Posted on May 16, 2016 by Center for Spatial Research

We’re Hiring!

The Center for Spatial Research is seeking Graduate Research Assistants for Summer 2016 for both full-time and part-time positions to work on various aspects of the Synapse project, a groundbreaking science communication initiative that takes it's physical form as a large-scale, permanent installation located on the ground floor of the Jerome L. Greene Science Center on the new Manhattanville campus of Columbia University.

The JLG Center houses the Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute (MBBI) which brings together cutting edge interdisciplinary neuroscience research. Visit our site for more information:

We are looking for interested students with experience in the following areas:

1. Visual storytelling and illustration skills

We are looking for students that are passionate about visual storytelling and illustration to help us refine and develop storyboards for science content as well as for a variety of interactive elements for the stories.

2. Advanced 3d graphics and modeling skills

Students with this skill set will be responsible for helping with the creation of 3d assets and scripts to model the behavior of various installation components. Students with advanced 3d knowledge are also needed to help convert a variety of new brain models from specialized neuroscience software into voxelized meshes.

3. Technical / front-end development skills

For students with knowledge of web-based front end design, the team is looking for help with developing several interactive prototypes that visualize the various stories that the Synapse team has developed in collaboration with the scientists. The team is also looking for students that can help manage and organize the various graphic assets.

Candidates must have experience working on a collaborative setting and possess at a minimum good knowledge of Adobe Creative Suite. In addition, a working knowledge of a range of the following tools is a plus: HTML/CSS, Javascript, front-end frameworks (Angular, jQuery, paper.js etc), Processing, Python, D3, MATLAB, Meshlab, Autodesk Maya, Mental Ray, Redshift

Full-time positions are 35 hours per week for up to twelve weeks. Part-time work will be negotiated by student/project. All positions are $15/hour.

Please send a letter of interest, CV, and relevant work examples to For further information please visit

Posted on May 15, 2016 by Juan Francisco Saldarriaga

Juan Francisco Saldarriaga presented two recent center projects in his talk ‘Activity Mapping’ during the Art of Data Visualization conference held at Columbia University on April 6th. The talk took place at the Davis Auditorium (room 412 Schapiro CEPSR) at 10:50 AM.

Here's a video of the talk:

Here’s a description of the talk: Foursquare check-ins? Citibike rides? Open data can tell us a lot about our cities and how we use them: what we think of them, how we feel about them and how we live in them. In this talk we present two research projects that use this data to explore and understand how people live in New York. We analyze check-in data from Foursquare and Facebook to examine how social media activity relates to socio-economic factors and what this kind of data can tell us about how people feel about the modern city. We also analyze Citibike ride data visualizing the imbalance problems the system faces. All of this, while also exploring multiple ways of representing spatial data.

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Posted on April 25, 2016 by Center for Spatial Research

We’re Hiring.

The Center for Spatial Research is seeking Graduate Research Assistants for summer 2016 for both full-time and part-time positions.

Students will be responsible for research, data analysis, visualization, and exhibition design on projects dealing with current research focus: conflict urbanism. Students will work with spatial data including mining and analyzing data, processing and collecting data, and/or visualizing data in compelling and innovative ways. Working in close collaboration with principal investigators students will develop these projects, participate in writing research papers and create visualizations of relevant data analysis for inclusion in papers, multi-media projects, and upcoming exhibitions in international biennales.

Candidates must have experience with GIS and Adobe Creative Suite. In addition, a working knowledge of a range of the following tools is a plus: Processing, Python, D3, R, APIs Access, Stata/SPSS, HTML, CSS, and Javascript.

Full-time positions are 35 hours per week for up to twelve weeks. Part-time work will be negotiable by student and by project. All positions are $15/hour.

Please send a letter of interest, CV, and relevant work examples to


Posted on April 20, 2016 by Center for Spatial Research

Juan Francisco Saldarriaga will be presenting multiple center projects emphasizing process and code for the Data Science Society at Columbia University. He will describe in detail how to gather data from public APIs and how to use different visualization tools to produce compelling graphics.

Read more.

Posted on April 1, 2016 by Juan Francisco Saldarriaga

Juan Francisco Saldarriaga will be leading a workshop on how to download API data using Python in the context of the Art of Data Visualization conference to be held at Columbia University on April 7th. The workshop will take place at the Digital Social Science Center (215 Lehman Library) from 10:30 AM to 11:30 AM.

Here’s a description of the workshop: This workshop will introduce you to basic Python programing and to social media APIs. Students will learn how to write basic Python code to import data, query API's and extract information, and export the results in formats that can be used for analysis or mapping.

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Posted on February 24, 2016 by Spatial Information Design Lab

Laura Kurgan was interviewed about the Million Dollar Blocks project for the PBS documentary "The Human Face of Big Data." The documentary aired nationally on February 24, 2016 and featured Laura Kurgan speaking about the Center for Spatial Research's unique approach to mapping and data visualization: "And there is always that moment in data vizualization where you are looking at tons and tons of data. The point is not to look at the tons and tons of data but to look at what are the stories that emerge out of it."

