Amy Hillier on mapping experiences and opportunities in cities at TEDx

In November, TEDxPhilly brought together some of our city’s brightest urbanists and performers for a day full of urban inspiration and ideas about The City. As promised, I’m sharing some of my favorite talks here on Eyes on the Street. This week is Amy Hillier, associate professor of City & Regional Planning at PennDesign and co-director of Penn’s Cartographic Modeling Lab, who talked about mapping experience and opportunity in cities.

Amy Hillier’s projects marry the activism of her social work background with urban planning’s mapping tools to illuminate disparities. Maps can show more than meets the eye.

“The city that I’m interested in is more the city that we don’t see,” Hillier said. She uses maps as tools to help visualize hard-to-see social patterns in cities, such as public health inequalities. And in turn, maps like Hillier’s can be used to help decision-makers understand and direct resources aimed at closing the gaps revealed.

Where we come from can tell us a lot about where we’re going. But Hillier thinks it shouldn’t. So she is working to build maps that interpret what our individual experiences reveal about the opportunities we see as accessible. Imagine what these “opportunity-shed analyses” could reveal.

“I love the optimism about this city,” Hillier said. “But it has to be a great city for everybody and we’ve got a ways to go on that.”

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