Unboxed City: critical explorations of ai and cities


Our exhibit “Unboxed City: critical explorations of [ai] and cities" reveals generative AI's potential role, biases, and limitations in shaping cities. AI models use large datasets—from satellite imagery to street-level photos, demographic information, and climate information—to build statistical representations of urban environments. 

The black box raises questions about the limitations of AI, highlighting its reliance on available data and the potential for biases that can arise from incomplete, unknown, unequal, and non-inclusive datasets. There is a central need to incorporate human input and community perspectives into such models to ensure they reflect citizens' diverse needs, desires, and dreams. 

Ask Generative AI to do a task, to make this city more resilient to flooding; it will do the same thing: encode the prompt to binary language, encode the image to binary language, encode the city to binary language. Rapidly, efficiently, promptly, it will exclusively use the data it was trained with to make an analysis and a prediction, to replicate. It will give attention to what it was trained to give attention to, to then decode the prediction as an output.

"unboxed city” invites visitors to consider the balance between technology and the inclusion of humans in the development of cities. It invites us to think about how AI can be integrated with human intelligence to create urban spaces that are not only technologically planned but also inclusive and reflective of communities’ heritage, cultures, and aspirations.


Panelists for the March 8th Opening at 5pm included:

Sarah Williams - Associate Professor of Technology and Urban Planning + Director of the Civic Data Design Lab and the Leventhal Center for Advanced Urbanism 

Santiago ‘Santi’ Garces - Chief Information Officer for the City of Boston 

Andres Sevstuk - Associate Professor of Urban Science and Planning;Director of  City Form Lab 

Caitlin Mueller - Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering; Associate Professor of Architecture; Director of Digital Structures 

Huma Gupta - Aga Khan Assistant Professor in Islamic Architecture at MIT 

Catherine D'Ignazio - Associate Professor of Urban Science and Planning and Director of Data + Feminism Lab