Thomas Shay Hill

Tommy is a PhD Candidate in Urban Planning at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. Tommy’s scholarship is at the nexus of economic history, critical geography, and the history and philosophy of science. The premise of Tommy’s research is the recent surge of interest within urban studies and planning in the use of big data, mathematical modeling, and computer simulation. His dissertation research focuses on the uses and limits of the types of knowledge those methodologies make possible.

While Tommy is skeptical of the use of such methods to adequately approximate or predict urban change, he is interested in the degree to which computational methods can be synthesized with a theoretical framework that is historical, critical, and dialectical. His work uses big data, GIS, and code as media to explore questions about the nature of urban growth from the critical geographic scholarship on the city. An ongoing research project of Tommy’s is to use historical data on property markets to visualize booms and busts and their impact on the geographic structure of metropolitan regions. Using GIS and other computational platforms, Tommy uses property market- and other urban-level datasets to visualize the types of morphological changes wrought by the “spatial fix” on urban environments. Tommy received a Master of Arts in Urban Planning from the Harvard Graduate School of Design and is completing a secondary field in Computational Science and Engineering at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Tommy’s scholarship has appeared in the Journal of Urban History, Environmental Research Letters, the Urban History Association’s blog Metropole, and the forthcoming Routledge anthology Architecture and the Smart City.


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Tommy in Middlesex Fells.