Massachusets Institute of Technology
Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning

Fall 2023 Seminar on



Lunch Speaker Series

Associated Class

Associated Symposium

Fall 2023, Sept-Dec Monday's, 12-2PM Thursdays, 2h30-4PM 9-10 November 2023

Local Index: Structure & Schedule ; Instructors; Goal & Rationale; Guidelines; Issues; Syllabus; Syllabus Details; Class Summaries; Bibliography; REGISTER

"e-Planning, Urban Science & Digital Transition" 11.S955 (grad) S189 (undergrad)

updated: 29 October 2023 (reload page for last update)

Course Structure & Schedule

Beginning Sept. 14, 2023, in Room 9-217; Thursdays 14h30-16h

This special subject studies the impact of information and communication technologies (ICT) on community life, policy making and governance by addressing current major issues and research questions regarding e-Planning, Urban Information Systems, and Urban Science.

Theoretical linkages between urban science, digital economics and digital politics will be explored to address issues like Geography of Inequality, Digital Sovereignty, Technology Innovation and Property Rights, The Cost of "Free", new models of Politics and Business, Privacy & Liberties vs. Efficiency & Security, Digital Inclusion, Local Government and Citizen Empowerment, Urban Mobility and Smart Cities.

This seminar class has therefore an autonomous syllabus. But is also ideal to facilitate additional discussion among students who plan to attend Monday lunch sessions, as well as the November 10 Symposium sessions.

This course can be considered a key part of the 3-element MIT Fall Term 2023 e-Planning Seminar, from September 14 to December 14, 2023. The three elements are:

1) "e-Planning for Digital Transition": this MIT-DUSP for-credit (3) subject, jointly taught for graduates and undergraduates, meeting weekly for 1.5 hours on Thursday 1430h-1600h. [mail for registration info]

2) "Urban Science and Digital Transition: e-Planning, twenty years later" The open "Speaker Series" with MIT faculty and guest speakers and discussants meeting weekly for luncheon talks on Mondays 1230h-14h.

3) "International Conference on Public Participation and Information Technologies (ICPPIT23), with a core theme on "e-Planning for Digital Transition" (co-organized by MIT-DUSP and CITIDEP/e-Planning Consortium*), on November 9-10, 2023.

You will find detailed information on the other events on their respective pages, linked above.

Special Interaction with Brasil and Europe / Portugal

As an added flavour of this international setting, this Subject will be linked to companion courses taking place in Brasil and Portugal, on the same schedule. Students in Brasil and in Europe will follow Thursdays class meetings via zoom, and mediated by their respective instructors, it may be possible to have live interaction and some collaboration and discussion. Such interaction will be entirely optional and a free individual decision, and it will depend on the real live conditions.


Joseph Ferreira Jr. MIT-DUSP faculty and Professor of Urban Information Systems (

Pedro Ferraz de Abreu, MIT-DUSP Research Associate & Visiting Scholar, University of Lisbon faculty (ret), Coordinator of e-Planning Consortium (

Goal & Rationale

The main goal of the course is to provide a world-wide view and understanding of the current major issues and corresponding leading research on e-Planning / Urban information systems (UIS) / Urban Science. The common structuring thread, is the use of information & communication technologies (ICT) in planning and their impacts in society.

Fall 2023 will be the 20th anniversary of our first ‘e-Planning Seminar,' offered as a Speaker Series with guest talks and MIT faculty as discussants, a similar accompanying weekly for-credit seminar, plus an International Conference on "Information Technologies and Public Participation" (ICPPT03). The e-Planning Seminar, Fall 2023, with this course and linked speaker series on "Urban Science and Digital Transition: e-Planning, twenty years later," will (re)examine the impact of information technologies on community life and governance, anticipate the implications for urban futures, and contribute to DUSP debate on a strategy for the next twenty years.

DUSP has a long tradition of focus on problem-driven research and bottom-up approaches to urban planning. We do more than choose between prototyping ICT-enabled possibilities and enumerating downside risks. We have explored bottom-up possibilities for ICT-enabled planning and societal change in a number of areas using approaches that eschew top-down ‘smart city' ‘solutions' and are more inclusive and attentive to the social disruption and distributional consequences of technology-driven change.

