Liminal Ghettos

Liminal Ghettos

Big Data revolutionizes the way we see our cities. The Liminal Ghettos exhibition aims to reveal the city’s invisible fault lines – a much needed first step to be able to build back our cities better.

How can we use Big Data to uncover our cities’ shifting segregation patterns? Through the exhibition at the Porto Design Biennale, CRA-Carlo Ratti Associati and MIT Senseable City Lab strive to cast a new light on the issue of social segregation, in Porto and other cities around the world. Analyzing big data that shows people’s movements within urban boundaries, it proposes an alternative interpretation to the century-old idea of ghetto. It aims to illuminate the subtle and insidious ways in which segregation works today.

After successive waves of gentrification and inner-city migration, ghettos are becoming increasingly invisible, as segregation persists through new dynamics. Can a technologically-augmented eye help us understand them?

Questions like this prompt us to continue our global-scale endeavor by way of the Porto Design Biennale 2021. Parts of the city’s urban geography, including its Ilhas, demonstrate the Portuenses’ creativity in addressing the spatial limitations; but on the other hand, they also expose deep social fissures along class lines, as the communities in question are physically proximate yet segregated in daily life.

To better understand its contemporary conditions, the project explore patterns of social segregation of the District of Porto before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Geolocated tweets and anonymous mobile data – with the support of Vodafone Portugal – were used to map out the social activities and socioeconomic landscape. Liminal Ghettos portrays segregation as a form of social geography that changes over time. The visualizations are showcased through a physical installation at the Campo de 24 Agosto metro station in Porto, and a virtual exhibition accessible from across the world.

By identifying the invisible fault lines that traverse the urban fabric of Porto, Liminal Ghettos aims at promoting a discussion on how to achieve better social cohesion in our cities.