Skip to content
Connect
Stories

The Urban Commons: How Data and Technology Can Rebuild our Communities | Dan O’Brien

People in this story

Dan O’Brien, Associate Professor of Public Policy and Urban Affairs and Criminology and Criminal Justice; Director, Boston Area Research Initiative

The future of smart cities has arrived, courtesy of citizens and their phones. To prove it, Dan O’Brien explains the transformative insights gleaned from years researching Boston’s 311 reporting system, a sophisticated city management tool that has revolutionized how ordinary Bostonians use and maintain public spaces. Through its phone service, mobile app, website, and Twitter account, 311 catalogues complaints about potholes, broken street lights, graffiti, litter, vandalism, and other issues that are no one citizen’s responsibility but affect everyone’s quality of life. The Urban Commons offers a pioneering model of what modern digital data and technology can do for cities like Boston that seek both prosperous growth and sustainability.

Analyzing a rich trove of data, O’Brien discovers why certain neighborhoods embrace the idea of custodianship and willingly invest their time to monitor the city’s common environments and infrastructure. On the government’s side of the equation, he identifies best practices for implementing civic technologies that engage citizens, for deploying public services in collaborative ways, and for utilizing the data generated by these efforts.

More Stories

Hundreds of people stage a demonstration against Xi Jinping's zero-Covid policy at Liangmaqiao district in Beijing, China on Nov. 27, 2022. The Chinese government has faced unprecedented dissent protests in several cities, including Urumqi, Shanghai, and Beijing.

Mass protests may ease covid restrictions in China but won’t lead to any democratic freedoms, Northeastern experts say

12.02.2022
Howard High School Teachers, 1904

Black Teachers and Liberation: A CBFS Interview

11.30.2022
A general view of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) headquarters, in Washington, D.C., on Monday, September 19, 2022.

The Department of Homeland Security, ‘not set up for success,’ navigates rocky 20 years. How are things today?

12.02.22
News@Northeastern