Deploying data infrastructure in informal communities can present a formidable challenge as the most vulnerable segments of the grassroots often have low or limited data literacy. This can result in reduced adoption rates of conventional technological solutions and can be a critical impediment to the data collection strategies used to define and represent these communities. Overcoming this challenge is essential, as a deficiency in digital transparency and data literacy is among the growing number of factors perpetuating and broadening social inequality and poverty worldwide. By meeting this challenge, government entities and non-governmental organizations can gain a higher resolution of on-the-ground realities and real-time feedbacks from the community, improving decision-making processes and increasing precision in the provision of services to those who need it the most. Furthermore, data accessibility can be improved. There is increased potential to empower and to equip local populations to participate with greater insight and agency in the urban development processes.
The workshop aims to demonstrate this position by prototyping local grassroots community data infrastructure and culturally sensitive data collection tools within two dynamic hutong neighborhoods in Beijing. Shanzhai City has prepared specific fieldwork methodologies integrated with data collection tools to enhance traditional fieldwork and to enable bottom-up data aggregation from local communities with socially sensitive incentives to participate. The research topic takes the event of Beijing Design Week as a lens through which the grassroots’ understanding of urban development can be anchored. Asking ‘What is the legibility of Beijing Design Week to the existing community?’, Pop-Up X Studio begins a process of problem identification through which further insight on the ‘value’ of urban development to local inhabitants can be uncovered. Additionally, the workshop also aims to analyze both the short and the long-term impacts of implementing such a data infrastructure into informal communities such as Baitasi and Dashilar. By collecting, analyzing, and presenting data at the intersection of different communities affected by urban development and highlighted by the annual event of Beijing Design Week, how is it possible to increase individual and collective agency and self-sustaining community efforts to improve quality of life for the grassroots? In harnessing technology to this end, is there the possibility to create models and strategies that are agile, replicable and scalable, to other developing regions and communities?
It is an active research platform dedicated to the exchange of ideas and experimental thinking about the future of cities. Its scope extends regionally to include Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Shanghai and other cities throughout China and East Asia. It continues to expand its network of collaborators by joining forces with other international institutions and schools of architecture and by engaging Columbia University’s broad network of alumni.
It is a social enterprise building data technology solutions for developing regions in China, Southeast Asia, and Global South. Shanzhai City’s expertise, as well as its propriety technology Impact Learning, will be utilized throughout the aforementioned workshop and exhibition, providing technology prototypes, methodologies, and direction.
Columbia University GSAPP – Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation; Columbia Global Centers East Asia – Beijing (sponsors)
Dr Tat Lam – CEO SZC, Studio X Beijing Director; Victoria Nguyen – Research Director; Qianni Wang – SZC, workshop lead (curators)
Sept. 20th – Sept. 30th
The Global School /
52 Gongmenkou Dongcha