Shannon Mattern

December 11, 2020

"Phenomenology and Data"

Sidewalks, public squares, shops, parks, and roads all look and feel different due to the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, much of what we know about the city during this period comes from large data sets that provide information on public health, traffic patterns, and economic activity. This session will address what can be learned from everyday observations of the city, particularly under conditions of quarantine and social distancing, as well as the tensions that arise between individual experiences and abstracted data representations. Particular focus will be paid to how these experiences and observations of urban areas can help reimagine the city for the post pandemic world.


Shannon Mattern is a Professor of Anthropology at the New School for Social Research. Her writing and teaching focus on archives, libraries, and other media spaces; media infrastructures; spatial epistemologies; and mediated sensation and exhibition. She is the author of The New Downtown Library: Designing with Communities; Deep Mapping the Media City; and Code and Clay, Data and Dirt, all published by University of Minnesota Press; and The City Is Not a Computer, forthcoming from Princeton University Press. She contributes a regular long-form column about urban data and mediated infrastructures to Places Journal, and she collaborates on public design and interactive projects and exhibitions. You can find her at wordsinspace.net.