The main collective product of the e-Planning Seminar, from all 3 components, will be a Book, "e-Planning for Digital Transition With no one left behind"

More substantive discussion and details can be found further down and on the Welcome & Intro and Speaker Series pages.

Course Guidelines & Requirements

This special subject meets weekly for 1.5 hours to facilitate small-group discussion of the impact of information and communication technologies (ICT) on community life and governance. These weekly Thursday classes are linked to (a) a series of weekly Monday lunch talks (the Speaker Series) on “Urban Science and Digital Transition: e-Planning twenty years later “ and (b) a day-long “International Conference on Public Participation and Information Technologies” (the Symposium) on November 10.

Students interested in the Seminar Series and Symposium topics, and able to participate in additional small-group discussion, can register for 3 units (1-0-2) of academic credit.

To earn the credits they will need to attend or view recordings of at least some Seminar and Symposium talks, participate in small-group discussion, and write two short reports commenting on (and contrasting) one or more talks, and proposing a researchable ‘urban science’ based question, hypothesis, or planning strategy regarding the next twenty years of ICT impacts on community life and governance. For graduate students the second report is expected to be more advanced and context-specific. Graduate students following the course for credit may opt for producing a paper (in lieu of the reports), ready to submit for publication, following the guidelines of targeted scientific journals.

To make the most of this opportunity, ttudents are encouraged to attend the weekly open speaker sessions, like if it was part of the class schedule, but they can select a subset of topics.

Each student will focus on summarizing items related to DUSP in one area of their interest, and thus contribute to identify relevant links between DUSP research clusters agenda and a future DUSP/e-Planning/UIS/USc research agenda.

The course will require readings and Internet / library search.

Each student is required to update weekly a brief personal log towards a summary table, and the class will generate a collective table with these logs, on the last two class meetings.

Students are also encouraged to play a key role in ICPPIT23, both as organizers and participants. Selected content produced both by the e-Planning Seminar and International Conference, will be published in the Book ("e-Planning for Digital Transition - With no one left behind")

Some Substantive issues

During the past two decades, Information & Communication Technologies (ICT) have accelerated changes in urban planning, service delivery, governance, and daily life by facilitating communication and transparency, providing logistic efficiencies, and enabling more detailed analyses. Nevertheless, during the same period, we have also witnessed increasing problems with social inequality and racial justice, persistent resistance to multi-racial democratic governance, and many behavioral and ‘demand-side' obstacles to sustainable patterns of urban growth and mobility.

The post-covid world has highlighted the centrality of a Digital Transition Agenda. The covid-19 pandemic proved how critical were not only our Information and communication (ICT) infrastructures, but equally how important it was to have them well adjusted to the real conditions and requirements of all sectors of society it affected. Together with the global challenge of an Energy Transition for sustainable development within climate change, world wide public policies now recognize it must be joined by a "Digital Transition". This implies we understand not only the "Digital" facet, but also the "Transition" itself. In other words, besides the engineering and "hard" science of technology, we need also social sciences and humanities; since a Transition requires understanding both where we stand, and where the transition will lead us. Digital Transition is in effect, the core of what e-Planning is about.

Technology ubiquitous presence, favors dissemination, accessibility, participation, and empowerment. And yet, instead of decreasing, social inequalities increase and imbalances in society's relationship with nature are accentuated, even putting the sustainability of human life at risk. Today, we have evidence of more and more serious abuses of this ubiquity, side by side with its benefits (and the covid-19 crisis is no exception).

Is Technology to blame, in some way? The 2018 UN Strategic Report on Technology, states: "New and rapidly developing technologies... hold incredible promise for advancement of human welfare. They also hold the potential to generate more inequality and more violence." (UN General Secretary Guterres, 2018). ICT has surely facilitated some of the downside as well as enabled some of the benefits. So what makes the difference?

In order to identify and characterize this potential, as well to understand and judge the new challenges and corresponding risks, is essential the emergence of transdisciplinary areas like e-Planning, articulating the in-depth study of the technological leap, especially in ICT, with the study of its transversal impact on the whole of Society.