The Human Face of Big Data explores the impace of our current data-filled age: "With the rapid emergence of digital devices, an unstoppable, invisible force is changing human lives in incredible ways. Every two days the human race is now generating as much data as was generated from the dawn of humanity through the year 2003. The massive gathering and analyzing of data in real time is allowing us to address some of humanity's biggest challenges but as Edward Snowden and the release of NSA documents have shown, the accessibility of all this data comes at a steep price. This film captures the promise and peril of this extraordinary knowledge revolution."

Watch the documenary here. 



Posted on January 22, 2016 by Center for Spatial Research

Four outstanding speakers will visit campus this spring as part of the Disrupting Unity and Discerning Ruptures: Focus Aleppo lecture series. CSR has been thrilled to work with Professor Avinoam Shalem to organize this series and to cosponsor it the Art History Department and the Middle East Institute. The series is running in conjunction with the CSR seminar Conflict Urbanism: Aleppo and aims to give historical, and art historical, context to the contemporary conflict in Syria and in particular in Aleppo

February 18
Yasser Tabbaa
Independent Scholar
“The Remaking of Aleppo under Nur al-Din and the Early Ayyubids”
612 Schermerhorn Hall, 6pm

March 24
Heghnar Watenpaugh
Associate Professor of Art History
University of California, Davis
“Ottoman Aleppo: Experiencing Architecture, Narrating Space”
Wood Auditorium, Avery Hall, 6pm

March 31
Patrick Ball, PhD
Co-founder, Director of Research
Human Rights Data Analysis Group
“Seeing the Forest: Analyzing hidden patterns using (mostly) public data  about people killed in Syria, 2011-2015”
Brown Institute for Media Innovation, Journalism Building, 6pm

April 7
Sussan Babaie
The Courtauld Institute of Art
University of London
“Urbanity and Mercantile ‘Taste’: the Houses of Aleppo”
612 Schermerhorn Hall, 6pm

Posted on December 7, 2015 by Spatial Information Design Lab

Al Jazeera's Ranjani Chakrabortty recently wrote an article about the impacts of incarceration on families and communities that drew on our Million Dollar Blocks project: "Each year, the U.S. spends $80 billion to incarcerate more than 2.4 million people. But when it comes to communities, the costs are even more staggering. A disproportionate number of inmates come from just a handful of neighborhoods in the country’s biggest cities. In this Brooklyn community, Augustine’s story is all too common. Brownsville has one of the highest concentrations of “million-dollar blocks” — places where the state is paying more than $1 million a year to incarcerate the residents of a single census block — in the country. And often, according to research from the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Forward Together, and Research Action Design, the burden of mass incarceration is left to women."

Read More.

Posted on November 18, 2015 by Dare Brawley

On November 17th, 2015 the Center for Spatial Research, in collaboration with the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University, hosted a launch preview of Conflict Urbanism: Aleppo.

Laura Kurgan and Madeeha Merchant were joined by collaborator Jamon Van Der Hoek in presenting the research and development that has led to the interactive map of the city of Aleppo, Syria.

The event also featured presentations by Josh Lyons of Human Rights Watch, Tyler Radford of Humanitarian Open Street Maps, and Timothy Wallace of The New York Times about how their work might ineract with a project like Conflict Urbanism: Aleppo. 

Acknowledging that conflict zones are information rich and analytically poor, we hope to begin an interdisciplinary discussion about the potential of detecting the effects of urban conflict through satellite imagery analysis.

Focusing on the current catastrophe in Syria, the Conflict Urbanism: Aleppo project began with an attempt to link eyes in the sky with algorithms and ears on the ground. Towards these ends, we have created an open-source web platform that allows users to navigate maps and satellite images of the city of Aleppo, at the neighborhood scale, across multiple data sets. Working with data from Human Rights Watch, UNOSAT, and the Violations Documentation Center, the platform combines our algorithmically-derived damage identification with their expertise.

We discussed what the correlation of human rights data with satellite imagery analysis tells us about the conflict in Syria, and Aleppo in particular. What possibilities do machine learning and remote sensing algorithms promise for damage detection?  Can and should we use crowd-sourcing and citizen science to better train our algorithms?  We invite advocates and researchers from human rights organizations, humanitarian and development agencies, the academy, and the news media to join us in exploring potential uses of the platform and our tools.

Posted on November 15, 2015 by Spatial Information Design Lab

EXIT has been fully updated and is on view at the Palais Tokyo in Paris from November 25, 2015 – January 10, 2016. The project was initially completed in 2008 but has been fully updated to coincide with Cop21, the United Nations Conference on Climate Change.

Fondation Cartier, which commissioned the project, announces the exhibition of the updated work:

“Exit is composed of a series of immersive animated maps generated by data that investigate human migrations today and their leading causes, including the impacts of climate change. Its complete 2015 update has been planned to coincide with the pivotal Paris-based United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21). A crucial opportunity to limit global warming, the COP21 provides a powerful context in which to consider the issues at the heart of Exit: "It’s almost as though the sky, and the clouds in it and the pollution of it, were making their entry into history. Not the history of the seasons, summer, autumn, winter, but of population flows, of zones now uninhabitable for reasons that aren’t just to do with desertification, but with disappearance, with submersion of land. This is the future." (Paul Virilio, 2009)”