The Power of WITHOUT sets a vision for Guadalajara, Latin America and Beyond

A Recap of our first virtual City Science Summit

A still from the opening video created by the UdeG team for the Main Stage presentations

by Maggie Church from MIT City Science and Ixchel Rowena from the City Science Lab @ Guadalajara

The 2020 City Science Summit was hosted virtually by the University of Guadalajara (UdeG) and included main stage presentations, international workshops, and opening and closing sessions featuring university leadership as well as network members. The City Science summit, an annual event hosted by a different network collaborator each year, aims to be a place where leaders from academia, industry and the government come together to discuss opportunities to enable more livable, equitable and resilient communities. Previous summits were held at locations in Andorra la Vella, Andorra, Shanghai, China and Hamburg, Germany by respective labs in collaboration with The Andorra Innovation Hub at Actua, Tongji University College of Design and Innovation and HafenCity University. The 2020 summit, however, posed challenges from the beginning and amidst the global Covid-19 pandemic proved to be unique and challenging to plan and execute. That said, once teams realized that a virtual event was inevitable, organizers from UdeG and MIT began work on what proved to be the most accessible and most attended summit that the network had ever hosted.

Countries in blue represent countries with participation in the event with a majority of the audience from the USA, México, UK, China and Germany.

Below we recap some of the highlights of the past event, and we share ways to access the virtual archive.

Main Stage Presentations
The Power of WITHOUT — anchoring a vision for the future of our communities

The Main Stage event brought together a diverse group of speakers to discuss the future of our cities. The summit theme: The Power of WITHOUT, was a continuation of the theme from the 2019 Hamburg summit Cities WITHOUT and encouraged the speakers and audience to imagine a future without increasingly heavyweight and obsolete infrastructure and with lightweight autonomous systems.

The event featured an opening message from the Rector General of the University of Guadalajara, Ricardo Villanueva, who spoke to the online viewers via a VR platform showing the Placido Domingo Concert Hall at the University’s Cultural Center. Rector General Villanueva expressed his joy to host the summit, and for the University to be part of the City Science network. The opening section concluded with a beautiful performance of the Cámara Orchestra- Higinio Ruvalcaba, featuring students from the University. They performed in their concert hall in a socially distanced setting.

The second group of speakers opened with a message from Kent Larson, the Director of MIT City Science. When discussing the events theme and speakers Kent said, “We believe that it is essential to connect people with broadly diverse experience and skills if we are going to address the complex social and environmental problems of our era. We believe in integrating innovation approaches to design, to public policy and to technology if we are to meet these challenges.” After his talk, Kent was followed by a series of diverse voices from academia, urban planning, public policy, the arts, and various non-profits. Lord Norman Foster, spoke on The Power of WITHOUT theme stressing the importance of focusing on new lightweight solutions to impact millions of people throughout the world and wondering if the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic would be a way to leapfrog new technologies and ideas in anticipation of a rebirth of cultural values.

The second group of speakers discussed the theme of TRUST and the importance of trust in building community, relying on social systems and policies and in challenging unequal practices. Maria Salguero, author of the Map of Femicides, discussed why she felt compelled to complete her own dataset in the absence of accurate data and accountability. Tenzin Priyadarshi discussed peoples needs to work together, and how by working together we can rebuild and Sandy Pentland discussed data exchanges and new ways to regain ownership.

Finally in the TOGETHER section we were introduced to MIT researcher Gabriela Bila, the design lead for an MIT City Science project titled With(in). The exhibit features three women from three informal communities from around the world who share their culture through the act of food preparation, celebration and consumption.

Other main stage speakers included Enrique Alfaro Ramírez, Frida Escobedo, Eduardo López Moreno, Vinicius M Netto, Dina Buchbinder, Eduardo Santana, Mario Silva, Gabriela de la Torre, Hashim Sarkis and Rodrigo Canales. To see the full speaker lineup and their talk titles visit the network website.

Summit Workshop — International partners, big ideas, diverse perspectives

The City Science Network hosted a series of virtual workshops which spanned the three day event. Workshop themes covered key topics in resilience, livable communities, lightweight mobility, data enabled decision making, virtual collaboration, new live/work spaces, and trust.

