Los Angeles, with four million inhabitants in the city alone and twenty-two million in the region, is a global megacity. If Los Angeles was a country, it would be the fifteenth largest by economy size in the world. By 2050 Los Angeles County is predicted to house 1.5 million more individuals, as the world’s population continues to migrate to the economic and cultural epicenters of the globe. So how does a city like Los Angeles meet challenges related to its economic, cultural, and environmental sustainability in the face of a growing population and unprecedented climate change?
Data, or aggregations of observations and evidence, is one tool for thinking about the sustainability of Los Angeles and Southern California at different scales and contexts: parcel, street, neighborhood, town, city, county, state, Pacific Rim, and the globe. Data is also a means by which we can retrospectively evaluate the state of the region and make predictions and suggestions for transitioning to a more sustainable city. The goal of UCLA’s first Grand Challenges research initiative is to find paths to bring Los Angeles County to 100% sustainability in water and energy with enhanced ecosystem health by 2050. This Grand Challenge is also a data challenge.
When Urban Meets Data: What happens when urban meets data? Urban pertains to the city, implies sophistication, high culture, refinement, and worldliness, resonating with its Greek counterpart, polis. What is cosmopolitan exceeds regionalism and national boundaries, connoting world citizenship and a partiality for cross-cultural encounters. The other side of urbanity is pollution, poverty, and crime. But while urban implies grittiness, it also invokes grit and resilience: In the words of Jay-Z, since we made it here, we can make it anywhere.
Data carries its own set of meanings. Data is cold, impersonal, factual, ubiquitous, big, and global. “Big data” joins with the other great technological clichés of the early twenty-first century but nevertheless poses challenges and opportunities, particularly for the audience for this symposium: Angelenos in their guises as citizen scientists, researchers, managers, and decision makers.
This symposium explores what could happen for a city’s sustainability when urban meets data. UCLA Library and UCLA Sustainable LA Grand Challenge invite collectors, producers, curators, visualizers, and scholars of data and the city — our city and others — to share theory and practice in a series of conversations that can inform new directions in data practice to meet the sustainability challenges of Los Angeles as a cosmopolis. At this meeting, participants will engage and offer provocations on the overlapping themes of urban data, open data, data sharing, and sustainability. How can we gather, use, and share data to understand the many facets of Los Angeles at small and local, large and global scales and meet the challenges of sustainability understood narrowly and broadly as we aspire to thrive from now to 2050 and beyond?