Infrastructure has become another hot word in post-industrial economies that are busy figuring out how they can renew all the physical plant that was constructed during their industrial past. The UK has established a National Infrastructure Commission amidst a flurry of proposed new initiatives involving high speed rail, and other new rail lines, a focus on new housing, as well as a continuing concern for ever faster broadband, specifically based on G5 technologies. American too, notwithstanding the President’s pronouncements, is also initiating new approach’s to established and renewing infrastructure from roads to bridges to airports.
Infrastructure, however, no longer relates to simply physical things, information infrastructure is hot on the agenda while social infrastructure pertains to all our organisational and indeed socially responsible administration that emerged during the 20th century and badly needs renewing. In the current editorial in Environment and Planning B, I summarise some of the key points about renewing our infrastructure. Many new kinds of models are being fashioned to deal with such problems which are now spatially extensive in a way their precursors were not, and integrating different sectors is now one of the key issues so that the wider impacts of new infrastructure can be assessed, as for example in the MISTRAL models being developed by a consortium of research groups in the UK.
You can get my editorial here.
Two new volumes in big data, cities and regions, with a strong spatial focus. The first Seeing Cities Through Big Data: Research, Methods and Applications in Urban Informatics’ is edited by Piyushimita (Vonu) Thakuriah, Nebiyou Tilahun, and Moira Zellner and published by Springer. This has some 30 key articles on a variety of methods including one by Greg Erhardt, Oliver Lock, Elsa Arcaute and myself called ‘A Big Data Mashing Tool for Measuring Transit System Performance’.
The second book Big Data for Regional Science edited by Laurie Schintler and Zhenhua Chen focuses the argument on regions as well in particular regional science, and contains some 28 chapters including a foreword by myself. There is a lot of food for thought here and the two books provide rather a good snapshot of the state of the art.
This article took 5 years in the making. We – Urskar, Jon, Ed, and myself – thought that it was a great project to see what was big data on taxi flows in central London in 1962 could be compared to a different but ‘50-year-later’ set of ‘big data’ taxi flows in the same place, collected by the limousine company Addison-Lee using their GPS technology. Lots of things turned out to be non-comparable but the issues in making such comparisons over 50 years between then and now were fascinating. Very, very few such comparisons have ever been made by anyone and nothing really in our field; and the fact that John Goddard had written a high profile paper on the 1962 data and its spatial analysis which was published in 1970, spurred us on to make a comparison. In fact without compunction, we will include access to his paper. The present papers published just this week in the Annals of the American Association of Geographers is the result – you can get the paper, yes it is Open Access – by clicking here or on the image above.
However, getting this article published was like picking hens’ teeth and even in this era of transparency, we will only give a sense of the perils and pitfalls. The original article was not much liked by the reviewers but it survived to the point where it made major revisions. This we did – despite the reviewers having little sympathy with the comparison which they said was too technical. What they wanted was us to elaborate all the detail about the social context of how we did computing back in the day and how we can’t compare then with now. We have a great story to tell on this and it is not yet told, for although we did put a little of this in one version, it was not liked either. The article went through at least four versions, from its form more or less as you read it now – to a more socially inspired version of the then and now issues, to a more technical version with some matrix algebra within. But to little avail. Although the last referees’ comments seemed to us be ‘OK’, it still got canned by the editors. Some of us thought that was it – it was dead but Urska revived the original, sent it off to the Annals, and lo and behold in record time, it got accepted. Thank you America! About time somebody said something nice about God’s Own Country.