15 total workshops were hosted by network members including: The University of Guadalajara, City Science MIT, HafenCity University, Ryerson University, Taipei Tech, Tongji University, The Andorra Innovation Hub and Aalto University with guests from: Circulo de Amigos, the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, UCL and the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, El Punto, speakers from Tsinghua University and the WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities, and Human Dynamics MIT. Topics ranged from Health WITHOUT Hospitals, to Design WITHOUT Hierarchy, to Communities WITHOUT Boundaries. The workshops were an essential way to discuss lab research and goals and to get feedback from participants.

In the opening workshop titled E-Learning WITHOUT Inequality, the City Science Lab @Guadalajara, led by their Director, Mayra Gamboa, presented their recent work in collaboration with an informal community called Lomas del Centinela. The community is located in Zapopan, a municipality of great contrast which is home to both the richest and poorest settlements in the city. Participants had the opportunity to discuss the lack of equity that many were facing due to problems with access to online education. The workshop resulted in strategic proposals to use collaborative networks and seek international and local funds to create more access and opportunity.

Image from the E-Learning WITHOUT Equality workshop hosted by UdeG showing users issues with online learning

“I believe that it is possible to reach communities…and achieve a reality without borders where equity is sought…The City Science Network could continue interacting with researchers and the university community to promote projects at the local level. The link with this network is essential to continue creating ties between community leaders and innovators capable of transforming the city”. — — Netzahualpilli Delgado from Guadalajara, México, participant at the City Science Summit

Another workshop, Equity WITHOUT Zoning, was hosted by the CityScienceLab@Shanghai with researchers from Tongji College of Design and Innovation as well as members from the MIT City Science team. They used a browser-based explorable explanations platform to establish an understanding of incentive policies and the impact on housing affordability, diversity, and various types of energy consumption. The audience was given an interactive online agent-based simulation sandbox to explore and compare the impacts of traditional urban policies and dynamic, algorithm-optimized policies. And in Societies WITHOUT Fragility Kent Larson, Sandy Pentland and John Clippinger presented new research to help realize the vision of cities as a network of healthy, high-functioning, resilient communities in an effort to address inequities exacerbated by the pandemic.

Other workshops were titled: Delivery WITHOUT Contact, Health WITHOUT Hospitals, Collaboration WITHOUT Confusion, Mexico WITHOUT Crime, Bits WITHOUT Brix, Cities WITHOUT Segregation, Companies WITHOUT Offices, Campuses WITHOUT Walls, Governance WITHOUT Bureaucrats and Knowledge WITHOUT Data. The full list of workshops, including recordings of the sessions can be found on our network website.

“I believe that City Science Network has the ability to implement technology that, together with social innovation, allows [us to achieve] an impact and therefore transform urban systems according to the current requirements of the world…aimed at sustainability”. — Massiel Osuna from Culiacán, México, participant at the City Science Summit

MIT and UdeG teammates with summit participants at the Closing Ceremony

New ways to engage — creative content and the VR platform

Guests were also welcome to attend a book launch hosted by HafenCity University, a film screening of February 27th by Maire-Therese Jakoubek, virtual coffee breaks, virtual happy hours, and a Pass the Mic session that featured music and art presented by our global network.

In addition, the University of Guadalajara created a virtual reality platform showcasing their Cultural Center and allowing participants to virtually visit the event and engage in event content in a digital format. (Note: To view the full event, download the app on your phone or tablet.)

What’s next?

Both the MIT teams and the UdeG teams were happy with the output of the summit. The teams felt that the virtual platform allowed more people to attend then normally would, and lent itself particularly well to the international City Science Network noticing that students from around the world attended, including many who would not have been able to attend an in person event. At the close of the event, the UdeG team moved to continue plans for their City Science Lab which will be in the Cultural Center of the University, a vibrant hub which includes a library, museum, amphitheater, multiple stages and the Environmental Science Museum. City Science Network labs mentioned that they would enjoy attending a future workshop hosted by the University of Guadalajara when their new lab is complete, to further understand and be immersed in the Mexican experience, and to further build network connections and collaborations.

Teams are preparing for the next City Science Summit in October of 2021. Dates and themes are being finalized shortly and will be shared here when available. Stay tuned!

Guadalajara Cathedral — Photo courtesy of the University of Guadalajara

Ixchel Figueroa is pursuing her PhD at the University of Guadalajara in the Urban Planning Department

Maggie Church is the Program Coordinator on the MIT City Science team



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City Science Network

City Science Network


An international community that shares the common goal to enable more livable, equitable, and resilient communities. Started by MIT City Science.