Course Syllabus summary

(ICT - Information & Communication Technologies)
Topics in bold are key chapters. Other Topics may be offered, or not, following student input, and the final Speaker Series agenda

1. e-Planning Research Agenda: Roots and Concepts

2. Urban Science & Computing in Planning

3. The Qualitative Leap of the new ICT and its Impacts

4. XXIc Communication: Internet, World Wide Web and the new Social Media

5. Geopolitics of Development in the Information Society

6. Digital Sovereignty, Technology Innovation, and Property Rights

7. Public Policy and Regulation, Theory of Transients: Regulated Systems vs Disruption

8. The Cost of Free: new models of Politics and Business

9. The Challenge of Privacy & Liberties vs. Eficiency & Security

10. Spatial Analysis and Geo-referencing in Planning

11. ICT as a new dimension of Land-use Planning and Sustainability

12. Redefining "Smart": Digital Inclusion, Local Government and Citizen Empowerment

13. Public Participation and Decision in Planning in the context of new ICT

14. Netiquette ‚ Ethics in e-Planning

15. Case-Studies. Project Examples

(ordering and dimension of chapters may change)

Syllabus details

Some core theories will be explored, in relation to the course chapter/topics. A sub-set of the following examples will be selected, after student input:

A. New ICT Qualitative Leap and Decision Models [mandatory]

- Aristotle/Plato/Wriston's Rule re-visited
- Shannon's IT Equations and Schrodinger‚ Negentropy
- The Intrinsic Nature of ICT and the Neutrality Issue
- Matrix of ICT attributes (Symmetry, Access, Deployment, Costs, Geography of Resources)
- The ICT Cost structure and nature (Production, Transaction, Deployment, Control, Scale)
- The ICT 'enabling' factor- Can ICT influence a decision?
- ICT impact in participation & decision theories / models

B. Theory of Human Nature (elements)

- The Individual-Social Organic Duality
- Critical Analysis of Maslow's Pyramid
- Cosmological Argument of Intrinsic Inequality
- Equality as a Singularity and the Asymptotic Approach
- Historical Argument of Intrinsic Cooperation G

C. Theory of Power (elements)

- Decision and Power
- Use of Force as the ultimate & decisive base of power?
- ICT and Violence vs. Acquiescence, on Transaction Costs
- How new ICT changes power structure and dynamics
- new ICT and the Institutions of Power

D. Theory of State (elements)

- Nature and Role of State
- Historic and Class Models
- The role of Institutions and Regulatory Framework
- ICT and Transient Theory in Public Policy
- ICT factor on Institutional & Regulatory Stress

E. Theory of Political Economy (elements)

- The nature of the Information & Knowledge Economy
- New Business Models: The Cost of "Free"
- Concept of added-value / production factors in the Digital Economy
- Property rights in Digital Era: Alienation of added-value ICT innovation
- New ICT and balance of power between producer and consumer

F. Theory of Geo-Politics (elements)

- Classification of countries: Economic Structure vs. Development Level
- The Dilemma "can't eat computers" vs. "ICT reduce poverty & promote democracy"
- Why is the Wealth & Development Gap Widening ... for Decades?
- The Indicator's "letter soup" (PIB, IDH) & Integrating "Hostile Data"
- The 'Washington Consensus"
- The real role of ICT in Geopolitcs
- From Ratzel, to Stiglitz: Classics, Humanists, Strategists, Criticists, Gurus ... and e-Planners

G. Theory of The "Smart" (Cities)

- De Monchaux's "Measure the Performance of a City"
- Urban Models: From Lee's Requiem to Bertaud's Path
- Implications of Proprietary vs Open Data; The "One Trip - One Ticket" Challenge
- Integrated vs. Distributed Systems
- "City Smart" Paradigms: City to Citizen vs Citizen to City
- Smart Cities with "Dumb" Territories? or the "Rural Smart"

H. Theory of Knowledge (elements)

- Gnoseology vs. Epistemology
- Dialectics of Nature
- The Politzer Apple Paradigm
- Knowledge Memory and Capacity Building
- The role of Knowledge in Decision
- The Institutions of Knowledge

