social well-being largely depends on what people see outside their apartments. So next year we should also engage in a number of different urban development  projects such as the further development of public transport, public spaces, and so on. These processes are underway in capital cities, and we need to launch them in other major cities.

Next year big data technology and its connection with urban development will be a very relevant subject. Thanks to the expansive and rapid development of mobile technologies seen in service economies, thanks to phones, computers, and social networks, we are finding we city residents much better.

This approach is much faster, more efficient, and thorough, than those previously applied, such as analysing census data. To date city plans have traditionally been based on administrative requirements, and urban space and its future development was analyzed from an overwhelmingly administrative point of view.

In fact, Russian cities did not have much information about the people who lived in them.  Today, this knowledge is a serious help in understanding residents’ characters and behavior. This knowledge should impact the structure of cities, the development of regulatory documents regarding territorial development, and zoning in urban planning.

The big data approach is not well developed in Russian cities, but, due to the fact that we are now seeing changes in management style - it is becoming more adaptive, adjusting  to the particular conditions in any one city and reacting quickly to change, we can expect big data technology to seriously affect future administrative practices at city level. In any case, this is what we have already seen in the capital and Russia's most advanced regional cities, so this trend is likely to develop elsewhere. Smart management in urban governance is now on the crest of a wave, and I think this trend will only gain momentum in everyday practices.

Additional materials:

BBC Documentary ‘The Joy of Data’. Dr. Hannah Fry speaks about the world changes in the era of big data.

What to Expect in 2017 — a Research Forecast

On the eve of New Year’s, it is customary to take a look into the near future. We asked HSE experts in various fields to share their forecasts on which areas of research might be the most interesting and promising in 2017. They tell us about what discoveries and breakthroughs await us in 2017, as well as how this could even change our lives.

Read all forecasts

December 26, 2016