SASNet Training with Vonu Thakuriah: Urban Informatics and Cities

Thursday, 17 November 2016
10:30am - 2:00pm
University of Essex, Wivenhoe Park, Colchester, CO4 3SQ

This training seminar is provided as part of the new ESRC-funded Social Analytics Strategic Network (SASNet).

The network, jointly founded by the Urban Big Data Centre (UBDC) and Business and Local Government Data Research Centre (BLGRC) focuses on capacity-building for social analytics of emerging heterogeneous forms of data, including big data. If you would like more information as well as details on how to get involved in future SASNet events, please contact us.

Course aims and objectives

The objective of this training course is to describe emerging sources of urban Big Data, and their use in Urban Informatics, along with the challenges that arise. Participants will gain an understanding of, and develop their skills in dealing with the opportunities that can arise from moving to a data-rich world. The course will focus on four main challenges likely to be encountered:

  1. Technological (in terms of information management needs)
  2. Methodological
  3. Theoretical/epistemological
  4. The emerging political economy of Big Data.

This course is aimed at academics, students and the public. No prior knowledge is needed. Lunch will be provided.


The emerging area of Urban Informatics focuses on the exploration and understanding of urban systems by leveraging novel sources of data. There are major potentials for Urban Informatics research and applications in four key areas:

  1. Improved strategies for dynamic urban resource management
  2. Theoretical insights and knowledge discovery of urban patterns and processes
  3. Strategies for public engagement and civic participation
  4. Innovations in urban management, and planning and policy analysis

Urban Informatics utilises Big Data in innovative ways, a term being used to describe a wide spectrum of naturally-occurring data that are generated through transactional, operational, planning and social activities. Due to their rapid rate of generation, heterogeneous and sometimes unstructured nature, or even due to complex access or privacy conditions, such data typically add considerable challenges to research and analysis.

New sources of Big Data are rapidly emerging as a result of technological, institutional, social, and business innovations, and are stimulating Urban Informatics research to investigate hypothesis regarding urban patterns as well as to pursue data-driven exploratory research for knowledge discovery about cities.

Trainer biography

Piyushimita Thakuriah (Vonu) is the Ch2M Chair of Transport and Professor of Urban Studies at  the School of Engineering in the University of Glasgow, UK. She is the founding Director and Principal Investigator of the Urban Big Data Centre, a consortium of 7 universities funded by the Economic and Social Research Council that includes a national data service to inspire innovations for cities research and applications. Vonu’s research interests lie in smart, socially-just and sustainable transport and theories and methods explaining transport policies and services and traveller behaviour. She is more broadly interested in Urban Informatics or the analytics of emerging sources of Big Data to understand complex urban problems. Vonu has published over 165 journal papers, conference proceedings and technical reports on these topics. She is the author of the book “Transportation and Information: Trends in Technology and Policy” (2013) and lead editor of “Seeing Cities with Big Data: Research, Methods and Applications in Urban Informatics” (2016). She is a founding co-chair of the joint subcommittee on Computational Transportation and Society of the Transportation Research Board, and a co-chair of the Urban Data Interest group of the Research Data Alliance. Prior to her current position at the University of Glasgow, she was a professor in the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is currently a European Commission Marie Curie Fellow.