I. Knowledge Representation Models

- Case-based frames
- Elements of Graph Theory
- Models as Trees and Graphs
- Introduction to Artificial Intelligence
- Production Rules and Expert Systems
- Inference Engines, forward and backward chaining
- Decision Trees (DT)
- building a DT
- building an Expert System

J. Theories of Decision

- Decision, Choice and Degrees of Freedom
- Decision and Planning Thermodynamics
- The Space of Solutions, and Transaction Costs
- ICT as a Multiplier of the Space of Solutions
- ICT as a denser Analytical Filter
- The Prisoner's Dilemma and Nash Equilibrium
- Decision and Constraint Propagation
- The Structure of Decision and Process phasing
- Analytical Components of Decision-making
- Decision models and the new ICT Matrix
- The Institutions of Decision

K. Theory & Praxis of Public Participation

- Administrative vs. Substantive Theory
- Value Systems and Expertise
- The Plato Argument on Participation
- Hirshman-Ferraz de Abreu Incremental Theory
- Techniques of Participation and the Attribute Map of new ICT
- Models of Participation (blackboard, star, disruptive)
- ICT and the new Participatory Science Paradigm
- The Institutions of Participation

Class Summaries

  • Class 01. 2023-09-14
  • Class 02. 2023-09-21
    Urban Science
  • Class 03. 2023-09-28
    e-Planning Roots
  • Class 04. 2023-10-05
    ICT Qualitative Leap
  • Class 05. 2023-10-12
    ICT Qualitative Leap
  • Class 06. 2023-10-19
    The Cost of Free
  • Class 07. 2023-10-26
    A.I. in e-Planning/i>
  • Class 08. 2023-11-02
    Knowledge Representation

  • Book on "e-Planning"

    Based on recommendations from the Scientific Committee, Speakers for the "e-Planning" Speaker Series and the International Symposium will be invited to contribute chapters to  a book, "e-Planning for Digital Transition - With No One Left Behind," edited by the e-Planning co-chairs.

    Core References:

    Here you find the full set of related bibiography. Only a selected few will be "required reading", with the remaining made available as "recommended reading". For each chapter / item of the syllabus, a corresponding subset will be identified, thus facilitating student organized reading.

    Given this course will be taught in connection with a subject offered in Brasil (University of Campinas) and another in Portugal (University of Lisboa), with the opportunity for students interacting in real time and free to collaborate with each other, it is also included some bilingual or Portuguese references, to facilitate progression for the students facing the challenge of "English as a second language".

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  • Akerlof,George; Spence, Michael; and Stiglitz, Joseph (2001) "Information asymmetry", Nobel Prize

  • Albrechts, L. and Seymor J. Mandelbaum (2005), "The network society, a new context for planning?", London: Routledge

  • Anderson, Nate (2008), "Deep packet inspection meets 'Net neutrality', CALEA

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  • Barnwell, A, Barbosa Neves, B., Ravn S (2021), "Captured and captioned: Representing Family Life on Instagram", New Media & Society.

  • Basu, R. and Ferreira, J. (2021). "Sustainable mobility in auto-dominated Metro Boston: Challenges and opportunities post-COVID-19, Transport Policy 103, 197-210
  • Basu, R. and Ferreira, J. (2020). Planning car-lite neighborhoods: Examining long-term impacts of accessibility boosts on vehicle ownership.", Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment. (v.86, Sept. 2020)

  • Basu, R. and Ferreira, J. (2020). A LUTI microsimulation framework to evaluate long-term impacts of automated mobility on the choice of housing-mobility bundles. Environment and Planning B: Urban Analytics and City Science. (v47-8, Oct. 2020)

  • Batista, P. (2018), "The Interaction Structure of e-Territorial Systems: Territory, Housing Market And Spatial Econometrics", PhD Thesis, supervisor: Anselmo Castro, E.; Joint e- Planning PhD Program UL+UNL+UA, Universidade de Aveiro.

  • Batty, Michael (2018) Inventing Future Cities, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA

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  • Berners-Lee, Tim (2010), "No Snooping", 2009-03-09, personal view only. Editing status: first draft.

  • Bettencourt, L., & G. West, (2010) "A unified theory of urban living," Nature, 467, pp912-913,

  • Borja, J. (1993) "Democracia Local: Descentralização do Estado, Politicas Economicas e Sociais na Cidade e Participação Popular". 1993. Cadernos Municipais, Barcelona.

  • Buchanan, C. & Crespo, J. (2011) Abertura "Jornadas e-Planning", Charles Buchanan, FLAD (Presidente), João Crespo, UNL (Vice-Reitor), Cristina Catita, FC-UL (repr. Director), José Alferes, FCT-UNL (repr. Director), Eduardo Anselmo, UA (repr. Reitor), Chair Prof. Ferraz de Abreu, ISCSP-UTL, Fundação Luso Americana, Lisboa, 2011 | related site
  • Cabral, João (2015 "Novas Questões Urbanas, Novos Desafios Ao Planeamento - Escalas, Modelos e Culturas, Workshop e-Planning, Bras‚àö‚â†lia, 22-24/06/2015

  • Carvalho Rodrigues, F. (1991),"A entropia da informação como discriminante", LNETI, Laboratorio Nacional de Engenharia a Tecnologia Industrial. IST, Instituto Superior Tecnico , Memórias da Academia, TOMO XXXI, 1990/1991.

  • Cerf, Vinton G. (1997) "A Brief History of the Internet & Related Networks - Introduction", Internet Society

  • Ching,TY. & Ferreira Jr., J. (2015) "Smart cities: Concepts, perceptions and lessons for planners", in Planning Support Systems and Smart Cities, Gertman, Ferreira, Goodspeed, Stillwell (editors). 145-168.

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  • Davidson, Alan ; Morris, John and Courtney, Robert (2002). "Strangers in a Strange Land: Public Interest Advocacy and Internet Standards", Telecommunications Policy Research Conference in Alexandria, Virginia,, September 29, 2002,

  • Fernandes, A. (2021), "Tele-Geo-Data-Processing Device: A Ubiquidade das Tecnologias Moveis ao Serviço da Ciência Participativa"

  • Ferraz de Abreu, P. (2023). "Da Critica da 'Teoria da Excelencia' vs. Abrangencia Inteligente", in "Por um Mundo Novo, a Serio", capitulo 9 (em edicao - nao pode circular fora dos alunos)

  • Ferraz de Abreu, P. (2022), 'Hard' sciences, engineering and social sciences: Shaken, not stirred, in Conference on "The Future Of The Past In Academia And Society", Berkeley, University of California and University of Chicago, September 17-18, 2022

  • Ferraz de Abreu, P. (2022), e-Planning: Why,When,Where,How,What,Who, 141pp, e-planning editions

  • Ferraz de Abreu, P. (2021), "e-Planning para a Transição Digital e o Poder Local (slides)", Palestra convidada - Associacao Nacional das Assembleias Municipais, Webinar ANAM video e sinopse, 10 Dezembro 2021

  • Ferraz de Abreu, P. et al (2021), "e-Planning & Ubiquity / e-Planeamento & Ubiquidade", 388pp, C-Press, 2021, ISBN 9789899866133 [book launch] [video]

  • Ferraz de Abreu, P. (2020). "e-Planning, 'Washington Consensus' e Geopolitica das TIC", e-Planning Lab working paper, Dezembro 2020

  • Ferraz de Abreu, P. (2020), "Algumas reflexoes e conceitos em torno da chamada 'web 2.0.'", Working Paper, e-Planning Lab

  • Ferraz de Abreu, P. (2019), "Lawrence Summers, memorandum do Banco Mundial e a 'logica cientifica' da 'Economia de Mercado Livre'", in "Contributos para uma Ideologia Progressista no sec. XXI" - Capitulo "Da Neutralidade da Ciencia" , CRPP 2019).

  • Ferraz de Abreu, P. (2018), "Cases Studies on Microsoft, Apple, Intel, OLPC" (Course Reader)

  • Ferraz de Abreu, P. et al. (2015). "Cities, Citizens and Technology", C Press, ISBN 9789899866119

  • Ferraz de Abreu, P. (2015). "Knowledge representation of infrastructure shortfalls: Models for expert & citizen input". Journal of Participatory Science (JPS), 1(8), pp. 43-54, ISSN 2183-8399.

  • Ferraz de Abreu, P. (2014). "10 Recommendations on Smart Technologies and Cities", ENTER.HUB Newsletter, n5, June / July 2014.

  • Ferraz de Abreu, P. (2014). "New Technologies - Smart Cities", UrbAct Thematic Expert Report, ENTER.HUB, European Network exploiting Territorial Effects of Railway Hubs, UrbAct December 2014

  • Ferraz de Abreu, P. (2012). "O amadurecer da primavera arabe - a crise no Egipto", CRPP, 1(8), pp 16-27, ISSN 2183-8380.

  • Ferraz de Abreu, P. & Ferreira Jr. J., (2008), "The ePlanning Agenda" presented at , International ePlanning Colloquium, "Technology with Social Sciences", MIT-Portugal, ISCSP-UTL, Lisbon, Portugal, 27 March 2008.

  • Ferraz de Abreu, P. (2006), "EuroLifeNet: a Multidisciplinary Challenge on Environment-Education-Citizenship". APHEIS - Air Pollution-Health-Environment Information System Meeting, invited communication by the Institute for Environment and Sustainability of the Joint Research Centre (IES-JRC) of the European Comission, Ispra, Italy, 7 June 2006.

  • Ferraz de Abreu, P. & Ferreira Jr., J. (2003), "Towards a Research Agenda on e-Planning", MIT-DUSP

  • Ferraz de Abreu, P. (2002), "New Information Technologies in Public Participation: A Challenge to Old Decision-making Institutional Frameworks", Ph.D. Thesis, MIT, Dept. Urban Studies & Planning, Cambridge, USA, May 2002.

  • Ferraz de Abreu, P. (2001), "GIS Technology: New threat to privacy, new promises for citizen empowerment", Journal of Participatory Science, 1(1), pp. 27-47, ISSN 2183-8399

  • Ferraz de Abreu, P. (2001), "Alguns Desafios da Educação em Portugal na Era da Internet e da Democracia Participativa", in Frias Martins, A.M. (ed). 2001, “A Investigação Portuguesa: Desafios de um novo milénio” Univ. dos Açores e Forum Internacional de Investigadores Portugueses FIIP, 168 pags, pp. 13-22.

  • Ferraz de Abreu, P. (2001), "Uma biblioteca pública numa sociedade de informação obcecada pelo mercado: desafios e oportunidades / "Biblioteca-publica-n-sociedade-informacao-obcecada-pelo-mercado.pdf", in "Bibliotecas e Novas Tecnologias Como Combater a Exclusão Dos Info-Pobres?", 142 pages, pp. 9-17. ISBN 972-8695-06-3, Editora CML

  • Ferraz de Abreu, P. (2001), "Towards a new framework for citizen mobility within modern democracy", Conferencia Internacional "Ciudadania Migrante y Democracia", Univ. Guanajuato, CICSUG - INAH, Mexico, 8-9 March 2001

  • Ferraz de Abreu, P. and Joanaz de Melo, J. (eds (2000) Book "Public Participation and Information Technologies 1999", CITIDEP - UNL-FCT, 600 pages. [order | aquisicao]

  • Ferraz de Abreu, P.; Joanaz de Melo, J. (2000), "Introducing New Information Technologies in Public Participation: Technology is the Easy Part", in Ferraz de Abreu & Joanaz de Melo (eds). 2000. Public Participation and Information Technologies 1999. CITIDEP & DCEA-FCT-New University of Lisbon. 599 pages, pp393-406.

  • Ferraz de Abreu, P. (1998), "An Engineer in the Land of Planning", CRPP, 1998, 1(1) pp. 11-16, ISSN 2183-8380

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  • Ferraz de Abreu, P. (1993) "The Bertaud Model: A two-way mirror on the evolution of information technology's impact on planning for low-income housing" (monography, 66pg) , Biennial International Housing, 1993.

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  • First e-Planning Seminar 2003, at MIT
  • Past ICPPIT Conferences:
  • e-Planning Consortium

  • CITIDEP (Research Center on Information Technologies and Participatory Democracy):

  • mosaic of 2003 images
    e-Planning Seminar 2003 - original site: