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Big data can be used for good, from tracking disease to exposing human rights violations, and for bad, implementing surveillance and control. Data inevitably represents the ideologies of those who control its use; data analytics and algorithms too often exclude women, the poor, and ethnic groups. In Data Action, Sarah Williams provides a guide for working with data in more ethical and responsible ways. Williams outlines a method that emphasizes collaboration among data scientists, policy experts, data designers, and the public. The approach generates policy debates, influences civic decisions, and informs design to help ensure that the voices of people represented in the data are neither marginalized nor left unheard.

Sarah Williams is Associate Professor of Technology and Urban Planning at the MIT School of Architecture and Planning, where she is also Director of the Civic Data Design Lab. Trained in geography, landscape architecture, and urban planning, she was named one of the Top 25 Leading Thinkers in Urban Planning and Technology and Game Changer by Metropolis Magazine. Her design work has been widely exhibited at venues including the Guggenheim, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), and the Cooper Hewitt Museum.

Sarah Williams is an urbanist and a designer—and Data Action asks about the ways in which we can use data to reshape urban space. Some of them are not so good. For those interested in the history of the interactions between urban planning and spatial data, for better and for worse, this book tells a compelling story. You will learn to stand your ground and insist that data be used responsibly in making cities and urban life better. For Williams, this is a matter of the utmost ethical and political urgency, of action. So, she weaves her own design work and breathtaking maps into a complex history of geographic information systems, a field that needs to be reckoned with if we want to take action. Williams performs this reckoning with didactic precision and fresh design strategies that demand our attention.–LAURA KURGAN, PROFESSOR OF ARCHITECTURE AND DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR SPATIAL RESEARCH, GRADUATE SCHOOL OF ARCHITECTURE, PLANNING, AND PRESERVATION (GSAPP), COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY